Biology professor gives last lecture, but plans to stay busy

Emilie Skladzien/ Photo editor Biology professor, Mike Roberts, gives his last lecture on Monday, May 12, in Graff Hall.

Gilberto Galvez/Culture editor

Past students, friends and family gathered together to celebrate biology Professor Mike Roberts’ last lecture Monday May 12 in Graf Hall.

Roberts mentioned that this “Last Lecture” was definitely not his last lecture.

It was just time that he move on beyond education. He already has projects in mind or in progress.

German Professor Peter Richardson introduced Roberts, telling the story of their Icelandic conversation table in the years before Linfield and mentioning that he approached Roberts with information about the opening in the biology department.

Richardson described Roberts as the “quintessential teacher.”

“When I needed a willing soul to help me with my German immersion Weekend, Mike volunteered, or was rather volunteered by me,” Richardson said.

At one point, Roberts and a student discussed physiology at a German Immersion Weekend.

“There was Mike, and there was his student talking physiology in German,” Richardson said.

Roberts then started his lecture after the applause following Richardson’s introduction had died down.

He mentioned seeing student from 30 years ago in the crowd. Using slides and humorous quotes and comics, Roberts revealed his plans for retirement.

“As people age, they think, ‘I can’t do anything.’ In contrast, I have a lot to do,” Roberts said.

His experiments are driven by curiosity.

“There’s a whole bunch of things that people think they know that they don’t actually know,” Roberts said.

Roberts has five main projects he will be working on during his retirement.

The first of which is publishing an article with Biology Department Chair Anne Kruchten. The article is titled “The Physiology and Evolution of Receptors.”
Next he is working with biology Professor J. Christopher Gaiser on a principles of biology textbook.

The textbook focuses on biology in a different way than most others. It begins the study of life with life’s early beginnings in Earth’s histories.
“It has always been and will be the age of bacteria. We don’t really see them very much, but that really is the center of life,” Roberts said.

Roberts and the rest of the biology department already attempt to teach the class in this method, but they need a textbook written in the same order to be fully effective.

The third project Roberts is working on is with mathematics Professor Stephen Bricher. Their work focuses on the extinction of the Neanderthals once they came in contact with modern humans.

“We aren’t taking a position saying it was either this way or that way. We made a mathematical model that accounts for the birth rate of both people, the death rate of both people and the resource,” Roberts said.

Roberts works on another project with the help of English professor Dave Sumner.

The project involved a Jan term class where students retrace John Steinbeck’s journey with his friend Ed Ricketts, a marine biologist. Roberts and Sumner will write a paper on that experience.

The final project Roberts has is his proposed ideas to aid in the search of the Peking Man bones discovered in China and sent away for safekeeping World War II.

Roberts plans to possibly uncover a hoax with his theory.

Gilberto Galvez can be reached at