Jessica Tollkuhn is a molecular biologist and neuroscientist. She received a B.A. in biochemistry and molecular biology from Mills College. She obtained her Ph.D. in biomedical sciences from the lab of Michael G. Rosenfeld at the University of California, San Diego, where she defined a novel mechanism for transcriptional regulation of cell-type specification during embryonic development. Her postdoctoral work on estrogen regulation of sexual differentiation of the brain was supported by a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award. Tollkuhn joined the faculty of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in 2014.
Tollkuhn’s primary research interest is to define the transcriptional mechanisms that shape and regulate sex differences in the brain. Her lab couples genomic and molecular biology approaches with innate social behavior paradigms to determine how neuronal identity is programmed by steroid hormones during development, and how this identity intersects with adult hormone status to cause distinct behavioral responses in the two sexes. Her central hypothesis is that understanding sex-specific developmental trajectories in the brain will reveal gene programs that underlie differential susceptibility to psychiatric conditions in females and males.