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Biologist Awarded Guggenheim Fellowship

Biologist Awarded Guggenheim Fellowship

Steven Phelps, a professor of integrative biology and director of the Center for Brain, Behavior and Evolution at The University of Texas at Austin, has been awarded a 2021 Guggenheim Fellowship for his work on the biology of intimacy.

Phelps is one of 184 artists, writers, scholars and scientists who received the fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Successful candidates were chosen through a rigorous peer-review process from almost 3,000 applicants.

He and his team work at the intersection of social neuroscience, gene regulation and evolutionary genetics. Using animals in the lab and in the field, his research explores why individuals and species vary in their social behavior. In one line of research, he was surprised to find that, within the same species of monogamous prairie voles from the U.S., some males are more faithful and some are less faithful, and that the difference comes down to a subtle genetic variation in their brains. He has described this and other fascinating insights in public outreach presentations about the biology of bonding and to media outlets, most recently in outlets including BBC Radio and The New York Times.

In another line of research, studying singing mice from Costa Rica, he and his team identified a brain circuit that might enable the high-speed back and forth of human conversation.

Phelps received his Ph.D. in integrative biology from UT Austin in 1999. He was a post-doctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and at the NSF Center for Behavioral Neuroscience in Atlanta. In 2002 he became a faculty member at the University of Florida, and joined UT Austin in 2010. Among other awards, he received a National Science Foundation CAREER Award in 2009 and a UT Austin College of Natural Sciences Diversity and Inclusion Teaching Excellence Award in 2018.

Since its establishment in 1925, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation has offered fellowships to exceptional individuals in pursuit of scholarship in any field of knowledge and creation in any art form, under the freest possible conditions. The foundation has granted nearly $400 million in fellowships to over 18,000 individuals, among whom are more than 125 Nobel laureates, members of all the national academies, winners of the Pulitzer Prize, Fields Medal, Turing Award, Bancroft Prize, National Book Award and other internationally recognized honors.

More information may be found on the foundation's website, www.gf.org.

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Tuesday, 20 April 2021

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