“I was born as a small child”- Dr.Edward Levin

This week I interviewed the Principal Investigator of my lab, Dr. Ed Levin, and I was able to take a dive into parts of his life and look at his journey of becoming the amazing researcher he is now.

As you may have guessed, Dr.Edward Levin wasn’t born with a Doctorate. In fact, he was born in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania where his father worked as a physician in another town in Pennsylvania that had a lot of pollution. The town had lots of smog and there was even an event that happened in 1948 before Dr. Levin was born that ended up killing a lot of people. The pollution and history of that town are what got Dr.Levin extremely interested in toxicology. He enrolled at Penn State University for a year and a half and then transferred to

He enrolled at Penn State University for a year and a half and then transferred to the University of Rochester due to their excellent “physiological psychology’ program which nowadays would be called Behavioral Neuroscience. He studied that then took a gap year to work as a lab technician in Philly. Then he applied to graduate schools and then went to UW-madison in 1977. He started off with a master in psychology where he studied the adverse effects of pharmaceutical drugs. He later switched to a Ph.D. program in toxicology. For his Ph.D., he did work with Rhesus monkeys and looked at the cognitive effects of lead on early life. He moved to UCLA and studied the motor function and the adverse side effects of psychiatric drugs.  He met his wife and after having his first child, he moved to Sweden for a while where he studied dementia and antipsychotic use. Coming back from Sweden, he came back to UCLA and got into studying nicotine. He started working with Jed Rose who was the co-founder of the nicotine skin patch. Jed Rose soon invited him to come to North Carolina with his family in 1989 where he came to Duke as an Assistant Professor. In 1992, he finally got his own lab and went back to working with animals. He continued doing work in neurotoxicology.


When I asked him why he kept doing research, he said that the joy of discovery is what drives him every day. Research is so interesting because when you have discovery, you realize that you are the first one to know a piece of information and that you are adding to the knowledge pool of mankind.

Finally, at the end of the interview, I asked him about the advice he would give to students like me who one day wanted to go into research and solve some unanswered questions. He told me that reading broadly and going out and meeting the different people that are doing things that interest you was one of the best things that a person like me could do. He also said that you should try to be an expert in one thing but be able to speak the languages of other disciplines so that you can converse with people in other areas besides your own. In addition, he says to be perseverant and never be afraid to make mistakes because they call it research for a reason. You search and then you re-search. Finally, always remember that research takes time. You don’t instantly make a discovery. It takes a lot of time and work. You could read one line of information in a textbook that probably took a person 40 years to discover. When it comes to research, patience is something that one needs to have.

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