Swarthmore College
Flirt or Flight: The Neuroscience of Social Behavior in Fruit Flies

Kathleen Siwicki is a neurobiologist at Swarthmore College who studies the biological basis of complex behaviors in insects. Her recent research has focused on courtship behavior in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster—specifically on the neural mechanisms of learning in male fruit flies, which modify their courtship behavior as a consequence of repeated efforts to court unreceptive females.

Like the males of most species, male fruit flies tend to court potential sexual partners and fight with competitors. They use pheromones to assess the sex of other flies in social encounters and then behave accordingly. These pheromones will be the focus of Siwicki’s research during the fellowship year. She will investigate the role of pheromones and pheromone detectors in the fly nervous system that regulate the balance between these distinct social behaviors.

Siwicki earned her PhD in neurobiology at Harvard University in 1985, conducted her postdoctoral research at Brandeis University, and has been a member of the faculty at Swarthmore since 1989. Her awards include the Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award at Swarthmore, a Presidential Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF), a Sloan Research Fellowship, and numerous NSF research grants.

This information is accurate as of the fellowship year indicated for each fellow.