Catharine Rankin completed bachelor’s and master’s degrees in psychology at the University of Guelph, and a doctorate in biopsychology at the City University of New York. Following her graduate work, she did postdoctoral research focused on the development of learning in the marine mollusk Aplysia with Thomas Carew at Yale University before joining the faculty of the Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia, where she is currently a full professor.
Rankin is internationally recognized for her work using an invertebrate system to address fundamental psychological questions about the effects of experience on the nervous system and behavior. She was the first to show that the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is capable of learning and memory, and has uncovered genes that play important roles in habituation, a form of learning that is altered in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Her current research includes behavioral phenotyping projects designed to functionalize genes implicated in ASD and to understand how disease variants alter gene function.