Mary-Frances O'Connor

Associate Professor, Psychology
Headshot of SXSW Speaker Mary Frances O'Connor

March 11, 4:00 pm: When Touch Is Out of Reach


Social interaction and interpersonal affection are important human needs that have gone unfulfilled for many during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, more than ever, we need to be intentional about how we meet our needs for connection and touch.


"Mary-Frances O'Connor is an associate professor of psychology at the University of Arizona, where she directs the Grief, Loss, and Social Stress (GLASS) Lab in investigating the effects of grief on the brain and the body. She studies the grief process, both psychologically and physiologically. She is a leader in the field of complicated grief, a clinical condition in which people do not adjust to the acute feelings of grief and show increases in yearning, avoidance, and rumination. Her work primarily focuses on trying to tease out the mechanisms that cause this ongoing and severe reaction to loss. In particular, she is curious about the neurobiological, immune, and cardiovascular factors that vary between individual responses to grief. Her new book is The Grieving Brain: The Surprising Science of How We Learn from Love and Loss (HarperOne, February 1, 2022).

O’Connor earned a doctorate from the University of Arizona in 2004 and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at UCLA. Following a faculty appointment at UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology, she returned to the University of Arizona in 2012. Her work has been published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, Biological Psychiatry, and Psychological Science, and featured in Newsweek, New York Times, and Washington Post. Having grown up in Montana, she now lives in sunny Tucson, Arizona."