Fellow: Awarded 2021
Field of Study: Neuroscience
Competition: US & Canada
Steven Phelps explores why individuals and species vary in their social behavior. An evolutionary neurobiologist, his work combines molecular neuroscience with behavioral ecology to understand natural diversity in social cognition. The small Midwestern rodent known as the prairie vole, for example, forms a bond with his or her mate; Dr. Phelps discovered that some voles are more faithful than others, and this difference is due to subtle genetic variation in brain regions responsible for memory. His work on Costa Rican singing mice explores the how the brain produces and perceives courtship vocalizations, and how these mechanisms reflect an animal’s ecology and experience. This research program offers a uniquely interdisciplinary perspective on the biology of sexual and social intimacies.
Dr. Phelps uses his expertise in genetics, neurobiology and behavior to write and speak about the intersection of science and society. His writing for the public has appeared in Aeon, The Atlantic, and The New York Times.
He is a Professor of Integrative Biology and Director of the Center for Brain, Behavior and Evolution at the University of Texas at Austin, as well as the President of the Society for Social Neuroscience.
Photo Credit: Jason Hinson