Fay Guarraci

Notable Achievements

Professor of Psychology Fay Guarraci was recently awarded the American Psychological Foundations 2021 Division 1–Society for General Psychology Mary Whiton Calkins Grant. The grant will support research on the development of an animal model of puberty delay and gender-affirming hormone treatment to better understand the long-term outcomes of puberty suppression and adult hormone treatment in the context of gender transition. Mary Whiton Calkins was the first woman to preside as president of the American Psychological Association in 1905.

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Expertise

Drugs of Abuse, Sexual Motivation and Fertility

When I am in the lab, I believe the key to making research a great experience for students is equality. I engage in research with student collaborators. Although I have a deeper knowledge base and more technical skills than they have, once they learn the basics, I interact with them as if they were my colleagues. I take their comments and actions seriously and they take me seriously. Having such high expectations of my students has proved to be invaluable. Most of my students rise to the challenge and go above and beyond what is required. Subsequently they have reaped the benefits with publications, presentations, and grants. I have enjoyed teaching my students technical skills that they could apply to other opportunities (e.g., graduate school, jobs in biomedical research) and I have treasured nurturing their scientific thought through lively discussions about theories, data, research methods, and statistics. Because my own personal interest in research was fostered while I was an undergraduate student at McGill University, I believe a positive experience in the lab can shape a student’s future. When I am in the classroom, I believe that the key to making any course a great experience for students is enthusiasm. I try to bring excitement and enthusiasm into the classroom every day. Whether I am introducing first-year students to psychology or discussing neural plasticity in behavioral neuroscience to seniors, my goal is to make everyone in the classroom excited to be there. Since joining the faculty of Southwestern, I have been able to mentor many students who are interested in the intersection of psychology and biology. I have been able to foster close relationships with students, helping them navigate their interests in neuroscience. I have also cultivated personal relationships with students outside of the lab and the classroom. Many of the students who have worked with me in the lab or taken my courses become my advisees. They come to me for advice about what courses to take, careers to think about, the MCATS/GREs, as well as the trials and tribulations of being a college student. My career goals include being both a mentor and inspiration to my students in the classroom as well as in the laboratory.

Education

Post-Doctoral Fellowship, Dartmouth College 2003
PhD, University of Vermont 2000
BA, McGill University 1994

Honors

  • Sam Taylor Award 2012
  • Mellon Interdisciplinary Research Award 2009
  • ACS Faculty Renewal Award 2009
  • Robert S. Daniel Award, Society for the Teaching of Psychology, Nomination 2008, 2009
  • Southwestern University Teaching Award 2007
  • Brown Junior Fellow, Southwestern University 2006-2007
  • Frank A. Beach Award, Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology, Nomination 2006
  • Young Investigator Award, Southwestern University 2005-2006
  • Journal of Emergency Medical Services Research Award 2005 co-PI with student Melanie Stanzer $1,500
  • Society for Neuroscience Lay Research Summary (press release) 2005
  • Southwestern University Teaching Award Finalist 2005, 2006
  • Southwestern University Advising Award Finalist 2005
  • National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation 2004-2006 $ 173,000
  • National Institute of Mental Health Pre-Doctoral Individual National Research Service Award 1996-1999
  • Ronald Suiter Travel Award 1998
  • New York Academy of Sciences Junior Investigator Travel Award 1998
  • University of Vermont Graduate Research Award 1996
  • Teaching Fellow of the Year 1996-1997, University of Vermont
  • First Class Honors, McGill University 1994

Affiliations

  • American Psychological Association 1995-2000
  • Faculty in Undergraduate Neuroscience 2006-present
  • International Behavioral Neuroscience Society 2005-present
  • New York Academy of Sciences 1994-2000
  • Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology 2000-present
  • Society for Neuroscience1994- present
  • Women in Neuroscience 1997-present
  • Women in Endocrinology 2006-present
  • When I am in the lab, I believe the key to making research a great experience for students is equality. I engage in research with student collaborators. Although I have a deeper knowledge base and more technical skills than they have, once they learn the basics, I interact with them as if they were my colleagues. I take their comments and actions seriously and they take me seriously. Having such high expectations of my students has proved to be invaluable. Most of my students rise to the challenge and go above and beyond what is required. Subsequently they have reaped the benefits with publications, presentations, and grants. I have enjoyed teaching my students technical skills that they could apply to other opportunities (e.g., graduate school, jobs in biomedical research) and I have treasured nurturing their scientific thought through lively discussions about theories, data, research methods, and statistics. Because my own personal interest in research was fostered while I was an undergraduate student at McGill University, I believe a positive experience in the lab can shape a student’s future. When I am in the classroom, I believe that the key to making any course a great experience for students is enthusiasm. I try to bring excitement and enthusiasm into the classroom every day. Whether I am introducing first-year students to psychology or discussing neural plasticity in behavioral neuroscience to seniors, my goal is to make everyone in the classroom excited to be there. Since joining the faculty of Southwestern, I have been able to mentor many students who are interested in the intersection of psychology and biology. I have been able to foster close relationships with students, helping them navigate their interests in neuroscience. I have also cultivated personal relationships with students outside of the lab and the classroom. Many of the students who have worked with me in the lab or taken my courses become my advisees. They come to me for advice about what courses to take, careers to think about, the MCATS/GREs, as well as the trials and tribulations of being a college student. My career goals include being both a mentor and inspiration to my students in the classroom as well as in the laboratory.

    Education

    Post-Doctoral Fellowship, Dartmouth College 2003
    PhD, University of Vermont 2000
    BA, McGill University 1994

    Honors

    • Sam Taylor Award 2012
    • Mellon Interdisciplinary Research Award 2009
    • ACS Faculty Renewal Award 2009
    • Robert S. Daniel Award, Society for the Teaching of Psychology, Nomination 2008, 2009
    • Southwestern University Teaching Award 2007
    • Brown Junior Fellow, Southwestern University 2006-2007
    • Frank A. Beach Award, Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology, Nomination 2006
    • Young Investigator Award, Southwestern University 2005-2006
    • Journal of Emergency Medical Services Research Award 2005 co-PI with student Melanie Stanzer $1,500
    • Society for Neuroscience Lay Research Summary (press release) 2005
    • Southwestern University Teaching Award Finalist 2005, 2006
    • Southwestern University Advising Award Finalist 2005
    • National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation 2004-2006 $ 173,000
    • National Institute of Mental Health Pre-Doctoral Individual National Research Service Award 1996-1999
    • Ronald Suiter Travel Award 1998
    • New York Academy of Sciences Junior Investigator Travel Award 1998
    • University of Vermont Graduate Research Award 1996
    • Teaching Fellow of the Year 1996-1997, University of Vermont
    • First Class Honors, McGill University 1994

    Affiliations

    • American Psychological Association 1995-2000
    • Faculty in Undergraduate Neuroscience 2006-present
    • International Behavioral Neuroscience Society 2005-present
    • New York Academy of Sciences 1994-2000
    • Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology 2000-present
    • Society for Neuroscience1994- present
    • Women in Neuroscience 1997-present
    • Women in Endocrinology 2006-present
  • My research has investigated the neurobiology of sexual motivation. Using female rats as a model, I have focused specifically on how drugs of abuse affect the rewarding aspects of sex. Recently, my research has broadened, exploring how sexual motivation changes across the lifespan. Using different manipulations, we have found that early life experiences affect sexual motivation. For example, early life exposure to stimulant drugs, stress, or endocrine disruptors affect sexual behavior and reproductive physiology. We have also studied how sexual motivation changes as females transition from young adulthood to middle age. Specifically, as female rats age, sexual motivation deteriorates, however, regular sexual encounters increase sexual motivation, overcoming the deleterious effects of aging. Even with this expansion of my research program, we still know little about how sexual motivation emerges early in life immediately after pubertal onset and the first estrous cycle. The newest areas of my research program include exploring the mechanisms underlying the changes in sexual motivation associated with the transition from pre-adolescence (pre-pubertal) to adulthood; investigating the effects of disrupting pubertal onset. We are also looking for common mechanisms that underlie the changes in sexual motivation across the lifespan and changes associated with the administration of abused drugs, such as “crystal meth” (methamphetamine), “special K” (ketamine), or even caffeine. 

  • PUBLISHED MANUSCRIPTS (* Denotes Undergraduate Student Co-Author; + Graduate Student Co-Authors)

    1. Huijgens, P.T.+, Guarraci, F.A., Olivier, J.D.A., Snoeren, E.M.S. (2021) Male rat sexual behavior: Insights from inter-copulatory intervals. Behavioral Processes 190: in press
    2. Guarraci, F.A., Davis, L.K.*, Henneman, E.L.*, Toro, E.*, Odell, S.E.*, Le, N.*, Navarro, J.M.*, Valdivia, H.S.*,Williams, I.*, Credeur, M.,Gore, A.C. (2021) Daily GnRH agonist treatment delays the development of reproductive physiology and behavior in male rats. Hormones and Behavior, 132: in press
    1. Guarraci, F.A., and Frohardt, R. J. (2020) “What a Girl Wants”: What we can learn from animal models of female sexual motivation. In F., Porcu, P., Fattore, L., eds. (2020). Sexual Behavior as a Model for the Study of Motivational Drive and Related Behaviors. Lausanne: Frontiers Media SA. doi: 10.3389/978-2-88966-117-6
    2. Guarraci, F.A., Ali, M.*, Gonzalez, C.M.F.*, Lucero, D.*, Clemons, L.W.*, Davis, L.K.*, Henneman, E.*, Odell, S.*, Meerts, S.H. (2020) I. Antidepressants and sexual behavior: Weekly ketamine injections increased sexual behavior initially in female and male rats. Pharmacology Biochemistry & Behavior Pharmacology Biochemistry & Behavior, 199: 1730-40.
    3. Marshall, G.E.*, Guarraci, F.G., Meerts, S.M (2020) II. Antidepressants and sexual behavior: Acute fluoxetine, but not ketamine, disrupts paced mating behavior in sexually experienced female rats. Pharmacology Biochemistry & Behavior, 199: 1740-50.
    4. Davis, L.K.*, Bolton, J.L., Hanson, H.*, Guarraci, F.A. (2020) Modified limited bedding and nesting is a model of early-life stress that affects reproductive physiology and behavior in female and male Long-Evans rats. Physiology and Behavior, 224: 1130-37.
    5. Ali, M.*, Broyles, T.M.*, Davis, L.K.*, Gonzalez, C.M.F.*, Lucero, D.*, Stary, L.*, Guarraci, F.A. (2020) Neonatal Exposure to Genistein Affects Reproductive Physiology and Behavior in Female and Male Long-Evans Rats. Behavioural Pharmacology, 31(7): 610-621.
    6. Guarraci, F.A., Gonzalez, C.M.F.*, Lucero, D.*, Davis, L.K.*, Meerts, S. (2020) Sexual Behavior is Enhanced by Regular, Repeated Mating from Young Adulthood to Middle Age in Female Long-Evans Rats. Current Aging Science, 13(2): 169-177. DOI: 10.2174/1874609812666191210123559
  • Invited Presentations:

    Francis Marion University Biology Seminar Series Drugs of Abuse and Female Sexual Motivation 2018.

    Baylor University Seminar Series “Breaking Bad or Breaking Good: Drugs of Abuse and Sexual Behavior” 2015

    “Sex, Drugs, and Dopamine - A Recipe for Risk?” American Psychological Association 2015 Convention Symposium Sponsored by Central Programming Groups 6, 28

    Ponce University Seminar Series and NIH RISE grant program: “The Nexsis of Sex and Drugs: Animal Models” and “A Day in the Life of a Neuroscientist at a Small Liberal Arts Institution” 2015

    Baylor University Neuroscience Seminar Series: “Breaking Bad or Breaking Good: Drugs of Abuse and Sexual Motivation ” 2015.

    St. Edward’s University Biology Seminar Series: “Breaking Bad or Breaking Good: Drugs of Abuse and Sexual Motivation ” 2015.

    The Williamson Museum’s Salon Monthly Meeting: “let’s talk about sex” 2015

    Southwestern University Paideia Connections series “Breaking Bad or Breaking Good: Drugs of Abuse and Sexual Behavior” 2014

    The University of Texas, at Austin Behavioral Neuroscience Seminar Series ” Breaking Bad or Breaking Good: Drugs of Abuse and Sexual Behavior” 2014

    Texas Woman’s University Biology Colloquium Series 2011

    University of Texas, Austin Behavioral Neuroscience Series “The Neurobiology of Female Reproductive Behavior” 2005

    University of Texas, Health Science Center San Antonio Pharmacology Seminar Series “Should I Stay or Should I Go: The Neurobiology of Paced Mating Behavior” 2004

    Southwestern University, Biology Department “Everything you always wanted to know about sex, rat sex that is”. 2009

    Invited Panelist:

    BRAINS: Broadening the Representation of Academic Investigators in NeuroScience, a national program to accelerate and improve the career advancement of neuroscience postdoctoral researchers and assistant professors from underrepresented groups University of Washington and NIH 2014

    The University of Texas, Austin Graduate Student Assembly Careers in Academia Professional Dev. Week 2013

    The University of Texas, Austin Women in Science Journey to Academia Panel Series 2007


In the News

  • Eight Southwestern Faculty Members Awarded Prestigious Grants from the 2019 Sam Taylor Fellowship Fund

    The competitive funding will allow SU faculty to pursue various research projects.

  • Southwestern Undergraduates Present and Publish Their Groundbreaking Research

    Devon Lucero ’19 and Chantal Gonzalez ’19 engage with experts at an international neuroscience conference and coauthor publications in animal behavior.

  • Southwestern Professor of Psychology Dr. Fay Guarraci Led Students in Groundbreaking Research Regarding the Effects of Ketamine on Sexual Behavior in Female Rats

    This particular project provided a great experience for students to work in a lab setting, conducting research side-by-side with an expert in the field. What an amazing opportunity for undergraduate students.