Dr. Megan Mahoney



Associate Professor, Comparative Biosciences
Phone: (217) 333-7578


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

Current Lab Members


Post-doctoral Fellow

Dr. Colin Lee is a T32 postdoctoral fellow in the Mahoney lab, examining the effects of the neonicotinoid imidacloprid on learning and memory. Neonicotinoids are among the most commonly used pesticides, favored for their high affinity for insect nicotine receptors and comparatively low affinity for mammalian ones. Despite this property, neonicotinoids cause oxidative stress in mammalian tissues, and their mechanism of action-binding to nicotine receptors-suggests they may affect cognition in mammals.

Prior to joining the Mahoney lab, Colin majored in marine science at Boston University, received his MS in Zoology from the University of New Hampshire and his Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Illinois. In his graduate work, he examined the neuronal basis of behavior in sea slugs and octopuses.

Jake Maxon



Service to the public—through critical thinking, communication, and community building—remains at the center of Jake Maxon’s career as he pursues a neuroscience doctorate. Jake received his Sc.B. in Neuroscience from Brown University (2013) and Master of Public Health in Administration and Policy from the University of Minnesota (2021).

Previously, Jake worked in broadcast journalism in Providence, Rhode Island and the University of Minnesota Stem Cell Institute (SCI). At the SCI, he studied potential therapies for spinal cord injury under the mentorship of Dr. James R. Dutton, PhD and Dr. Ann M. Parr, MD, PhD. At the Minnesota State Senate, Governor’s Office, and Office of Medical Cannabis, Jake’s work helped grow funding for regenerative-medicine research and expand therapeutic options for people living with post-traumatic stress disorder. At the White House and local government in Minneapolis, Jake engaged communities whom HIV hits hardest to collaboratively build services that stop the spread of infectious disease.

With the mentorship of Dr. Megan Mahoney, PhD, Jake is currently researching how plasticizers modulate olfactory preferences and sexual behavior among mice. This work is vital because human and animal populations are ubiquitously exposed to these toxins through consumer goods, medical technology, and industrial waste.

In his free time, Jake studies operant conditioning with his German Shepherd Dog.


Graduate Student:

Selin received her undergraduate degree in Psychology with a Neuroscience distinction from University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Her previous work included mouse models of traumatic brain injury and multiple sclerosis as well as examining structural differences through multiple methods of imaging.

Selin is currently a student in the Neuroscience program pursuing her PhD. In the Mahoney lab, Selin is investigating the effects of in utero phthalate exposure on sociability and anxiety-like behavior. In several neurological disorders that affect sociability such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit disorder (ADHD), environmental influences such as exposure to endocrine disrupting toxicants like phthalates may be playing an essential role.


Undergraduate Student:

Truman Poteat is a junior in the school of Molecular and Cellular Biology. He joined the lab in the summer of 2022, working under Colin Lee and Jacob Maxon. His research has focused on the impacts of imidacloprid exposure on spatial, temporal, and working memory in mice and the impacts of phthalate exposure on the sexual behavior and reproductive system of both male and female mice. Following the completion of his undergraduate degree, Truman plans to pursue a graduate level degree in biological sciences.

Nirmal Nathan is a junior in the school of Applied Health Sciences, majoring in Community Health with a concentration in Health Planning and Administration. He joined the lab in the spring of 2023, working under Colin Lee and Jacob Maxon. His research has focused on studying the role of phthalates on the sociosexual, reproductive, and mental behaviors in male and female mice. Following the completion of his undergraduate degree, Nathan plans on pursuing a degree in medicine, where he hopes to become a physician.

Lab Alumni



Katherine earned her Ph.D. in the Neuroscience Program. The overall aim of her dissertation was to investigate  the impact of phthalate exposure and endogenous hormone levels on sleep quality and depression in menopausal women, through a collaboration between Dr. Megan Mahoney and Dr. Charles Davies at Carle Foundation Hospital, as well as the Dr. Jodi Flaws and the Midlife Women’s Health Study.

Steph Soriano



Stephanie earned her Ph.D. through the Neuroscience Program. Her research focused on delineating the adverse effects of prenatal phthalate exposure on circadian rhythms, anxiety-like behavior, and brain protein and gene expression in male and female mice.

Angel Chu



Angel Chu joined the Mahoney Lab as a sophomore in the Department of MCB, with a double major in Spanish. She worked on several initial projects, and completed her honors research titled, “Impacts of circadian disruption on estrous cyclicity and folliculogenesis in the female rat”.



Leo Molina joined the Mahoney lab through the Department of Animal Sciences and James Scholar. He conducted an independent research on a project titled, “The effects of two models of circadian disruption on gene expression in the suprachiasmatic nucleus of adult Long-Evans rats”.

Yesha Patel



Yesha Patel is a graduate of the College of Integrative Biology and the James Scholar’s program. She conducted independent research on a project titled, “Effects of dim light at night and di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate on locomotor rhythms and feeding behavior”.



Souzane Ntamubano was an undergraduate student who worked with the lab in the summer of 2022 through the SURE Tox (Summer Undergraduate Research in Toxicology) program. Souzane worked with Colin Lee to analyze the effects of chronic imidacloprid exposure on the learning and memory of adult mice, presenting a poster with her data at the Illinois Summer Research Seminar.