Rob McClung is Professor of Biological Sciences. He earned his bachelor’s degree in biology at Queen’s University in 1976 and his M.Sc. in biology from Dalhousie University in 1979.  His Ph.D. (1986) is from Michigan State University where he studied the symbiosis between nitrogen-fixing bacteria and soybeans.  This interaction allows the plants to grow in the absence of nitrogenous fertilizer and is of considerable agronomic significance, especially in the developing world. Rob came to Dartmouth in 1986 to conduct postdoctoral research in the Biochemistry Department of Dartmouth Medical School.  There he began to study circadian rhythms in the model fungus, Neurospora crassa, using a combination of genetic and molecular biological techniques.  In 1986 he took a faculty position in the Department of Biological Sciences, where he has moved through the ranks, becoming full professor in 2001.  Since 2004 he has served as Associate Dean for the Sciences.  Rob’s research continues to focus on the basis of endogenous biological clocks, now emphasizing the model plant, Arabidopsis thaliana.  His teaching has focused on genetics and molecular biology and he has taught both introductory genetics to first year students and senior seminars based on the primary literature.  

The biological clock provides a fascinating challenge.  How does an organism endogenously measure time and use that information to coordinate its physiology and behavior with the externally imposed cycle of day and night?  The clock coordinates many aspects of biology, including basic metabolism and responses to biotic and abiotic stresses.  Additionally, environmental cues and the circadian clock contribute to the decision to reproduce.  Proper coordination of the endogenous timing mechanism with the external day confers adaptive advantage, and impaired circadian function is associated with reduced fitness.  The model plant, Arabidopsis thaliana, offers a powerful and experimentally tractable system in which to investigate the molecular mechanisms of circadian rhythmicity.  Because plants are closely related, it is quite likely that understanding derived from Arabidopsis studies will be readily transferred to agronomically important species.  In the context of climate change and the need to exploit increasingly marginal habitats, fuller understanding of clock mechanism may offer strategies to improve crop productivity.  He has recently been awarded a grant from the NSF to expand his research into the crop plant, Brassica rapa.    

Rob has published 60 articles and his work is funded by major grants from the National Science Foundation. In his lab at Dartmouth he has trained over 72 undergraduates, 16 of whom have completed honors theses with him.  In addition, he has served on the thesis committees of an additional 69 students. Six students have completed their Ph.D. studies with him.  At Dartmouth he has served on and chaired numerous councils and committees, including the Molecular and Cellular Biology Graduate Committee, which administers the largest graduate program at Dartmouth. He has served on numerous competitive grant panels for the NSF, NIH and USDA. From 2003-6 he served as the Chair of the Publications Committee of the American Society of Plant Biologists, which publishes two of the three top journals in plant biology in the world.  He has recently been elected President of that society.  He also has served on the North American Arabidopsis Steering Committee and on the Arabidopsis Biological Resources Center Advisory Board.