Brian Spooner

University distinguished professor of biology
Director, Division of Biology

Brian Spooner

Brian Spooner has served as director of the Division of Biology since 1994. He also served as interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences from 2009-2011.

His research focused on a fundamental understanding of the behavior of cells and cell populations that produces organs and organ systems during embryonic development.

He also transitioned aspects of his research into space, with experiments on 18 space shuttle flights. Research in space can answer some of the scientific and medical mysteries we have on Earth. Spooner researched how the human body is affected by gravity by conducting research on basic life science in microgravity conditions. His primary focus is the effects of gravity on organ and tissue development. Specific experiments included studying the heart development and bone development in chick embryos while in outer space. Results from such experiments reveal how tissue is conditioned to develop in response to gravity, and how human development might be altered if a person spent a long period in space.

He has received many awards including the Conoco Distinguished Graduate Faculty Award in 1991, and the 1997 Presidential Award for Outstanding Department Head. He has more than 100 scientific publications and his research has been cited more than 5,000 times by others in scientific literature. He received "Citation Classic" recognition in 1984.

He has 38 years of university teaching experience at K-State, teaching courses from introductory to graduate levels. He has advised undergraduate students since 1990; and been a graduate faculty member since 1971. He was named a University Distinguished Professor — K-State's highest career academic title — in 1999, and received a Professorial Performance Award in 2007.

He has served on numerous scientific editorial boards and on peer-review panels and study sections for NASA, the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Since 2001, he has been a member of the Advisory Committee of the National Institutes of Health COBRE in Microbial Pathogens, and the Advisory Committee of the National Institutes of Health COBRE in Cancer Experimental Therapeutics.

As a researcher, he has brought in more than $11 million in competitive extramural grant funding as a principal investigator at K-State.

From 1990-2002, he was director and principal investigator of NASA NSCORT in Gravitational Biology. This was a comprehensive research and training program, involving multiple NASA Space Centers, aerospace companies, K-State research programs, graduate students, undergraduates, middle school and grade school children, with a NASA grant budget in excess of $5 million. Among other achievements was the creation of the MORE — Minority Opportunity for Research Experience — Program. This brought undergraduate students from historically black institutions, predominantly Hispanic institutions, and Native American institutions to campus, in summers, for mentored research experiences in the laboratories of NSCORT investigators.

From 2002-2006, he was director and K-State principal investigator, for NASA BioServe Space Technologies. BioServe — a collaboration between K-State's Division of Biology and the University of Colorado Aerospace Engineering — was a NASA Research Partnership Center.

From 1990-2008, he was director of and principal investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Biological Sciences Program. This was funded by successive competitive grants in 1998 and 2002 of $1.8 million and $1.6 million, respectively. This comprehensive program provided support in student research and broadening access to science, current and future faculty development, curriculum, equipment, and lab development, and precollege and outreach categories.

He received his doctoral degree from Temple University in cellular and development biology in 1969.

Spooner can be reached at 785-532-6615 or spoon1@k-state.edu.