About Our Team

Megan Mahoney, PhD

Assistant Professor

I became a scientist because I am fascinated with how the natural world works. How did diurnal animals evolve from nocturnal ancestors? Why do male and females differ so dramatically with respect to mating behavior? How does the brain regulate reproductive behaviors? I study the answer to these and other questions in my lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I joined the faculty in the Comparative Biosciences program in 2008, where I am the Principal Investigator of the Chronobiology Lab.

I attended Smith College (Northampton Mass) and graduated from Bates College (Lewiston ME) with a BA in Biology. I worked as a research technician at Harvard Medical School for 2 years before returning to graduate School to get my dual Ph.D. in Zoology and Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and Behavior at Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI). My doctorate work sparked my interests in hormones and hormone receptors, biological rhythms, female reproductive cycles, neuroanatomy, and the evolution of diurnal and nocturnal species. These interests form the foundation of my current research program.

At the University of Michigan, I completed post-doctoral training in the Reproductive Sciences Program and the Toxicology Training Program. I was the Lab Manager for Dr. Theresa Lee for several years, and I oversaw projects in both the rodent circadian biology research and the sexual differentiation research on sheep.

Throughout this research career I have also developed an extensive teaching portfolio. My teaching philosophy and style has been formed from my own experiences as a student in two different small private colleges, and by being both a student and instructor at large public universities. I believe that learning is enhanced when students are interested in the subject they are studying; and once they are engaged in the material then they can hone their critical thinking skills. I have been the instructor for Animal Behavior, Hormones and Behavior, Biological Rhythms, and Research Methods. At the College of Veterinary Medicine I teach Neurobiology. My teaching efforts have been recognized with awards at both the Department and University-wide levels.

Graduate Students

Margaret Blattner is a student enrolled in the Medical Scholars Program and she is earning a dual degree as an M.D./Ph.D. student. She is using two strains of mice with deficits in the estrogen receptor to determine the mechanisms by which estrogen acts to modify circadian rhythms. She will be completing her PhD in the spring of 2012.

Undergraduate Students

The Mahoney Lab is always interested in recruiting motivated undergraduate students who are looking for research experience.


Kyle Klein: MCB Sr. Thesis: The interaction of estradiol and jet lag on the expression of clock genes in the suprachiasmatic nucleus of rats

Aaron Fairbanks: MCB Sr. thesis: Daily and Circadian rhythms in estrogen receptor over expressing animals

Allie Heuvelman: MCB Sr. Thesis: Immune and endocrine rhythms in cats under different lighting conditions

Additional super helpful and awesome lab people: Arif Molla, Steven Lord, Eric Foster, Nadine Rong, Ryan Piantanida, Tom Kondilis

Former Lab Members


James Allen: Psychology/MCB: neuroanatomy of sleep-regulating centers in the brains of the diurnal rodent Octodon degus.

Chris Johnson: Psychology/MCB: the influence of estrogen on the expression of anxiety behaviors.

Tyler Dettro: MCB Sr. Thesis: Estrogen receptor agonists on the expression of daily and neural rhythms in wildtype mice.

Lauran Wirfs: MCB. Former Mahoney Lab manager. She is a master of organization and details.