Texas Tech University

Robert D. Bradley

Professor
Department of Biological Sciences
College of Arts & Sciences 

Director
Natural Science Research Laboratory, Museum of Texas Tech University

bradley portrait

What are your research objectives and interests?

To better understand the factors involved in the generation of biodiversity - in particular, what are the processes and patterns that contribute to diversification and speciation in mammals. Most of my efforts have been focused on examining the phylogenetic relationships of New World rodents. More recently, my research has turned to using genomic methodology to understand how the genome differs between mammal species and how it contributes to speciation events. Because of my research program's expertise on rodent systematics, we also collaborate with other researchers on projects pertaining to the origin and evolution of rodent-borne viruses. Finally, I have a strong interest in improving and growing natural history collections. Since my research involves biodiversity questions, it is important to archive biological specimens and samples for future generations of researchers.

How do you feel your research impacts the globe?

By understanding the mechanisms associated with speciation, we can better predict the boundaries that define different species. As the world's biodiversity becomes more threatened, it is paramount to identify, record and catalogue the species that currently occupy the planet. Our rodent-borne virus research has led to the description of several new arena- and hantaviruses, which is important to human health considerations. My role as Director of the Natural Science Research Laboratory allows me to oversee a research collection that is utilized by scientists and students across the world. By enhancing and growing the natural history collections at Texas Tech University, we have an opportunity to impact research on a global basis through the access of research material. Finally, I would like to think that my former graduate students will have a positive impact at the global level.

What types of service projects have you been involved with?

As a research scientist, I have been a member of several professional committees, served in editorial and reviewer capacities, and served in administrative roles. As an academic, I have served on several departmental and campus committees. Although perhaps not technically considered "service," I have been intensely involved in providing research and training opportunities to undergraduate students. Since arriving at Texas Tech University, I have mentored 77 undergraduate students participating in research in my program. Many of these students have been involved in the HHMI, CISER, and URS programs, and several have gone on to obtain graduate degrees. I am extremely proud of these undergraduates and believe that the opportunities and successes afforded them through undergraduate research have had a positive impact on the reputation of Texas Tech University; consequently, I believe it is a form of "service."

bradley with mice specimens

What are you currently working on?

I think the answer has to be in the form of "what are we working on". All of my research includes my graduate and undergraduate students. Consequently, we have several projects in the mill. Most are centered on questions surrounding the phylogenetic relationships of rodents in the genus Peromyscus. We are constructing phylogenies using DNA sequence data from multiple genes to sort out the evolutionary relationships of several species. As a result of these data, we are describing two new species of Peromyscus that occur in southern Mexico. An extension of this research now involves using genomic methods to identify DNA sequences that are under natural selection. Further, we are examining genetic variation in proteins associated with the egg/sperm fusion process in hopes of determining their role in species specificity. Through these research projects, our goal is to determine the basis for speciation through the processes and patterns of genetic variation. Other projects include identifying levels of genetic variation in elk, camels, pocket gophers, and several other species of rodents occurring in the southwestern U.S. and Mexico. In addition, I am finishing up one book project (The Mammals of Texas) and shortly should be beginning a second (The Deermice, Genus Peromyscus, of North America).

At the Natural Science Research Laboratory of the Museum of Texas Tech University, we currently are transferring our Genetic Resource Collection from -80°C freezers to a liquid nitrogen storage system. This project, funded by NSF with support from Texas Tech University, will take approximately three years to complete. Also, we are working with the Museum to develop several exhibits that would feature specimens archived in and research activities of the Natural Science Research Laboratory.

Where do you find your inspiration?

I have been very fortunate over the years to have had outstanding role models and mentors who have significantly contributed to my professional career. Any successes or accomplishments I have received have been a product of their teachings, personas, and encouragement.

Early on, my mom pushed me to succeed in academics and my dad (hardest working man on the planet) taught me that effort makes up for a lot of inadequacies. Two basketball coaches (Switzer and Presley) taught me about competition, determination, and achieving your goals. At the professional level, Drs. David J. Schmidly (MS mentor) and Robert J. Baker (PhD mentor) believed in me and gave me an opportunity to attend graduate school. Both, in their own way, have served as models for my professional endeavors. Last, I would be remiss not to mention the role that my graduate and undergraduate students play in my professional career. It is extremely rewarding to see them grow and mature, see their excitement about learning new things, and to see how far they have come since their first week at Texas Tech University.

So, I guess, my inspiration is a result of the attributes of this group of people. All have played a valuable role in my life and together they have molded, tweaked, and in some cases, hammered me into the scientist and teacher I have become today; my motivation comes from working to make them proud.

What advice do you have for new faculty members about
balancing the components of Integrated Scholarship—
teaching, research, and service—in their careers?

As a new faculty member, you will be evaluated, to some degree, in all three of these areas. Very quickly, you must figure out what is the most important of the three for your department and college. Each academic unit varies a little as to how these are related in importance. If you were hired primarily as a teacher, then most likely you will be evaluated more stringently in that respect. Keep your bosses happy and fulfill their expectations. For many of us, all of these components are part of our daily jobs; therefore, we are expected to wear three different hats. As a result, you will be constantly shifting gears and running in several directions; consequently, time management is extremely important. The best advice I can give is to efficiently plan each day and each week, be focused, and don't be distracted by the bright shiny objects!

More about Robert Bradley

Robert D. Bradley is a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and serves as Director of the Natural Science Research Laboratory, Museum of Texas Tech University. He grew up on a family farm and ranch near Diamond, Missouri, and received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in wildlife and fisheries sciences at Texas A&M University (1983 and 1986). He received his Ph.D. in zoology from Texas Tech University in 1991. He completed two postdoctoral stints (University of Texas, 1991-1992 and Texas A&M University, 1992-1994) before joining the faculty at Texas Tech University in 1994.

Bradley has a dual appointment with the faculties in the Departments of Biological Sciences and Museum Sciences. He teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in mammalogy, natural history of the vertebrates, systematics, field methods, and molecular systematics. Recently, he began teaching a freshman level seminar entitled "So You Are a Biology Major - Now What", a course designed to start undergraduates on an early path to undergraduate research, preparation for professional degrees, and employment. Bradley has served as the advisor or co-advisor of 29 graduate students, has served on 76 graduate committees, and has six graduate students in progress. He has authored or co-authored 157 journal articles, one book, and he and his students have given 224 presentations at professional meetings.