Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Meg Kirkpatrick

Associate Professor of Psychology Meg Kirkpatrick was one of four faculty members to win tenure in 2011. She shares her enthusiasm for teaching, research and Wheaton.

Gray matter. I teach many of the neuroscience courses offered by the psychology department such as Brain, Mind, and Behavior, Psychobiology of Sex and Gender, and Laboratory in Behavioral Neuroscience.  I enjoy teaching these classes because I love showing students the biological side of psychology.

New major. Right now, I am most excited about our new interdepartmental major in neuroscience. A number of faculty have been working on this for some time, and we are thrilled to finally have such a dynamic major in place in time for the opening of the Mars Center for Science and Technology.  We have had over 10 new neuroscience majors declare in the month since it was approved so it appears that our students are equally excited about the major as well.

Research focus. Hormones are everywhere in our daily lives. We are exposed to hormones in medications we take, the water we drink and even in the plastics we use everyday. Despite the ubiquitous nature of hormones , we are only beginning to understand the effects they may have on our bodies, particularly our brains. My behavioral endocrinology research has focused on the impact of exogenous hormones on female reproductive functioning.

Clinical application. My graduate work focused on the effect of anabolic steroids on female reproductive behavior and physiology and I am still interested in the effect of the androgens, a testosterone-like family of hormones typically found in higher quantities in males.  One of my recent publications focused on the interaction between androgens and ovarian hormones in mediating female reproductive behavior.  This research is especially relevant to current hormone replacement therapies in post-menopausal women, many of who are receiving both estrogen and testosterone.

Environmental effects. Another recent focus of my research has been the effect of environmental hormones on normal hormone-dependent physiology and behaviors.  I have been examining the effects of bisphenol-A (BPA), an estrogenic compound found in many common plastics, on adult reproductive behavior and hormone receptors in the brain.  Most research on BPA has focused on effects of the compound on developing systems; such research has led to the recent ban of BPA in plastic baby bottles and similar products. But little is known about the effects of BPA on adults.  Our work suggests that BPA may have varying effects on adults, depending on gender as well as on the reproductive status of women.