Trustees Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences
University of Delaware
Newark, DE, USA
Research interests: Sperm function
Dr. DeLeon’s research interests focus on reproductive genetics, specifically genes involved in sperm development and function. Recent emphasis has been on sperm membrane proteins that interact with Plasma membrane Ca2+-ATPase 4 (PMCA4), the major calcium efflux pump in murine sperm. She served as a member of the NIH Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (1992-1996), NIH Study Sections, an NSF Review Panelist, and on the Executive Council of the American Society of Andrology where she lectured at the inaugural mentoring symposium and was recognized for her scientific contributions to Andrology in 2006. She serves or has served on the editorial boards of three journals in Andrology/Reproduction, has published widely in the field, and has three patents issued or pending. As a UD’s Annual Faculty Lecturer since 2004, Pat teaches several courses in Human Genetics and mentors graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and undergraduates with their senior year projects. Since 1992 she has served as the faculty representative to UD’s Board of Trustees where she was a member of the Executive Committee and the Academic Affairs Committee. She has chaired the Women’s Studies Faculty Research Awards Committee and WISE (Women in Science and Engineering). She is a recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM) in 2007. She is the 2010 Distinguished Alumna of the UWI and in 2011 she was a medalist for Caribbean Women in Science. Among all that she has been a very active member of ASA and in 2011 she was a President of Women in Andrology for the ASA.
Q: How was your interest in field of andrology developed?
Dr. DeLeon: I was interested in determining if paternal age is a factor in Down syndrome (trisomy 21), and using the mouse model investigated if sperm aged in the male by sexual rest resulted in an increased frequency of conceptuses with chromosomes anomalies. The answer was yes and my quest to understand why led me into studying sperm selection mechanisms, transcript sharing in spermatids and segregation ratio distortion, followed by epididymal proteins that impact sperm maturation.
Q: Tell us about the work that you are most proud of.
Dr. DeLeon: I am proud that we were able to unravel the molecular mechanism underlying the transmission ratio distortion that is seen in murine Robertsonian translocation involving chromosome 6, and the role played by the Spam1 gene and family members in the distortion. This subsequently opened up our work on epididymal proteins and the role of reproductive exosomes in communication with mammalian sperm.
Q: Describe your typical day at work.
Dr. DeLeon: Most of my days are atypical, but a typical one begins with answering emails. If it is a day that I teach, I am up at 5 -6 AM going over my lecture (notes) which I give at 9:30 to 11:00 AM. Than it is more answering emails and talking with students. I meet with students in the afternoon or run experiments at that time. Go to meetings, seminar, catch up on my reading and writing in the evening and then the day disappears, with many things left undone.
Q: What is the key to success in the field of andrology, given the impact of recession/lack of grants?
Dr. DeLeon: I try to cluster my experiments and never sacrifice a mouse unless I have plans to use the testis, epididymal tissue/fluids and sperm (sometimes vas deferens, and seminal vesicles and prostate) either fresh or frozen. Thus I collect all materials of interest and freeze them for later use. As a result my animal cost has gone down. I also spend more time planning the experiments and getting the lab members to be more collegial and to share materials and ideas. The days of the lonely scientist are over. I also collaborate with other labs more and outsource procedures that are new to my Lab, instead of trying to re-invent the wheel which can be costly in time (and time is money).
Q: What has been the impact of the ASA membership in your career?
Dr. DeLeon: The membership has allowed me to connect with a number of scientists at home and abroad and this has provided a network for support. It has allowed me to take my students to meetings where they can see aspects of the scientific endeavor that are not displayed in my laboratory, and therefore to grow and feel connected and ultimately develop as scientists.
Q: One advice you would like to give to students entering in this field.
Dr. DeLeon: I would advise students to remain open in their scientific exploration and not to be afraid to move out of their comfort zone. I was trained as a cytogeneticists and had to move out and re-train (during sabbaticals) as a molecular geneticist to remain relevant and to be able to attract students to my lab.