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Ion channels, synapses and addiction


The Department of Neurobiology mourns the loss of Dr. Robin Lester, who passed away on June 21, 2023. Dr. Lester was a celebrated colleague, faculty member, educator, researcher, and friend.

Dr. Lester joined UAB in 1995 as an Assistant Professor on the Tenure Earning Track, rising through the ranks to Full Professor with Tenure during his 28 years of service to UAB. His research focused on central nervous system nicotinic acetylcholine receptors and their function for many years, followed by a distinguished career as an educator in UAB’s Undergraduate, Medical, and Graduate School programs. His career was punctuated by several teaching awards including multiple Argus Awards for the best MS2 organ module in the 2nd year medical school curriculum, a 2010 President's Award for Excellence in Teaching, a 2021 Dean's Excellence Award in Teaching, and culminating in the UAB National Alumni Society/Ellen Gregg Ingalls Lifetime Achievement Award in Teaching. 

We offer our condolences to Dr. Lester's family, along with his countless friends, colleagues, and students. His loss is devastating and is deeply felt throughout the UAB community.


Dr. Lester had a longstanding interest in how the regulation of postsynaptic receptor ion channels contribute to synaptic transmission and plasticity. During his graduate studies, he contributed to studies that first demonstrated a synaptic role for the NMDA glutamate receptor and described a mechanism for its role in the induction of long-term potentiation, a major form of synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus. Subsequently, as an independent investigator, Dr. Lester focused his efforts on unmasking the physiological roles of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in the brain, and how exposure to nicotine can promote persistent changes that may contribute to nicotine dependence. Over the last ten years of his career, he devoted the majority of his time towards teaching a variety of neuroscience/neuroanatomy topics to undergraduate, graduate, medical, dental and optometry students.


Herron, C.E., Lester, R.A.J., Coan, E.J. and Collingridge, G.L. Frequency-dependent involvement of NMDA receptors in the hippocampus: a novel synaptic mechanism. Nature 322:265-268, 1986.

Davies, S.N., Lester, R.A.J., Reymann, K.G. and Collingridge, G.L.   Temporally distinct pre- and postsynaptic mechanisms maintain long-term potentiation.  Nature 338:500-503, 1989.

Lester, R.A.J., Clements, J.D., Westbrook, G.L. and Jahr, C.E.  Channel kinetics determine the time course of NMDA receptor-mediated synaptic currents.  Nature 346:565-567, 1990.

Clements, J.D., Lester, R.A.J., Tong, G., Jahr, C.E. and Westbrook, G.L.  Time course of glutamate in the synaptic cleft.  Science 258:1498-1501, 1992.

Lester, R.A.J. and Dani, J.A. Acetylcholine receptor desensitization induced by nicotine in rat medial habenula neurons.  J. Neurophysiol. 74:195-206, 1995.

Fenster, C.P., Whitworth, T., Quick, M.W and Lester, R.A.J.  Upregulation of surface α4β2 nicotinic receptors is initiated by receptor desensitization following chronic exposure to nicotine. J. Neurosci., 19:4804-4814, 1999

Quick, M.W. and Lester, R.A.J.  Desensitization of neuronal nicotinic receptors.  J. Neurobiol. 53:457-478, 2002.

Guo, X. and Lester, R.A.J. Ca2+ Flux and Signaling Implications via Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors in Rat Medial Habenula. J. Neurophysiol. 97:83-92, 2007.

Penton, R.E., Quick, M.W. and Lester, R.A.J. Short- and long-lasting consequences of in vivo nicotine treatment on hippocampal excitability. J. Neurosci., 31:2584 –2594, 2011.

“Nicotinic Receptors” (ed. R.A.J. Lester), Springer, Humana Press, 2014.


Graduate School
Ph.D., Pharmacology, University of Bristol, U.K., 1988

Postdoctoral Training
Oregon Health & Science University's Vollum Institute

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