Nathan H. Lents

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Nathan H. Lents
Nathan H. Lents in 2017
Nathan H. Lents in 2017
GenrePopular Science

Nathan H. Lents is an American scientist, author, and university professor. He has been on the faculty of John Jay College since 2006 and is currently the director of their honors program and the campus Macaulay Honors College program.[1] Lents is noted for his work in cell biology, genetics, and forensic science, as well as his popular science writing and blogging on the evolution of human biology and behavior. Lents is also a visiting faculty member at the University of Lincoln in the U.K.

Early life and education[edit]

Nathan H. Lents was born and raised in Decatur, Illinois and graduated from St. Teresa High School.[2] He then attended Saint Louis University and graduated summa cum laude with a B.S degree in biology.

He moved to Saint Louis University School of Medicine for his doctoral work and graduated with a Ph.D. in Pharmacological and Physiological Sciences in 2004.[3] He completed postdoctoral training in cancer genomics at NYU Medical Center under the direction of Brian David Dynlacht.[4] He then joined the faculty of forensic science at John Jay College and the doctoral faculty of biochemistry at the CUNY Graduate Center. Lents was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in 2011 and attained the rank of full professor at John Jay College in 2016, his tenth year on the faculty.[5]

Lents and his husband Oscar[6][7] have two children.

Notable research[edit]

While an undergraduate at Saint Louis University in the 1990s, Lents conducted research with Biology Department chair Robert I. Bolla on the biochemical interactions between soybean plants and the soybean cyst nematode, a key cause of soybean crop loss in the United States. Specifically, he discovered that the CF-9 gene cluster correlated with resistance to nematodes in soybean strains.

During this same time period, Lents also worked in the fermentation research division of agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland, conducting basic microbiology research on the soil bacteria Corynebacterium glutamicum, which is used in the production of amino acids for food additives. Specifically, he worked on the production of lysine, a product that was the subject of a global price-fixing conspiracy. ADM pled guilty to antitrust violations and was forced to pay $100 million, the largest antitrust fine in US history. Several top ADM executives served prison sentences, but none of the scientists in the lysine group were implicated in any wrongdoing.

Since 2000, Lents has published research reports in the area of cell and cancer biology, genetics, forensic science, as well as the teaching and learning of science, particularly evolution.[8] Lents has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, and the US Department of Education.[5] His early work focused on the cell cycle and cancer biology, particularly the G1 to S phase transition. Specifically, Lents and colleagues showed that activation of the MAP kinase cascade is necessary and sufficient for a key phosphorylation step in the activation of cyclin-dependent kinase 2, an important cell cycle enzyme.[9] In addition, as a PhD student, Lents developed an innovative "reverse mutational" approach to discovering key phosphorylation sites on the Retinoblastoma protein, one of the most important tumor suppressors.[10]

In 2008, Lents discovered a new splice variant for the Mdm2 oncogene that is induced upon treatment with DNA-damaging cancer chemotherapies.[11] His laboratory later discovered new genetic connections between Vitamin D, the transcription factor MZF1, and the CCN gene family,[12] work that has led him and others to call for exploration of the usefulness of vitamin D as a possible enhancement for cancer treatments.[13]

Lents has also published research in the area of forensic biology and toxicology. His laboratory was among the first to note that zinc supplements can be effective in masking the presence of certain drug metabolites during routine drug testing.[14] In 2016, he published work on the skin microbiome of decomposing human cadavers.[15] He also developed and patented a DNA-based forensic method of species identification of trace plant material.[16]

Science writing[edit]

Lents has written articles for Skeptic Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, The Observer, Psychology Today, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and others.[17] He regularly contributes modules for the Visionlearning science education project. He also maintains The Human Evolution Blog and authors most of its content.[18] He also blogs for Psychology Today under the tagline "Beastly Behavior: How Evolution Shaped Our Minds and Bodies."[19]


In 2016, Lents published his first book, "Not So Different: Finding Human Nature in Animals" with Columbia University Press. The book has received favorable reviews from Publishers Weekly, the Quarterly Review of Biology, Psychology Today, and several others[20] In 2018, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt published his second book, "Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, from Pointless Bones to Broken Genes,"[21] which was listed by Publishers Weekly as a "Big Title" for spring 2018 in the Science category.[22] "Human Errors" has received many favorable reviews and was included on recommended summer reading lists in the Wall Street Journal, Discover Magazine, EndPoints, The Financial Times, and was "Book of the Month" for August 2018 in Geographical Magazine.[23] Lents is represented by the Marly Rusoff Literary Agency.


Professor Lents has appeared on television, radio, and news articles commenting about forensic science matters, human evolution, or other science matters. He has appeared on The Today Show,[24] 48 hours,[25] Access Hollywood,[26] The Brian Lehrer Show,[27] the BBC World Service,[28] Al Jazeera,[29] and others. He writes for Psychology Today[30] and has been quoted by the Associated Press, Vice, the New York Times,[31] Scientific American, and others. His blog has been quoted by USA Today, The Daily Mirror, The Dail Mail, The Telegraph, New York Magazine, New York Post, IFL Science, People Magazine, and was mentioned on Live with Kelly.[32][33] He is also the host and executive producer of the podcast, "This World of Humans," a collaboration with the Visionlearning project, focusing on new research in the area of biology and social science.[34]


  1. ^ "Macaulay Honors College at John Jay - John Jay College of Criminal Justice".
  2. ^ Lents, Nathan H (2004). CDK2, CAK, and pRB : interactions regulating G1 phase cell cycle progression (PhD Thesis). OCLC 123984250.[page needed]
  3. ^ "Inaugural Distinguished Alumnus Award and Lecture".
  4. ^ "Dynlacht Lab - NYU Cancer Institute - NYU School of Medicine".
  5. ^ a b "Nathan H. Lents".
  6. ^ Wilson, Mark (2010-01-18). "Married couple Nathan Lents (L) and Oscar Cifuentes kiss in front of Westboro Baptist Church protesters, in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, on March 27, 2013 in Washington, DC. Today the high court is scheduled to hear arguments on whether Congress can withhold federal benefits from legally wed gay couples by defining marriage as only between a man and a woman". Retrieved 2019-01-06.
  7. ^ Shostak, Stanley (17 February 2017). "Not So Different: Finding Human Nature in Animals". The European Legacy. 22 (4): 507–509. doi:10.1080/10848770.2017.1291895.
  8. ^ Google Scholar Profile:
  9. ^ Lents, Nathan H; Keenan, Susan M; Bellone, Clifford; Baldassare, Joseph J (2002). "Stimulation of the Raf/MEK/ERK Cascade is Necessary and Sufficient for Activation and Thr-160 Phosphorylation of a Nuclear-targeted CDK2". Journal of Biological Chemistry. 277 (49): 47469–75. doi:10.1074/jbc.M207425200. PMID 12359725.
  10. ^ Lents, Nathan H; Gorges, Laura L; Baldassare, Joseph J (2014). "Reverse Mutational Analysis Reveals Threonine-373 as a Potentially Sufficient Phosphorylation Site for Inactivation of the Retinoblastoma Tumor Suppressor Protein (pRB)". Cell Cycle. 5 (15): 1699–707. doi:10.4161/cc.5.15.3126. PMID 16880741.
  11. ^ Lents, Nathan H; Wheeler, Leroy W; Baldassare, Joseph J; Dynlacht, Brian David (2008). "Identification and characterization of a novel Mdm2 splice variant acutely induced by the chemotherapeutic agents Adriamycin and Actinomycin D". Cell Cycle. 7 (11): 1580–6. doi:10.4161/cc.7.11.5985. PMC 3608406. PMID 18469520.
  12. ^ Piszczatowski, Richard T; Rafferty, Brian J; Rozado, Andre; Parziale, James V; Lents, Nathan H (2015). "Myeloid Zinc Finger 1 (MZF-1) Regulates Expression of the CCN2/CTGF and CCN3/NOV Genes in the Hematopoietic Compartment". Journal of Cellular Physiology. 230 (11): 2634–9. doi:10.1002/jcp.25021. PMID 25899830.
  13. ^ Piszczatowski, Richard T; Lents, Nathan H (2016). "Regulation of the CCN genes by vitamin D: A possible adjuvant therapy in the treatment of cancer and fibrosis". Cellular Signalling. 28 (10): 1604–13. doi:10.1016/j.cellsig.2016.07.009. PMID 27460560.
  14. ^ Venkatratnam, Abhishek (1 July 2011). "Zinc Reduces the Detection of Cocaine, Methamphetamine, and THC by ELISA Urine Testing". Journal of Analytical Toxicology. 35 (6): 333–340. doi:10.1093/anatox/35.6.333.
  15. ^ Johnson, Hunter R.; Trinidad, Donovan D.; Guzman, Stephania; Khan, Zenab; Parziale, James V.; DeBruyn, Jennifer M.; Lents, Nathan H. (22 December 2016). "A Machine Learning Approach for Using the Postmortem Skin Microbiome to Estimate the Postmortem Interval". PLOS One. 11 (12): e0167370. Bibcode:2016PLoSO..1167370J. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0167370. PMC 5179130. PMID 28005908.
  16. ^ Srivastava, Tushar; Wu, Michael; Kakhnovich, Julia; Waithaka, Bridgit; Lents, Nathan H (2017). "A Three-Locus, PCR-based Method for Forensic Identification of Plant Material". Journal of Forensic Sciences. 63 (4): 1252–1260. doi:10.1111/1556-4029.13715. PMID 29194624.
  17. ^ "Magazine Articles, etc". 1 February 2016.
  18. ^ The Human Evolution Blog:
  19. ^ "Beastly Behavior". Psychology Today.
  20. ^ Links to reviews can be found here:
  21. ^ Lents, Nathan H. (1 May 2018). Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, From Pointless Bones to Broken Genes. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-1328974693.
  22. ^ "Spring 2018 Adult Announcements".
  23. ^ "Book: Human Errors". 2017-10-16.
  24. ^ "Study: Handbags carry more bacteria than some toilets".
  25. ^ "Nathan Lents on 48 hours".
  26. ^ "Access Hollywood".
  27. ^ "People - Nathan Lents".
  28. ^ "BBC The Why Factor".
  29. ^ "Nathan Lents on Al-Jazeera".
  30. ^ "Psychology Today Biography of Nathan Lents".
  31. ^ Rosenberg, Eli (2016-07-15). "K2's Sudden Surge Tests New York Authorities". The New York Times.
  32. ^ "Media, etc". 19 January 2015.
  33. ^ ""Nathan H. Lents" - Google Search".
  34. ^ Website for This World of Humans podcast:

External links[edit]