Robert A. Frank iretired from UC to assume a new position as Dean of Ohio University's College of Arts and Sciences. He is sure to leave his mark there just as he had done here.
Bob started at UC in 1978, immediately following his graduation from Allegheny College as a Psychology-Philosophy major. He came here specifically to do research on the implications of positively reinforcing effects of electrical stimulation of the brain. In the late 1970's, this was one of the hottest topics dominating the behavioral neuroscience literature. Even while he was still mid-level graduate student, Bob made important contributions to the literature on this topic and became known in the field as an up-and-coming star in this research arena. His work was known by most of leaders in this field. From the very beginning it was clear that Bob had great potential as a researcher.
Bob's productivity, his commitment, his breadth of interests, and his depth of knowledge led to an offer of a permanent faculty position following a nationwide search for the best possible person. Those of us who were here at the time expected great things from him. Never being one to disappoint, he turned out about 55 peer reviewed publications (many of which are considered to be "important" in terms of their impact on other researchers), he presented over 150 papers and invited addresses, and he generated over three million dollars in research funding.
The research funding is particularly noteworthy since it occurred over the entire course of his career here at UC. He was obtaining major funding at a time when grant awards were particularly difficult to lock in. During a significant amount of his time here, getting reach funding was not as critical as it is today; so, he was a leader in our department as well as in the college. Many of his grants (and his contributions to the literature) were interdisciplinary; hence he was prescient about that change in the scientific atmosphere. His students, graduate and undergraduate alike, have always been supported in (relatively) high fashion; and, they have shared in the publication credits thereby enhancing their own careers.
When opportunities were offered for Bob to help promote the University's research and graduate training missions, he moved into administration, assuming various jobs that supported research and graduate education throughout the University. These include service as: Associate Vice President and Associate University Dean, Associate Dean and, later, Interim Dean of the Graduate School, and Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies in the McMicken College (his current position). In those roles, he was responsible for the administering tens of millions of dollars related to faculty development, encouraging research, facilitating and promoting graduate research education, and facilitating cooperation among previously disparate units throughout the University.
Back home, in the Department of Psychology, Dr. Frank continued to teach some formal classes and he maintained, even expanded, his research program. Bob played key role in conceiving and developing the restructuring and renaissance of the current dynamic Department of Psychology. He continued to work with graduate and undergraduate students on a new interest he developed concerning the sense of smell in humans and how disorders of small might relate to early signs of brain disease. This line of research, done in an interdisciplinary model involving other colleagues and students, resulted in the development of a new business enterprise: CompuSniff. Compusniff is an apparatus that measures human sniff magnitude. The technique may be able to predict the onset of various brain diseases before there are other, more serious clinical manifestations. Popular Science Magazine listed this as one of the most important inventions of 2007!
Bob always impressed me as having an unusually well-developed ability to "twist his head on differently" and look at problems in ways that other people didn't. This has been reflected in the interesting and inventive topics of the theses and dissertations that his students wrote and the articles that were published from his laboratory. Speaking to me about his role as a professor and a mentor, Bob once told me, "...I've always enjoyed the role of just asking questions and what-ifs of students, trying to get them to see the world differently." As a mentor, he has always been generous with his time and resources, and was a constant source of support for his students and for many of his colleagues. When he became an administrator, he saw himself as a facilitator of research, as opposed to just being an administrator of the funds.
Bob, when he leaves UC, will have left an indelible mark because of his professional accomplishments, his contagious energy, and the general overall quality of all his work here. For all his years here, Bob has retained his wide-eyed enthusiasm for "neat" discoveries about the brain and behavior and how we go about studying these relationships. It has been a delight and a very meaningful experience to work with Bob. When we were working together in close geographic proximity, it was always a pleasure to come in every day and see his enthusiasm for his personal and professional life, his humor, and his great humanity.
That's why Ohio University is so lucky get him and why he will be missed here.