Irene Ballagh

New Zealand | Fulbright S&T awardee 2007 | Columbia University | Neuroscience


Irene Ballagh is a Ph.D. candidate in Columbia’s Neurobiology & Behavior Program, where she is studying the brain circuits involved in the courtship duets and vocal duels of the African clawed frog.

Many species, including human beings, tend to favor vocal communication as a way of assessing and attracting potential mates; such vocal signals are often reciprocated and coordinated. Despite its importance, however, the brain processes underlying vocal communication are not yet well understood. The clawed frog, though modest in brainpower, has a surprisingly sophisticated vocal repertoire, making it an apt candidate for detailed study.

A native of New Zealand, Irene received a Bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from the University of Otago, where she studied the role of a neural protein, lost to Alzheimer’s patients, in the molecular mechanisms of memory formation. She now enjoys the cultural diversity of New York City and has become a fan of the Boston Red Sox baseball team.