Behavioral Neuroscientist to join the Department in August

Jessica Siegel

Jessica A. Siegel, who completed her Ph.D. in Behavioral Neuroscience from the Oregon Health & Science University (School of Medicine) in May 2011, has accepted a tenure-track appointment as Assistant Professor of Psychology starting in academic 2011-12.

“Jessica’s expertise in psychology and behavioral neuroscience and her research interests will enrich students’ opportunities to study neuroscience and its relationship to multiple areas of psychology such as developmental, abnormal, cognitive, social, and personality,” notes Department Chair Helen Bateman.  “Her research on the effects of methamphetamine provides students with opportunities to examine in depth one of the fastest growing drug abuse problems in our society.”

Dr. Siegel received her Bachelor of Arts degree with honors from the University of Puget Sound … major concentration in psychology with a minor in chemistry.  She was named the 2006 outstanding psychology student, and initiated into both Phi Beta Kappa and Psi Chi.  She enjoyed her undergraduate years on a 97-acre, 2,600 undergraduate campus where views from the Tudor-Gothic buildings included Mount Rainier.  With a grant from the Univ. of Puget Sound Research Committee, she completed a study of olfactory learning in bumblebees … using classical conditioning and electrophysiological procedures to compare learning in nurse and forager bumblebees.  It was a poster presentation with two faculty coauthors at the 2005 Seattle Sigma Xi Conference.

Her research at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) has led to five published papers as first author with others in preparation.  These have varied from Long-term effects of methamphetamine exposure on cognitive function and muscarinic acetylcholine receptor levels in mice (Behavioural Pharmacology, 2010) to Estrogen, testosterone, and sequential movement in men (Behavioral Neuroscience, 2008).  Her dissertation research uses a wide range of behavioral and biological measures to study “The effects of methamphetamine exposure during brain development on cognition and the cholinergic system in mice.”

She has mentored student research projects such as exploring the histamine system’s involvement in methamphetamine-induced cognitive impairments during adolescence;  the 5-choice serial reaction time measure of attention in rodents;  and maternal care in mice exposed to methamphetamine.

At Sewanee in 2011-12, Dr. Siegel will offer Behavioral Neuroscience both as a basic course (254, fall) and as an advanced laboratory course (359, spring, with 254 prerequisite).  The new course, 349 Drugs and Behavior (fall), will explore the effects of drugs –both legal and illicit– on the brain and behavior;  cultural use of drugs for different purposes (religious, spiritual, medicinal, recreational) will be incorporated along with society’s perception of drug use and treatment.

Of her goals at Sewanee, Dr. Siegel writes, “I want to combine my interests in psychology and biology to provide an interdisciplinary and hands-on learning experience for students.  My desire to teach extends to my research as well, where I plan to … facilitate meaningful student engagement in research projects.”

During her leisure, Dr. Siegel finds time for hobbies of dancing and singing.