2021 ASBMB Election


Professor, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Biochemistry Department


James Ntambi

Statement of interest

I feel proud to be a member of an international scientific and educational organization that supports an inclusive and diverse membership of students, researchers, educators and industry professionals.

I have served as a member of the ASBMB Council for three years.

I highly value and respect the three peer-reviewed journals: Journal of Biological Chemistry, Journal of Lipid Research, and Molecular & Cellular Proteomics. One of my first papers as a graduate student — which I am still proud of — was in JBC. It was after its publication in 1985 that my Ph.D. mentor, Paul Englund, first introduced me to this society, which I joined 1986 when I was a postdoctoral fellow with Daniel M. Lane. I quickly learned that this society organized successful interactive educational and scientific meetings. I serve as a member of the editorial board of JBC and periodically review papers for JLR.

I was honored when ASBMB recognized me for my educational contribution to the global community when it awarded me its Award for Exemplary Contributions to Education in 2013. I have continued to educate internationally with pride and support for career development and science education at all levels. The ASBMB’s consistent support has allowed me to strengthen my affiliation and passion for global health.

Furthermore, the ASBMB Student Chapters is one program that is dear to my heart. It acts as a pipeline to generate future scientists. I have participated several times in the evaluation of ASBMB Undergraduate Poster Competition. I have been part of panels that have organized ASBMB meetings.

The ASBMB continues to help and encourage people to excel at all stages of their scientific careers through networking, professional development, interactive meetings, the now open-access journals and leadership opportunities within and outside the society. I could go on and on.

Education and training

  • B.S. and M.S., Biochemistry and Chemistry, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda
  • Ph.D., Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Awards and honors

  • Wisconsin Without Borders Peter Bosscher Award, 2016
  • American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Award for Exemplary Contributions to Education, 2013
  • Fellow, Uganda National Academy of Sciences, 2009
  • Award of Excellence in International Activities, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
  • Fogarty International Center/National Institutes of Health International Biomedical Research Minority Faculty Fellowship, 1994
  • Steenbock Career Development Award, University of Wisconsin–Madison, 1992


I started my work on the molecular biology of parasites and the regulation of genes of lipid metabolism as a graduate student at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. I am today a professor of biochemistry and Steenbock professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

My research interest lies in the genetic regulation of metabolism in health and disease. I research adipocyte biology, differentiation, and hormonal and dietary regulation of gene expression. In recent years, I have used a multidisciplinary approach to unravel the physiological role of the stearoyl–CoA desaturase genes in lipid and carbohydrate metabolism of obesity, diabetes and fatty liver disease.

For the past 30 years, I have served as head and principal investigator of a research laboratory consisting of scientists, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, technicians, undergraduate students and administrative staff. In addition to teaching several graduate and undergraduate courses at UW–Madison, I have been involved in international teaching and research for several years. I also served as director of Interdepartmental Graduate Program in Nutritional Sciences and chair of the Department of Nutritional Sciences at UW–Madison from 2011 to 2015.

I have been a highly successful graduate and undergraduate student adviser and research mentor of a diverse group of fellows. Many of my alumni, including many underrepresented minorities, are themselves faculty members at leading academic institutions.

I serve on the NIH study sections, and I have been a member of the Institute of Medicine Food Nutrition Board of the National Academics of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine for several years. I have also served on the NIH/National Institutes of Alcohol and Alcohol Abuse Board of Scientific Counselors for several years.

I strive to translate basic science research into treatment and prevention strategies and share the validated treatment and prevention tools to the communities in developing countries and across the world. I provide advice on how to prevent or delay the progression of metabolic diseases through nutritional interventions and lifestyle changes.

I am also involved in building the African National Sciences Research Consortium, which brings together academic and research institutions across the East and Central African region with the goal of building a Ph.D. training program in basic laboratory research in biochemistry and nutritional sciences.