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Robert Selander, Emeritus Professor, Passes Away

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Robert Selander, Emeritus Professor, Passes Away

Robert Selander

Robert Keith Selander, emeritus faculty member of the Biology Department, died on June 14, 2015 at the age of 87. He received his B.S. in Zoology from the University of Utah in 1950, his M.S. in Zoology from the University of Utah in 1951, and his Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of California at Berkeley in 1956.  He was a member of the faculty at the University of Texas at Austin from 1956 to 1974 and moved to the University of Rochester in 1974.   He received numerous honors over his career which culminated with his election into the National Academy of Sciences in 1982.  In 1987, he joined the biology faculty at Penn State where he helped to assemble a group of molecular evolutionary geneticists.  Dr. Selander held the Eberly Chair in Biology from 1987 until 1999.  Dr. Selander published over 200 papers in his career.  During the early part of his career, he focused on behavior and evolution in birds.  He was a pioneer in applying molecular genetic approaches to the study of genetic structure of populations in classic studies of genetic structure of house mouse populations as well as work on the origins of blind cave fishes.  In the 1980s, Dr. Selander began to apply molecular genetic approaches to understand the structure of bacterial populations including many pathogenic organisms that were responsible for disease outbreaks.  This included work on Salmonella, the agent that leads to food borne illnesses, and Neisseria meningitidis, the bacterial species that causes meningitis.  Dr. Selander trained many talented graduate students and postdocs.  His work has been cited over 17,000 times showing the profound impact that his work has had in the field of evolutionary genetics.  Dr. Selander loved music of all types from classical music and opera to songs from the contemporary song book.  He was an accomplished pianist and musical arranger.  He also had important insights into modern culture.  He once opined that one only needs to watch the last two minutes of a basketball game to see the salient aspects of the contest.