Leonard "Jim" Jefferson
Jefferson150

Leonard S. "Jim" Jefferson

Following completion of medical school preclinical years and thesis research for a Ph.D. degree at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Dr. Leonard S. (Jim) Jefferson received postdoctoral training at Cambridge University before being recruited to Penn State College of Medicine in 1967 as one of five founding members of the Department of Physiology. There he rose quickly through the ranks becoming Associate Professor in 1972, Professor in 1975, and Chair of the Department in 1988, a role in which he served for 26 years. Under his leadership and with the recruitment of several new faculty members, the newly named Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology became one of the top-rated physiology departments in the United States. From 1990-2001 he concurrently held the position that is now named Vice Dean for Research and Graduate Studies where his leadership led to creation of the Division of Research Resources among other accomplishments, and from 1997-2000 he took on the additional role of Executive Director of the Henry Hood Research Program at the Weis Center of the Geisinger Health System. In 1996 he was named an Evan Pugh University Professor of Physiology. Dr. Jefferson has been an active member of his profession both nationally and internationally serving as President of the American Physiological Society and holding numerous leadership positions for the American Diabetes Association, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, the Federation of American Societies of Experimental Biology and the National Institutes of Health. He has served as scientific consultant for many of the NIH funded Diabetes Centers and for Ajinomotto, Inc. In addition, he has served as an external reviewer of physiology and cell biology departments at numerous academic health centers, as Editor of the American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism, and as a member of the Editorial Board of Diabetes, the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Physiological Reviews, Skeletal Muscle, and the Chinese Journal of Physiology.

Dr. Jefferson’s research for his Ph.D. thesis, conducted at one of the premier diabetes centers, identified the role of the newly discovered second messenger cyclic AMP in the actions of insulin and glucagon on glucose metabolism in the liver. In launching his independent research career, he was struck by photographs of diabetic children taken before the discovery of insulin illustrating the tremendous loss of muscle mass and by the description of diabetes that was coined by the ancient Greek physician Aretaeus in the first century A.D., i.e. "melting down of flesh and limbs into urine". Thus, he undertook postdoctoral training in a laboratory conducting pioneering work on the regulation of protein synthesis in the context of the newly discovered messenger RNA. There he produced the first evidence of a role for nutrients, i.e. amino acids in the translational control of protein synthesis. Upon joining the faculty at Penn State, he quickly gained support for his research program by acquiring two NIH R01 grants that have now been continuously funded for nearly fifty years. Through the support of these grants and other funding sources, Dr. Jefferson has led a research team that to date has published more than 340 scientific papers that have been cited more than 17,000 times (h-index: 72). These original contributions have been at the forefront of providing an understanding of the signaling pathways and molecular mechanisms through which insulin and nutrients act to maintain muscle mass and thus prevent the consequences of diabetes referred to above. Among these contributions is the first evidence for a direct effect of insulin on the translation control of protein synthesis in skeletal muscle, identification of the unique role of the amino acid leucine in the control of protein synthesis, identification of the mechanisms through which glucocorticoids act to repress protein synthesis and promote muscle wasting, and identification of the mechanisms involved in disuse-induced muscle wasting.

messenger RNA. There he produced the first evidence of a role for nutrients, i.e. amino acids in the translational control of protein synthesis. Upon joining the faculty at Penn State, he quickly gained support for his research program by acquiring two NIH R01 grants that have now been continuously funded for nearly fifty years. Through the support of these grants and other funding sources, Dr. Jefferson has led a research team that to date has published more than 340 scientific papers that have been cited more than 17,000 times (h-index: 72). These original contributions have been at the forefront of providing an understanding of the signaling pathways and molecular mechanisms through which insulin and nutrients act to maintain muscle mass and thus prevent the consequences of diabetes referred to above. Among these contributions is the first evidence for a direct effect of insulin on the translation control of protein synthesis in skeletal muscle, identification of the unique role of the amino acid leucine in the control of protein synthesis, identification of the mechanisms through which glucocorticoids act to repress protein synthesis and promote muscle wasting, and identification of the mechanisms involved in disuse-induced muscle wasting.

Dr. Jefferson’s record of mentorship for young, aspiring scientists is extensive. He has provided training for twenty Ph.D. degree students, eight M.S. degree students, one MD/PhD degree student, and 46 postdoctoral fellows as well as four NIH K08 awardees. He has served as Chair of the Intercollege Graduate Degree Program in Physiology and as Co-Principal Investigator on three NIH funded training grants. His trainees have gone on to successful independent careers in academia, industry, government, and other areas.

Dr. Jefferson’s contributions to research have been recognized by numerous honors and awards including the Lilly Award and an Established Investigator Award from the American Diabetes Association, the David Rumbough Award from the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, a MERIT Award from the NIH, the Circle of Distinguished Alumni Award from the Vanderbilt University Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, an Outstanding Alumnus Award from Eastern Kentucky University, and the Penn State College of Medicine Career Research Excellence Award. His invited presentations include the Solomon A. Berson Distinguished Lectureship of the American Physiological Society, the Keynote Lecture at the 11th International Conference on the Biochemistry of Exercise, and the David Murdock-Dole Lectureship from The Mayo Karolinska Foundation. He is an elected Fellow of both the American Physiological Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.


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