Elizabeth Leininger

Associate Professor

Department Chair

Me, Liz Leininger, looking at the camera and smiling. I have dark brown hair with parts dyed teal, wear tortise-shell pattern glasses and am wearing a white shirt with black leaf pattern


I am a neuroscientist and STEM Education researcher. I originally came to the field of neuroscience because I was interested in how animal brains function, develop, and evolve to solve problems in nature. This sub-area of neuroscience is known as neuroethology. 

As a neuroethologist, I study how African Clawed Frogs (Xenopus; Idwi in isiZulu) have evolved species- and sex-specific vocalizations, with a focus on how the hindbrain motor circuit and larynx generate vocalizations. This work has been supported by the National Science Foundation (ROA supplement to parent grant #1732075)

More recently, I have launched a research program in Neuroscience education. In this area I have been researching how neurophysiology simulations such as Crescent Loom (www.crescentloom.com) can help students learn concepts related to neuroscience. I have also published on how to teach information literacy in neuroscience, how to teach topics of sex and gender in neuroscience, and how to illuminate the "hidden curriculum" in STEM education. 

As the Department Chair for Neuroscience, I love speaking with current and prospective students about this exciting and interdisciplinary area of study. Don't hesitate to contact me if you are interested in studying Neuroscience at St. Mary's!

Areas of Research Specialization

  • Neuroscience
  • STEM Education

Areas of Teaching Specialization

  • Neuroscience
  • Neuroethology
  • Sex, Gender, and the Brain
  • First-Year Seminars


  • Andy Kozak Faculty Contribution to Student Life Award (2017)

    A college-wide award recognizing a professor who is an active supporter of student life at the college. 


  • A novel degree of sex difference in laryngeal physiology of Xenopus muelleri: behavioral and evolutionary implications.

    Publication in The Journal of Experimental Biology. First-author Kelly South, an undergraduate in my lab, is now a graduate student in Neuroscience at Emory University. Click to access article:  https://doi.org/10.1242/jeb.231712

    colorful wedge logo with "The journal of experimental biology" in black text
  • Teaching Sex/Gender in Neuroscience Courses: More than meets the “XY”

    Publication in the Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education 

    Link to article: https://www.funjournal.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/june-20-189.pdf?x36670

    logo that depicts "FUN" in a cube with the text "faculty for undergraduate neuroscience"
  • Ten Simple Rules for Attending Your First Conference

    Publication in PLOS ONE about tips and tricks for attending one's first scientific conference. Click to access article: ttps://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1009133

    bright blue background with a geometric logo and PLOS ONE in white ink