Alex Ophir studied psychology and anthropology as an undergraduate at the University of Texas, at Austin. He earned his PhD in experimental psychology and animal behavior at McMaster University in Ontario Canada in 2004, and was a postdoctoral associate at the University of Memphis and University of Florida, where he studied behavioral ecology and neurobiology of social behavior. Since becoming the head of his own laboratory (in 2009 at Oklahoma State University, and then in 2013 at Cornell University), Ophir has developed an active research group, largely motivated by understanding the proximate control of social behavior and the ultimate consequences of social and cognitive systems on the evolution of populations. Ophir’s work is conducted in the laboratory and field (both locally in Ithaca and abroad in Tanzania). Although most of his work now focuses on rodents (prairie voles and African giant pouched rats), he has worked with a variety of animals including frogs, fish, and birds. His work is funded by generous grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes for Health, and the Department of Defense.
Ophir’s current research program focuses on three central questions: (1) how does the post-natal social environment shape adult behavior (e.g., social cognition & reproductive decisions) and neural phenotype (e.g., forebrain nonapeptide systems – like oxytocin and vasopressin), (2) how does the social brain coordinate behaviors important for monogamous mating systems, including socio-spatial memory, social recognition, attachment, aggression, and parental care, and (3) what are the genomic and neural correlates of individual variation in behavior?
Much of his research work has paralleled his personal life, first focused on questions of inter-male competition and mate choice, then questions about pair bonding and monogamy, and more recently in parental (and specifically paternal) care.