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Ohio Wesleyan University’s Neuroscience Program Being Expanded, Named to Honor Long-Time Faculty Member

January 31, 2011

David Robbins, Ph.D.
Photo courtesy of OWU’s Office of University Communications
DELAWARE, OH – Ohio Wesleyan University is naming its neuroscience program in honor of a distinguished professor and adding three faculty members to the program, expanding learning and research opportunities for undergraduate students interested in medicine’s “last frontier.”

The program is being named the David O. Robbins Neuroscience Program in honor of Robbins, Ph.D., who joined the university’s faculty in 1973. The program enhancements are being supported with a five-year, $5 million gift from Ohio Wesleyan graduates George H. and Patricia “Patsy” Belt Conrades of Hobe Sound, Fla.

Neuroscience, the study of the brain, has been called medicine’s “last frontier” because much less is known about it than any other organ in the human body. Many researchers believe unlocking its secrets will be key to future medical breakthroughs and advancements.

“With this gift Ohio Wesleyan has the opportunity to develop one of the nation’s strongest undergraduate majors in neuroscience,” said university President Rock Jones, Ph.D. “Our neuroscience majors will have the advantages of a liberal arts education with hands-on research opportunities not widely available at the undergraduate level. We also want to provide even more opportunities for our students to attend and present original research findings at professional meetings.”

Those professional opportunities already have included Ohio Wesleyan hosting the first- and second-annual meetings of the Midwest/Great Lakes Undergraduate Research Symposium in Neuroscience in 2009 and 2010.

“We also are pleased to rename our program in honor of David Robbins—a member of the university family for nearly 40 years,” Jones said. “David has served as a distinguished faculty member, provost, and even interim president. Having his name on our program is a kind of ‘seal of approval’ indicating its caliber and rigor.”

Robbins currently serves as Ohio Wesleyan’s provost, or chief academic officer, a position he has held since 2005. During his tenure at Ohio Wesleyan, he also has served as a professor in the Department of Psychology, co-director of the Neuroscience Program, adviser for the Pre-Optometry Program, and director of the Summer Science Research Program, which involves 10 weeks of student-faculty collaborative research each summer.

Prior to joining Ohio Wesleyan, Robbins was a principal investigator in the Department of Physiology and later director of research at the Eye Research Foundation of Bethesda, Md., affiliated with the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He also taught part-time on the campus of the National Institutes of Health.

For more than 30 years, Robbins received federal support from the Department of Defense to study the adverse effects of intense laser light on the physiology and function of the primate visual system. His other research interests include single-cell recordings of reptile visual brain areas, the physiological bases of sleep, and encoding and recognition of the human face.

Robbins earned his bachelor of arts degree from Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pa., and both his master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Delaware.

George Conrades, a 1961 OWU graduate who majored in physics and mathematics, said he respects Robbins’ dedication to science, to educating students, and to Ohio Wesleyan.

“David Robbins is a man of vision, integrity, and compassion,” Conrades said. “Patsy and I are pleased to honor him and to support the expansion of Ohio Wesleyan’s neuroscience program. We believe this field will lead to some of medicine’s greatest advances, and we believe Ohio Wesleyan graduates will help to lead this revolution.”

The Conrades gift originally was announced in October, with the couple recently collaborating with the university to honor Robbins. The couple are long-time supporters of the university, especially committed to supporting and enhancing the science curriculum. Among their many gifts, they helped to support construction of Ohio Wesleyan’s state-of-the-art science center.

Learn more about the David O. Robbins Neuroscience Program at Ohio Wesleyan University.

Ohio Wesleyan University is one of the nation’s premier small, private universities, with more than 90 undergraduate majors, sequences, and courses of study, and 23 Division III varsity sports. Located in Delaware, Ohio, just minutes north of Ohio’s capital and largest city, Columbus, the university combines a globally focused curriculum with off-campus learning and leadership opportunities that translate classroom theory into real-world practice. OWU’s close-knit community of 1,850 students represents 45 states and 52 countries. Ohio Wesleyan earned a 2009 Presidential Award for Excellence in General Community Service, is featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives,” and is included on the “best colleges” lists of U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review. Learn more at www.owu.edu.