Rebecca L. Cunningham, PhD
Associate Dean for Research and Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences
Dr. Cunningham received a BS in Psychology from Truman State University in Missouri. Then she started her graduate studies at the University of Missouri- Columbia, and completed her graduate degree at the University of Texas – San Antonio with a PhD in Neurobiology. Following her PhD, she was awarded a prestigious three year NIH F32 post—doctoral fellowship under the mentorship of James L. Roberts, PhD at the University of Texas Health Science Center – San Antonio.
Teaching Areas & Interests:
Dr. Cunningham’s teaching areas encompass general pharmacology, physiology, endocrinology, and neuroscience. She currently teaches lectures in cell signaling, neurotrophic and neuroendocrine signaling, and hypothalamus and autonomic function. She successfully trained three PhD students, and 1 Master’s student. Her students have earned several local and national awards for their research.
Professional Activities & Awards:
Dr. Cunningham is an active member of the American Physiological Society, Endocrine Society, Society for Neuroscience, and the Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology. She is the Associate Editor for Biology of Sex Differences and serves on the editorial boards for the following journals: Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience, Scientific Reports, Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, Hormones & Behavior, Endocrinology, and The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. She also serves on American Heart Association and the US Department of Defense study sections. She is the founder and president of LID Life Community, a 501c3 non-profit that serves thyroid cancer patients. She received the Fort Worth Business Press 2016 HealthCare Hero Award and 2019 Great Woman of Texas for her non-profit service. In 2016, she was one of the invited speakers at the Laura Bush Institute for Women’s Health.
Dr. Rebecca Cunningham studies the role of steroid hormones, specifically androgens, from prenatal programming throughout adulthood. Most of her team’s research has been focused on androgen signaling mechanisms and defining the effects of androgens on central nervous system function. One of Dr. Cunningham’s long-term research goals is to determine how development and aging alters neuronal steroid hormonal responses in an oxidative stress environment, a key characteristic of aging, developmental disorders, and neurodegeneration. She has shown that androgens can either be neuroprotective or damaging, and these effects are dependent on the oxidative stress environment. In pursuing this goal, Dr. Cunningham and team use in vitro, in vivo, and clinical approaches to understand how androgens affect brain function. Hopefully this research will expand the understanding of how steroid hormones impact the brain. At the same time, she seeks to gain new insights that can lead to a better understanding of the role of sex in central nervous system disorders.