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Robert Drugan
Associate Professor of Psychology

 

 

 

"I may never see you again,” associate professor of psychology Robert Drugan tells his students. “And I want you to remember something you heard here—to show you a little of my personal scrapbook. No professor ever did that for me.”

It is the last day and last five minutes of Drugan’s psychobiology class. Drugan has taught for an hour with projector slides and blackboard notes and flourishes, moving back and forth across the front of the room as he spoke, an athletic bundle of energy and enthusiasm for his topic. Now, in spite of the bright spring day outside, the class is attentive and quiet, and students lean forward to listen. After a semester together, the level of this man’s engagement is no surprise to them.

“Whatever you want to do, follow it. Pursue your passion.”

Drugan was bitten by the research bug in 1976 in Dr. James R. Misanin’s research methods class at Susquehanna University. “I became fascinated by learned helplessness, an animal model of depression,” he says. “I was convinced that it could be explained by a change in pain perception as a result of stress.” With Misanin, he launched a three-year project that included building a special apparatus for the research. “Rob was one of the most highly motivated students I have had the pleasure of teaching,” Misanin recalls fully 26 years later. “He has a passion and an enthusiasm for learning.”

Drugan’s passion for teaching and the classroom—and for training the next generation of behavioral neuroscientists—blossomed during his seven and one-half years at Brown University.

He had considered becoming a clinical psychologist or a researcher, but, he says, “Every day I walk into the classroom is an opportunity to change lives.”
Now at UNH for seven years, Drugan teaches three advanced seminars: Behavioral Medicine, the Neurobiology of Mood Disorders, and psychoneuroimmunology. He also teaches two introductory courses: research methods and psychobiology.

“Exploit your strengths.”

When did Robert Drugan become a people person? He has been one all his life. In a story his mother likes to tell, Drugan—a frail child—is two years old and in the hospital intensive care unit, standing up in his crib to wave through the glass at passers-by. His middle name, Charles, is the name of the doctor who saved his life. In high school and college, Drugan worked in a supermarket and knew virtually every person in town by name. In the 1960s he belonged to a band called Peace that played at weddings and parties, church and school dances. In college, he ran marathons to raise money for multiple sclerosis.

“Make a difference.”

Now, Drugan is a member of the Friends of Oyster River Track, working with other volunteers to raise funds for a new fitness track. (His daughter, Kylee, and son, Tim, attend Oyster River schools.) And he gives public talks for the Active Retirement Association in Durham. “I hand them my course syllabi and ask them to pick any topic they’re interested in: disease, anxiety, stress, aggression….”

Today, Drugan tells his students, “This is an awesome opportunity and a privilege—to be able to affect your lives.” And, in fact, over the years many of his students stop smoking, begin to exercise, seek medical assistance for psychological disorders.

“I wish you will have what I have.”

As in the Zen saying, Drugan gets what he has by giving it away. When the students leave his class, what will they remember?

“Witnessing Rob’s passion for understanding the physiological basis of psychology has pushed me far beyond interest. He has inspired me,” says student John Christianson.

“One of the most important things I’ve learned from Professor Drugan,” says psychology student Lisa Wieldholz, “is that even though getting what you want takes hard work, and there are disappointments along the way, you can get there. And once you do, it’s possible to love your work.”

—Mary Peterson,
University Publications