Christopher S. Leonard, Ph.D., professor of physiology, has been named interim chairman of the Department of Physiology, succeeding Thomas H. Hintze, Ph.D.’80, professor of physiology, who recently stepped down from his role as chair. Dr. Leonard joined the NYMC faculty in 1997 after holding faculty positions at New York University. He earned his masters and Ph.D. degrees in physiology and biophysics from the Sackler Institute of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at New York University and completed a National Institutes of Health (NIH) post-doctoral fellowship in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at New York University Medical Center under the mentorship of renowned neuroscientist Rodolfo R. Llinas, M.D., Ph.D.
Dr. Leonard’s research on the neural mechanisms underlying arousal, sleep and motivated states has been consistently funded by the NIH and has produced numerous publications and invited lectures at scientific meetings worldwide. His research focuses on understanding the cellular, synaptic and circuit changes that give rise to sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and insomnia.
Dr. Leonard was a recipient of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus funding for his work on how defective signaling by the neuropeptide orexin results in narcolepsy. Most recently, he received a Touro College and University System Bridge Funding Grant for his research program “Synaptic Modulation of Mesopontine Cholinergic Neurons.”
He is a member of the Society for Neuroscience, American Physiological Society, Sleep Research Society, New York Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Dr. Leonard serves as an ad hoc reviewer for numerous scientific journals and granting agencies and served as a regular member of the NIH Biological Rhythms and Sleep Study Section, Center for Scientific review.
Dr. Leonard is an active member of the NYMC community and serves on the NYMC faculty senate. He is the founding organizer of the Graduate School of Basic Medical Sciences Doctoral Colloquium series, designed to provide Ph.D. candidates with an opportunity to present their developing research to a broad scientific audience. He is also a frequent volunteer judge at departmental research forums and both the Medical and Graduate Student Research Forums. At the 2005 Graduate Student Research Forum, he was awarded the Honored Faculty Award, selected by students in recognition of “his dedication to his students and members of his laboratory and of his ability to teach complex neuroscience topics with clarity and patience in an informative yet entertaining manner.
“I am honored and enthusiastic to take on this new role. In this era of exploding molecular discovery, the discipline of physiology, with its emphasis on integrative function, has never been more relevant to understanding and progress in medicine. I look forward to facilitating this progress,” said Dr. Leonard.