Jennifer Merritt studies how differentiation in the genetic architecture of neurobiological systems contributes to the evolution of behavior. Merritt is a postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory of Dr. Andrés Bendesky in the Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute at Columbia University. She also holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. in neuroscience and animal behavior from Emory University, where she was advised by Dr. Donna Maney.
During her Ph.D., Merritt studied how small genetic changes in a large chromosomal rearrangement contributes to the evolution of territorial defense in a backyard songbird, the white-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis). Currently, in the lab of Dr. Bendesky, she uses genetic, genomic, molecular and neurobiological approaches to gain a mechanistic understanding of parental behavior. She is taking first steps toward transitioning Peromyscus mice, a highly studied model for evolutionary adaptation, into an emergent model system for modern molecular neuroscience.
During her graduate studies at Emory, Merritt was recognized with the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award, the Stuart Zola Graduate Fellowship in Neuroscience and the Aubrey Gorbman Award for excellence in research.