Sarah M. Keesom, Ph.D.

Sarah Keesom
  • Assistant Professor of Biology
(315) 792-3177
  • 193 Gordon Science Center
  • School of Arts & Sciences
Position type


I am originally from Rochester, NY, and I earned my B.S. in Biology from Elmira College. I received my Ph.D. from Indiana University, where I studied serotonin as a mechanism for fine-tuning auditory processing during social encounters. While pursuing my Ph.D., I also contributed to development of the biology undergraduate curriculum and mentored numerous students in neuroscience and animal behavior research. Most recently, I taught Animal Physiology and Human Anatomy & Physiology at Northern Michigan University. I am excited about joining the Utica College faculty because I enjoy working with undergraduate students and sharing my enthusiasm for biology (especially physiology!).

Research interests:
I investigate the mechanisms used by the brain to fine-tune signal reception across changing social contexts. The serotonergic system is well known for its role in the regulation of mood, appetite, and social behavior. Reflecting these roles, this centralized neurochemical system collects a wealth of contextual information from other brain areas, and through its extensive connections, it can redistribute this information back to the brain, including sensory regions. Serotonin typically has neuromodulatory effects, in that it modifies activity in the receiving brain regions, as opposed to stimulating neural activity on its own. The serotonergic system is thus strategically positioned to adjust signal reception across different social situations.

Specifically, my work focuses on vocal communication and the role of serotonin within the auditory system. My research demonstrates that serotonin conveys detailed information to the auditory system on acute variations in the quality of social interaction. My work also shows that chronic social isolation shapes the trajectory of socially triggered elevations in serotonin. Complementing my neurophysiological research, I also study the vocal signals processed by auditory systems. This work demonstrates that vocalizations change within even a single social encounter and that vocal signals are also sensitive to chronic changes in reproductive state, social experience, and season. By combining neuroscience and behavioral studies, my research thus provides insight into the details governing serotonergic modulation of auditory function within an ethologically relevant framework.

Opportunities for Student Research and Collaboration

As a member of my lab, you would have the opportunity to learn immunohistochemistry, fluorescent microscopy, image analysis, vocalization analysis, and behavioral analysis. My past research has focused primarily on rodents as study species, but I am also open to new study systems. Students interested in pursuing research with me are encouraged to contact me with their research interests and ideas.


B.S. in Biology - Elmira College
Ph.D. in Biology - Indiana University


Past Research

See my ResearchGate profile for entries.

Dr. Keesom on ResearchGate

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