Marion Siegman

Marion J. Siegman

Marion J. Siegman was born in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of C. Joseph and Helen Siegman.  Her Father was a physician, a graduate of the University of Vienna. Her parents and brother Felix emigrated to the United States in 1927.  He started what was to be a fifty-year general medical practice in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn.  It was common at the time for physicians' offices to be close to or part of the family home.  Medicine was part of daily life, and, while growing up, Marion was intrigued by the magic of the instrumentation and tests in the office that "made people better".  She graduated from Newcomb College of Tulane University, with a major in Biology and minor in Photography.  Her interest in biology was given impetus by Professor E. Peter Volpe.  By the time she graduated from Newcomb her keen interest in science had taken hold and replaced medical practice as a family-programmed career goal.  She spent three formative years in the Developmental Biology Laboratory of Paul A. Weiss at the Rockefeller Institute, where she also had the opportunity to work for and be taught by Aaron Moscona and Sir John Randall.  She spent a year at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm doing electron microscopy, and worked on a project for Ulf von Euler on the storage and release of catecholamines from storage granules in the heart of cyclostomes.  This experience crystallized her determination to pursue graduate studies in Pharmacology and to earn the Ph.D.  She enrolled in the graduate program at SUNY Downstate in Pharmacology, and did her thesis research on active transport in the myometrium in the lab of C.Y. Kao.  Her interest in Physiology was nurtured by teachers and role models including Brian Hoffman, Chandler Brooks, Mario Vassale, and Kiyomi Koizumi, and this led her to seek a faculty position in a department of Physiology.  She was appointed Instructor of Physiology at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia in 1967, rising through the ranks to Assistant Professor with tenure in 1968, Associate Professor in 1971, and was the first woman in basic sciences to be promoted to Professor in 1977.  She was appointed Interim Chair of the Department of Physiology in 2001 and in 2002 she was appointed Chair, the first woman to achieve this position at Jefferson. 

During her long career at Jefferson, Marion received honors including the Burlington-Northern Foundation Award for Excellence in Teaching and Productivity in Research, the Lindback Award for Excellence in Teaching, Faculty Award for Excellence in Medical Education, Dean’s Award for Teaching Excellence, and membership in the Jefferson Academy of Distinguished Educators.  Her portrait was presented to Jefferson by the Graduating Class of 2001 of Jefferson Medical College and Colleagues.  She received the Outstanding Alumna Award of Newcomb College of Tulane University.  Marion served the Advisory Committee for Physiology, Cellular and Molecular Biology of the National Science Foundation, the Physiology Study Section, NIH, and was Reviewer for the Experimental Cardiovascular Sciences Study Section, NIH, Special Study Sections for NHLBI for RFA and Program Project Applications, and the National American Heart Association.  She has been a member of The American Physiological Society since 1975 and has served on the Editorial Boards of the AJP - Cell Physiology and Advances in Physiology Education, the APS Program Committee, Education Committee, chaired the Muscle Physiology Interest Group and was the first Chairperson of the Section Advisory Committee at its formation in 1984.  She has been active in The Physiological Society of Philadelphia and is currently Archivist for the IUPS.

Marion Siegman's research has centered on the mechanical properties, energetics, regulation and ultrastructure of smooth muscle, and has been funded by the NIH since 1969.  She was a founding member of The Pennsylvania Muscle Institute.  Following her pioneering work on its basic mechanical properties, the research expanded to the first direct measurements of high energy phosphate usage during various contractile states, in collaboration with Thomas M. Butler and the late Robert E. Davies.  Her collaboration with Tom has continued to this writing, in 2014.  Their studies on energetics demonstrated that the velocity of crossbridge cycling in smooth muscle slows during the course of a contraction, accounting for its high economy, and that cooperative mechanisms underlie the activation of crossbridges.  They showed that myosin light chain phosphatase was regulated, opening the way to new avenues of investigation on signal transduction pathways.  They solved the mystery of "catch" in invertebrate smooth muscle, a condition of high force maintenance lasting hours with little or no energy usage, by showing that catch is due to twitchin, a mini-titin, which tethers actin and myosin filaments. Her current research centers on structural modifications of smooth muscle and extracellular matrix in disease states, and how these modify and ultimately limit force transmission.


Curriculum Vitae of Marion Siegman

Extended Narrative of Marion Siegman

Marion Siegman’s Living History

International Innovation highlights renowned smooth muscle physiologist (and APS member) Marion Siegman in their “Last Word” column. Using excerpts from her Living History of Physiology interview, Dr. Siegman recounts her early career experiences in research. This is the first of a two-part feature in the magazine.