Jeff was born in Pennsylvania, lived for a short time in Long Island, NY, and then spent the remainder of his childhood in Essex County, NJ. He received a B.A. degree in biological sciences in 1989 from the School of Arts and Sciences at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. He subsequently moved to Chicago to begin an eight-year combined M.D./Ph.D. program at the University of Chicago, with funding through the NIH Medical Scientist Training Program.
Dr. Zigman's doctoral research on G-proteins in the pancreatic islets of Langerhans was performed in the laboratory of Donald F. Steiner, M.D.; he obtained his Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology in 1994. Dr. Zigman's M.D. degree was obtained from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine in 1997. Dr. Zigman completed an internal medicine residency (1997 - 2000) at the University of Chicago Hospitals and a combined research and clinical fellowship in endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism (2000–2003) at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. During fellowship, Dr. Zigman performed research on ghrelin and the neuroanatomic basis of body weight homeostasis, in the laboratory of Joel K. Elmquist, D.V.M., Ph.D. He continued to work in Dr. Elmquist's laboratory, following fellowship, as a junior faculty member at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School.
Dr. Zigman moved to UT Southwestern in January 2006 as an Instructor in the Department of Internal Medicine. He is now Professor of Internal Medicine and Psychiatry and is currently affiliated with Hypothalamic Research, the Division of Endocrinology, the Integrative Biology Graduate Program and the Neuroscience Graduate Program.