Rob Jinks, associate professor of biology and chair of the Biology Department, is the 2009 recipient of the Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award, Franklin & Marshall’s highest teaching honor. The following citation was presented to Jinks during the College’s Commencement ceremony on May 16:
Common threads in student recollections of Professor Rob Jinks as a teacher and a research mentor are “dedication” and “inspiration.” Students say he challenges them to “think harder and dream bigger” and that his most notable traits are “a passion for teaching through rigorously building students’ critical thinking skills and an uncompromising expectation for students’ active participation in the teaching process.” He devotes incredible effort to designing equipment and projects that allow students to conduct scientific investigations, and when his students take jobs or enter graduate school, they recognize that their preparation and background are incomparable.
In all of his roles at the College, Professor Jinks is a strong leader of students. Since joining the faculty in 1997, he has mentored more than 50 research students, many of whom have co-authored publications or presented work at professional conferences. Recognizing the importance of helping students encourage the scientific interests of young people, he also served enthusiastically for several years as the adviser for the Science Teaching Internship program in the School District of Lancaster. In several capacities as chair and professor, he has been a dedicated and tireless adviser of F&M students.
Professor Jinks pursued his undergraduate and graduate education at Syracuse University, receiving his bachelor of science magna cum laude in bioengineering and his Ph.D. in neuroscience. He has maintained two major research interests in sensory neuroscience: signaling systems in the visual system and the neurobiology of invertebrates in extreme environments. He has been aboard the research submersible Alvin in dives to 2.5 miles below the ocean’s surface to collect hydrothermal vent shrimp for study of the structure and function of their eyes. Students benefit greatly from seeing in practice what is stressed in their courses: structure and function are inextricably linked.
In Professor Jinks’ own words, “What is most important to me in my teaching is to get students hooked, not necessarily on neuroscience, but on the desire to solve very difficult problems by mastering what we know about that problem and then applying that knowledge to formulating and testing hypotheses to create new knowledge …. Involving our students in research is critical to our nation’s ability to advance our public health initiatives through recruitment of our brightest young students into medicine and biomedical research and to produce new generations of well-informed science teachers, business leaders, government officials, parents and citizens.”
Since 2000, Professor Jinks has received NIH funding for his research group, and students who work in his lab or take his courses gain experience with cutting-edge technology. Next year he will take a sabbatical leave at the University of Pennsylvania, with a major goal of developing expertise in the use of bioinformatics tools in both research and teaching.
In addition to serving as chair of the Biological Foundations of Behavior program, Professor Jinks has acted as Biology Department co-chair and, currently, chair. His broad expertise has led to positions on key college committees, including the Budget Priorities Committee and Trustees’ Committee on Academic Investments.
In acknowledgment of Professor Jinks’ dedication to the intellectual development of his students, we recognize him with the College’s highest teaching award, the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation Award for Distinguished Teaching.