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Personal Biography of Darcy B. Kelly, Ph.D.

Dr. Kelley, Ph.D. is Professor of Biological Sciences at Columbia University. Dr. Kelley's research focuses on the sexual differentiation of the nervous system and the neurobiology of vocal communication. Her laboratory studies the South African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis, a species with a particularly rich vocal repertoire that is specific for each sex. Females sing to males, and males sing to females and to other males. Her laboratory seeks to determine how these vocal signals are produced by the nervous system and how acoustic information is decoded and acted upon. The prominent role of songs in Xenopus and the ease with which certain aspects of song production can be studied should provide fundamental insights into how the brain translates
what is heard into what is uttered. Sex differences in vocal behavior are established by the action of gonadal steroids during development. Androgens, for example, are responsible for establishing cell numbers and cell type in both the vocal organ and in the central nervous system.
Estrogens control the strength of vocal neuromuscular synapses. The cellular and molecular mechanisms that transduce endocrine signals into sex-specific developmental programs are a focus of current research.

Dr. Kelley's honors include several distinguished lectureships, including the Forbes lectureship at the Grass Foundation and the Marine Biological Laboratory, special lecturer at the Society for Neuroscience, and plenary lecturer at the Society for Neuroethology. In addition, she has received the Jacob Javits Neuroscience Investigator Award from the National Institutes
of Health twice. Professor Kelley also has a strong commitment to bringing science to the general public. With a group of faculty colleagues at Columbia, she has developed a new course in science, for entering Columbia freshmen, covering the great ideas of science, for example, evolution, how the brain works, the origins of the universe. Frontiers of Science will debut this Fall. Darcy Kelley has just been named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor. The million dollar award will support her other efforts in undergraduate education and the involvement of undergraduates in research.


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