M. Leslie, Ph.D.
Dr. Frances Leslie received her B.Sc. and Ph.D. from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. From 1978 to 1980, she undertook postdoctoral research at the Addiction Research Foundation, Stanford, California. In 1981, she joined UCI as an Assistant Professor in Pharmacology in the College of Medicine. She is currently Professor of Pharmacology and Anatomy & Neurobiology. From 1995-1998, Dr. Leslie served an additional campus administrative role as Associate Vice Chancellor for Research. She now serves as director of a federally funded Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center.
Dr. Leslie is a neuropharmacologist whose research interests focus on the pharmacology of drugs of abuse. She did her undergraduate and graduate training in the laboratory of Drs. Hans Kosterlitz and John Hughes during the time of their discovery of the endorphins, the bodys endogenous opioid system. As a result, all of her early research focused on the pharmacology of opioids. Upon joining UCI, Dr. Leslie became interested in the physiological roles of endorphins and other neurotransmitter systems in regulating brain development. She is further interested in how drugs of abuse, such as heroin and nicotine, interact with these endogenous brain systems to influence brain development and subsequent behavior. Using molecular and cell biology techniques, Dr. Leslie has demonstrated that endogenous neurotransmitter systems are active very early in developing brain and may play important roles in shaping neuronal function and behavior. She has further demonstrated that there are critical developmental periods, during which activation or blockade of these systems by chronic exposure to drugs of abuse can produce significant, long-term changes in neuronal activity. Her current work focuses on adolescence as one such possible critical period.
The UCI Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center is one of a network of seven national centers recently established by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and National Cancer Institute. In her capacity as director of the Center, Dr. Leslie is working with a distinguished group of faculty from across the UCI campus. This newly formed research team will work together to identify key predictors of nicotine dependence and tobacco use susceptibility, using a shared conceptual model, and will translate these findings into intervention strategies that will be evaluated for their public health efficacy and cost effectiveness.