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COLLEGE STATION, TX - Dr. Robert Burghardt, professor in the
veterinary integrative biosciences department of the Texas A&M
University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical
Sciences, has been honored by the Society for the Study of
Reproduction with a Distinguished Service Award.
The society presents this award to individuals who have
demonstrated "unselfish service and leadership in advancing the
discipline of reproductive biology." Marked by prestigious
leadership positions, teaching awards and prolific contributions to
research, Burghardt's academic career, spanning more than three
decades, is a stellar example of this accomplishment.
"It's a great honor, unexpected, but much appreciated,"
Burghardt said, reflecting on the significance of the award.
Burghardt collaborates with a group of reproductive biologists
who refer to themselves as the uterine biology and pregnancy team,
which was honored in 2005 with the university's Agriculture Program
Vice Chancellor's "Award in Excellence for Team Research." The
award was in recognition of "exceptional leadership in advancing
the understanding of the processes that affect [the] reproductive
health of animals to benefit both agriculture and human
"Dr. Burghardt is a tremendous asset to our college," said Dr.
Eleanor Green, Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine. "His
commitment to not only his research but also his students has made
a significant contribution to animal and human health today and in
Over the course of his career, Burghardt has published over 200
peer-reviewed papers. He also holds a patent titled
"Cryopreservation of tissue for use in nuclear transfer," along
with a fellow colleague and a graduate student. The patent was
awarded for developing methods to preserve tissues harvested from
animals postmortem for future use in cloning for purposes such as
the conservation of endangered species.
Burghardt's other accomplishments include serving as a grant
reviewer for federal agencies such as the National Institutes of
Health and the National Science Foundation; serving as the
associate editor of the Biology of Reproduction, the Society for
the Study of Reproduction's official journal; and being awarded the
Wiley Distinguished Teaching Professorship in Veterinary
Burghardt's work in reproductive biology began at Harvard
Medical School, where as a postdoctoral researcher he studied
mechanisms underlying communication between ovarian cells in
mammalian models. An interest in the use of imaging techniques for
research in reproductive biology brought him to Texas A&M
University. He joined the university's department of biology as an
assistant professor in 1978 to teach a course in microscopy. He
later become associate professor in this department as well as
director of the university's Electron Microscopy Center, posts
which he held until 1987.
That same year, Burghardt made the transition to the College of
Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. He joined the
department of veterinary anatomy and public health (now veterinary
integrative biosciences) as associate professor. Besides the
pursuit of research interests, the transition was motivated by an
invitation to develop a laboratory based on emerging microscopy
technologies, which resulted in Burghardt founding the college's
Image Analysis Laboratory in 1987.
In addition to investigating how smooth muscle cells in the
uterus are activated during the induction of labor, Burghardt's
research projects include studying the mechanisms of cell signaling
between the placental and fetal tissue compartments during the
establishment and maintenance of pregnancy and studying mechanisms
of cytotoxicity using non-invasive fluorescence imaging
Further, under Burghardt's direction, the Image Analysis
Laboratory has become one of the premier cellular imaging
facilities in the nation. It has also served as a core facility for
projects funded by major grants from the National Institute of
Environmental Health Sciences, for example, the Superfund Research
Advancing the services provided by the laboratory and continued
engagement in teaching and collaborative research are Burghardt's
"For the college to be on the forefront of imaging, we have to
find the funding to purchase a new instrument every 2 or 3 years,"
He aims to continue to provide state-of-the-art analytical
microscopy resources and training facilities to students and
researchers to utilize this technology to advance their
Reflecting on his career, Burghardt credits the college for
giving him "the perfect job," one that has allowed him to balance
and enjoy his many academic interests.
"I've been very lucky to have the opportunity to teach the
courses I really like," Burghardt says. "I've been fortunate to
work with colleagues and trainees in research areas that are very
stimulating and motivating and to have the opportunity to provide
service through the Image Analysis Laboratory."
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