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John C. Robertson

John C. Robertson

Associate Professor

Biology Faculty

(724) 946-7044

Campus Location:
   Hoyt Science Resources Center
   Work Room - 216
Mailbox: 147


About Me

Associate Professor


Ph.D., Biology, Arizona State University
M.S., Fisheries, Aquaculture and Pathology, University of Rhode Island
B.S., Zoology, University of Massachusetts

Courses Taught

Anatomy and Physiology
Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy
Foundations of Biology

Research Interests

Structure and function of the gill rakers in paddlefish
Pigmentation of gill filaments in paddlefish and sturgeons


I have been a faculty member at Westminster College since 2000. I teach Human Anatomy & Physiology, Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy, and introductory and non-majors biology courses.  My research interests center on comparative structure/function questions, ranging in scale from molecules and cells up the level of the organism.  I have a particular interest in fish; for example, current ongoing projects involve exploring functional anatomy of the paddlefish, Polyodon spathula.  I am also a long-serving member of the Medical Professions Advisory Committee (MedPAC).



Capstone Students:

I'm interested in structure-function relationships - from cells to tissue to organs and up to the organism.

Students who I work with often use histology and light microscopy to decribe and compare tissues. I'm interested in using other structure imaging and analysis techniques and instruments, in collaboration with outside institutions.

Recent capstone students have characterized/quantified changes gill pigmentation in paddlefish and sturgeon, done comparative anaylsis of digestive organs in fish, examined the composition and structure of gill rakers in paddlefish, and done a spatial analysis of skin sensory organs in alligator heads. Posters for some projects are on the walls near Hoyt 226 and available from me by request - so please let me know if you would like to take a look at these examples of past capstone work.

I am also interested in structure development - for instance, past capstone students have investigated the growth of the rostrum in paddlefish. With other faculty in biology, we are interested in developing projects involving capstone students that examine at chemical effects on gonadal development in aquatic organisms.

I work often with fish (including paddlefish and sturgeon), but also with other vertebrates (e.g., frogs, alligators). I also have supervised capstone students who worked on human studies (phsical therapy-related projects and correlating hormones measured in saliva with stress and other factors). These human projects were all principally concieved and developed by capstone students. I'm also willing to work with capstone students who have projects involving outside experiences (e.g., an internship or outside research) that they would like to use for their capstone project.

I do like to have students do some quatitative analysis as part of capstone. Sometimes that does not work out or is not possible, and so the work is mainly descriptive - and that can be fine.

I encourage capstone students to work toward presenting their research at regional and/or national conferences. I have frequently gone with studnets to present reearch at biology society annual meetings (held in, as examples, San Francisco, New Orleans, Austin, Phoenix, Tampa, Boston). Drinko Center funding has supported students attending conferences. 

The thing I most value in working with a capstone student is their ownership of the project. In capstone, students should work independently, problem-solve, and show engagement with and committment to the experience.

I invite and encourage you to speak with me about capstone!