A biological anthropologist, Leigh’s research focuses on human biology and evolution, examining anatomy, genetics, and paleontology. His research has substantially altered the view of the evolution of human growth, especially our understanding of the brain growth in human evolution. More recently, his research has concentrated on understanding the roles of microbes that co-reside with humans, with special attention to the roles of intestinal microbes in generating metabolic energy in the diets of both human and nonhuman primates.
Prior to stepping into his role at CU, Leigh had served on faculty at the University of Illinois since 1994, and previously held teaching and research appointments at Northwestern University and Stony Brook University, New York. At Illinois, Leigh served as associate dean for sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, following a term as head of the Department of Anthropology from 2006 to 2010. In addition to teaching in anthropology, he held faculty appointments in the College of Medicine, where he taught medical gross anatomy, and the Institute for Genomic Biology.
He received his B.A. in anthropology from Northwestern University in 1980, his M.A. in anthropology from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in 1985 and his Ph.D. from Northwestern University in 1992.