Bob Rosenberg, Ph.D.

Professor of biology

Email:[email protected]

Department: Biology

Location: Stanley Hall Room 142
801 National Road
Richmond, Indiana 47374

About me

In addition to my regular teaching, I regularly involve students in my research. In the summer of 2013, a student and I pursued research on spinal cord regeneration at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass. In addition to biology, I teach courses and advise students in the neuroscience program.

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.”

I 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.


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

Professional memberships

Research projects

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.

Collaborative student research

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.

Scholarly interests

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.

Published works

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