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Bob Rosenberg
Professor of Biology

Bob Rosenberg joined the Earlham faculty after 21 years at the University of North Carolina Medical School. “I wanted to teach undergraduates at a school where teaching and learning were highly valued, where ideas matter,” he says.

In addition to his regular teaching, Bob regularly involves students in his research. In the summer of 2013, he and a student pursued research on spinal cord regeneration at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass. In addition to biology, Bob teaches courses and advises students in the neuroscience program.

Contact Info

Campus Mail
Drawer 3



142 Stanley Hall


  • Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Neuroscience


  • Ph.D., Yale University
  • B.A., Oberlin College

Selected Courses:

I teach a two-semester sequence of Anatomy and Physiology. We cover nervous, endocrine, cardiovascular, respiratory, renal, and digestive systems at the molecular, cellular, systems, and whole-body levels. One of the highlights of the course is the laboratory section, where we explore human anatomy in a cadaver lab. Earlham is one of the few liberal arts colleges to offer a human body to help students learn and understand human anatomy. It's an amazing experience.

I have two research areas: (1) Molecular mechanisms of activation of nicotinic receptors; (2) Role of voltage-gated sodium channels in the regeneration of spinal cord neurons.

Recent publications:

Barron SC, McLaughlin JT, See JA, Richards VL, Rosenberg RL (2009) The alpha7 nicotinic receptor allosteric modulator, PNU-120596, causes conformational changes in the extracellular ligand binding domain similar to acetylcholine. Molecular Pharmacology 76, 253-263

Olivo RF, Burdo JR, Calin-Jageman R, Grisham WE, Linden ML, Rosenberg RL, Symonds LL, Thorton JE (2013) ERIN: Resources to enhance the teaching of neuroscience. Society for Neuroscience Abstracts

Juras JA, Kurup AA, Lewis RY, Palmarini RC, Richards ES, Rodriguez, YJ, Rosenberg RL (2014) Decreased sodium channel expression during spinal cord regeneration in lamprey. Society for Neuroscience Abstracts 

My research on nicotinic receptors focuses on the conformational changes the receptor undergoes when it transitions from the closed to the open conformation. We use a combination of molecular modeling, site-directed cysteine mutagenesis, receptor expression in Xenopus oocytes, electrophysiological and pharmacological characterizations, and cysteine accessibility measurements to characterize conformational changes induced by agonists, antagonists, and positive allosteric modulators.

My recent research on voltage-gated sodium channels in spinal cord regeneration is a collaboration with Dr. Jennifer Morgan at the Eugene Bell Center for Regenerative Biology and Tissue Engineering at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. We study the changes in expression of voltage-gated sodium channels during spinal cord regeneration in lamprey (Petromyzon marinus), using animal behavioral assays, immunofluorescence microscopy, and transcriptome analysis.

Society for Neuroscience
Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience
Marine Biological Laboratory
American Physiological Society
Society of General Physiologists

Before I came to Earlham in 2009, I taught and performed research for 21 years at the University of North Carolina Medical School in Chapel Hill. I came to Earlham because I wanted to teach undergraduates at a school where teaching and learning were highly valued, where ideas matter.

Earlham students are committed. They commit their energy to learning in their classes and in their co-curricular activities. They commit their time to helping others. They are committed to thinking deeply and acting broadly.

In the summer of 2013, I pursued research on spinal cord regeneration at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts with a rising senior, Avalokiteswari Kurup. This project explores the role of voltage-gated sodium channels in the regeneration of spinal cord neurons in sea lamprey larvae. Lamprey are vertebrates but, unlike mammals, their spinal cord neurons grow and reconnect after they are damaged or cut. Sodium channels are required for normal nerve function, but excessive numbers of them can cause nerve cells to die off. We hypothesized that lamprey spinal neurons decrease the number of sodium channels during their regeneration process. We used immunofluorescence microscopy to see the localization of sodium channels in normal and regenerating spinal cords. We dissected spinal cords, obtained thin slices of the tissue, and prepared them with fluorescent antibodies to reveal the locations of sodium channels. This research could potentially lead to improved treatments of patients with spinal cord injury.

This project was continued in the spring, summer, and fall 2014, on campus, with many additional Earlham students (Abby Hall, Oscar Juez, Anna Juras, Avvu Kurup, Ruth Lewis, Elizabeth Richards, Yim Rodriguez, Keith Runyan, and Ui Son). We have refined our approaches to immunofluorescence microscopy to improve the signal-to-noise ratio in the micrographs. We have started to develop computational approaches to image analysis in order to quantify sodium channel expression. We have developed Western blot approaches to measuring sodium channel expression. We have started to develop electrophysiological measures of sodium channel function, including recordings of resting membrane potentials, action potentials, action potential thresholds, and action potential latencies. We have determined the rates of swimming recovery in the presence and absence of sodium channel blockers. We are now using all these tools to test the hypothesis that sodium channel expression is decreased in lamprey axons during their recovery from spinal cord injury, and that this decreased expression helps lamprey neurons survive, grow, and reconnect after traumatic injury.

I like to take hikes in the woods. My backpacking days are over (due to a back injury) but I still like to take long day-hikes in the forest whenever I can. My very best day-hike was in the Grand Tetons, up the Cascade Canyon Trail, to Lake Solitude.

I have a pilot's license and I enjoy flying small airplanes. I enjoy the challenge of making the perfect landing. But I haven't flown for a few years, and I need to get my license renewed in order to fly again. At the moment I'm what air traffic controllers call "a pilot on the ground."

Earlham College, an independent, residential college, aspires to provide the highest-quality undergraduate education in the liberal arts and sciences, shaped by the distinctive perspectives of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

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Earlham admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin, age, gender and sexual orientation to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin, age, gender and sexual orientation in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.