Jim Brown was born in Atlanta (Georgia) in 1958, and lived in Dade City (Florida), Bloomington (Indiana), Lima (Peru), and Muncie (Indiana) while growing up. From the beginning, Jim had a keen interest in nature, including anything found in the woods, rivers, beach or ocean that were always nearby.
Jim attended Ball State University starting in 1976 as a biology major (being in Indiana precluded anything closer to marine biology) with chemistry and anthropology minors. A single lecture on microbial diversity in a general microbiology class sparked his lasting interest in microbiology, leading to undergraduate research examining Beggiatoa in a southern Indiana sulfur spring. After receiving his B.S. in 1980, he joined the graduate program in microbiology at Miami University (Ohio), where he worked on plant tissue culture mRNAs with Prof. Ronald Treick, in a group of four labs that were doing the first molecular biology experiments at Miami University. After obtaining an M.S. degree in microbiology in 1982, he moved to the Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology Program at The Ohio State University to work on the molecular biology of methanogenic Archaea in the Department of Microbiology with Prof. John Reeve. While there, Jim worked on polyadenylation of mRNAs and RNA polymerase/promoters in Archaea, and received his Ph.D. in 1988. Then on to Indiana University for five years of postdoctoral work in Prof. Norm Pace's lab on the comparative analysis of the structure of a bacterial ribozyme, RNase P.
In January of 1994, Jim started as an assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology and moved to North Carolina State University. Research in Jim's lab focuses on the comparative analysis of RNA, and in particular RNase P in Archaea. Work is underway to understand the evolutionary history of this ribozyme, and more generally to gain insight into microbial diversity, the "RNA World" stage of the early history of life, and develop tools and perspectives for the analysis of molecular structure and evolution of RNA. Jim developed, and teaches each year, a senior-level undergraduate lab course in microbial diversity. Jim is now an Associate Professor and interim Associate Head of the Department of Biological, the Undergraduate Coordinator of Microbiology, and an associate faculty member of the Department of Biochemistry.
Jim has an 18 year-old son, Phillip, via his late wife Elizabeth Haas who died of cancer in 2002. Jim is married to Melanie Lee-Brown, an Associate Professor of Biology at Guilford College, and has two step-daughters, Sydney (age 19) and Chandler (age 16). For fun, Jim enjoys scuba diving (he is a certified divemaster), driving (or working on, more often than not) his classic 1968 Lotus Super Seven (and previously a 1960 Austin-Healey Bugeye and a 1966 Lotus Cortina), and chillin' his "one particular harbor", North Caicos Island.