Frankie Heyward, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center and a member of the Center for Hypothalamic Research. Dr. Heyward holds a secondary appointment as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Neuroscience.

Dr. Heyward earned a bachelor's in biology and psychology from the University of Delaware in Alabama. He received his doctorate in neurobiology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and completed postdoctoral research training through joint fellowships in endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and at Harvard Medical School, and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

Dr. Heyward joined the faculty of UT Southwestern in 2023. He is also the active Founding Chair of the National Black Postdoctoral Association (501c3) and was the Founding Chair of the Harvard Medical School Black Postdoctoral Association (HBPA).

Dr. Heyward's research is focused on transcriptomic interrogation of key hypothalamic neurons regulating metabolism, body weight and glucose homeostasis. The core mission is to understand how neurotoxic insults caused by an obesogenic diet and aging contribute to epigenetically encoded impairments in the properties of cell types in the brain that control appetite and body weight. This broad topic is studied by employing a combination of low-input cell-type specific, and single-cell multiomic, genome-wide assessments of gene expression, epigenetic modifications, chromatin accessibility, and transcription factor DNA binding dynamics, as well as mouse genetic and epigenome engineering tools, in vitro and in vivo assessments of transcription factor activation, and animal behavioral assessments.


Graduate School
(2015), Neurobiology


AgRP neuron cis-regulatory analysis across hunger states reveals that IRF3 mediates leptin’s acute effects
Heyward FD, Liu N, Jacobs C, Machado NL, Ivison R, Uner A, Srinivasan H, Patel SJ, Gulko A, Sermersheim T, Tsai L, Rosen ED Nature communications 2024 Dec 15
Academic ethics of mental health: the national black postdocs framework for the addressment of support for undergraduate and graduate trainees
Hayes CA, Berrios-Negron AL, Tamir T, Hardeman KN, Heyward FD Neuropsychopharmacology 2024 Mar 49 637-639
What does Juneteenth mean in STEMM?
Beasley HK, Clark AL, Garner A, Heyward FD, Moore E, Nelson RG, Ray K, Silvers S, Stephens D, Woappi Y Cell 2023 Jun 186 2501-2505
Erratum: Young researchers series #3: (Trends in Cell Biology 32, 553–556, 2022) (Trends in Cell Biology (2022) 32(7) (553–556), (S0962892422000800), (10.1016/j.tcb.2022.03.008))
Mukaz DK, Heyward FD, Eche IJ Trends in Cell Biology 2022 Dec 32 1049
Young researchers series #3
Mukaz DK, Heyward FD, Eche IJ Trends in Cell Biology 2022 Jul 32 553-556
Hepatic IRF3 fuels dysglycemia in obesity through direct regulation of Ppp2r1b
Patel SJ, Liu N, Piaker S, Gulko A, Andrade ML, Heyward FD, Sermersheim T, Edinger N, Srinivasan H, Emont MP, Westcott GP, Luther J, Chung RT, Yan S, Kumari M, Thomas R, Deleye Y, Tchernof A, White PJ, Baselli GA, Meroni M, De Jesus DF, Ahmad R, Kulkarni RN, Valenti L, Tsai L, Rosen ED Science translational medicine 2022 Mar 14
Obesity weighs down memory through a mechanism involving the neuroepigenetic dysregulation of Sirt1
Heyward FD, Gilliam D, Coleman MA, Gavin CF, Wang J, Kaas G, Trieu R, Lewis J, Moulden J, David Sweatt J Journal of Neuroscience 2016 Jan 36 1324-1335
DNA Methylation in Memory Formation: Emerging Insights
Heyward FD, Sweatt JD Neuroscientist 2015 Oct 21 475-489
Freezing to the predator odor 2,4,5 dihydro 2,5 trimethylthiazoline (TMT) is disrupted by olfactory bulb removal but not trigeminal deafferentation
Ayers LW, Asok A, Heyward FD, Rosen JB Behavioural Brain Research 2013 Sep 253 54-59
Adult mice maintained on a high-fat diet exhibit object location memory deficits and reduced hippocampal SIRT1 gene expression
Heyward FD, Walton RG, Carle MS, Coleman MA, Garvey WT, Sweatt JD Neurobiology of Learning and Memory 2012 Jul 98 25-32

Professional Associations/Affiliations

  • American Diabetes Association
  • American Heart Association
  • Cellular and Molecular Cognition Society
  • Network of Minority Health Research Investigators (NMRI), NIDDK
  • Phi Kappa Phi, Honor Society
  • Society for Neuroscience