Lindgren Professor of Biology
Patricia A. Johnson Professor
The professorship was established in 2000 by Harold B. Johnson Jr. to honor his mother, Patricia Armstrong Johnson of Hastings, Nebraska. It was previously held by Bruce Voyles. Professor Lindgren joined the Department of Biology in 1992 after having taught for three years at Allegheny College. He received tenure in 1996 and was promoted to full professor in 2006. His scholarship focuses on communication between nerves and muscles at the chemical synapse. He uses electrophysical and pharmacological techniques to study communication pathways in the relevant cells. In addition to the high level of skill in research technique shown in his papers and presentations, they are praised for showing broad knowledge and clarity of presentation. A further measure of the success of his research program is an impressive record of obtaining outside funding from granting agencies where proposals are peer-reviewed and awards highly competitive, such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.
His research program is characterized by a high degree of collaboration with his students. Many of these students work in his laboratory over multiple years. Their efforts result in peer-reviewed papers and presentations; more than half of his publications and presentations since coming to Grinnell list students as co-authors who have made notable contributions to the results. Other publications treat pedagogical issue such as the value of introducing research practices in the classroom. He also frequently takes students to regional and national scientific conferences.
He teaches at all levels of the biology department’s curriculum as well as courses in the biological chemistry major and neuroscience concentration. Professor Lindgren played a major role in the design of the department’s landmark introductory course, Biology 150, which is now a model for other liberal arts colleges. He was also instrumental in developing both the biological chemistry major and the neuroscience concentration at Grinnell. In upper level classes, as well, he is skillful at integrating lecture with classroom interaction. Colleagues and students alike note his commitment to investigative learning and to helping students become comfortable studying the primary literature of scientific research.
Professor Lindgren’s service is broad and deep. He was a key leader in developing the New Science Project, now in its second decade (and renamed the Grinnell Science Project), which promotes retention of students from groups traditionally underrepresented in the natural sciences. He served as Project Director for a division-wide Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant from 2004 through 2009, which had as one of its core goals increasing cross-disciplinary communication among the sciences. He served as a member of the committee that developed the Expanding Knowledge Initiative (EKI) to support interdisciplinary teaching and learning at Grinnell, and he was one of the first three Interdisciplinary Fellows. In addition, he served on the committee that oversaw the first phase of expansion and renovation of the Noyce Science Center. He has also fulfilled many of the more traditional service roles, including two terms as department chair, a term as division chair, and service on many other standing committees.