Peggy Mason, PhD

Professor of Neurobiology

Peggy is a professor in the Department of Neurobiology at the University of Chicago. She received both her BA in Biology and her PhD in Neuroscience from Harvard. Peggy has been on the faculty of University of Chicago since 1992. She has taught undergraduate, graduate and medical students and has received numerous teaching awards. Using her nearly 15 years of experience teaching medical students, Peggy wrote a single-author textbook designed for medical students (Medical Neurobiology, Oxford University Press, 2011). 

As a researcher, Peggy spent decades studying the underlying biology of pain. More recently, she’s turned her attention to the neuroscience of empathy. In 2011, she and her colleagues demonstrated the first evidence of empathy in rodents. They found that rats would repeatedly free trapped companions, even when given choice of chocolate instead. In January of this year, they showed that rats will only extend this empathy to rats of a ‘type’ that they have previously interacted with.

Peggy launched a free, massively open online course (MOOC) last year titled Understanding the Brain: The Neurobiology of Everyday Life. The class attracted more than 45,000 enrollees. Sign up on Coursera for the next session starting February 23. She also writes the blog,, to share her tangential musings on every-day-neurobiology.