Robert Elson, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Biology

Dr. Robert Elson has been at PLNU since 2003. He is a neuroscientist with research experience in electrophysiology and neuroanatomy of small neuronal networks in arthropods. Currently, he teaches courses on organismal biology, anatomy and physiology, and insect biology. His current research focuses on the development of expression of neurotransmitters in pest insects. Elson was born and raised in England. He enjoys classical music and singing in his church choir.


  • B.A., Zoology, University of Cambridge, U.K., 1981
  • Ph.D., Neurobiology, University of Cambridge, U.K., 1985

Courses Taught

  • Human Biology and Bioethics – BIO 101
  • Introduction to Biology – BIO 103
  • Human Anatomy and Physiology I – BIO 130
  • Human Anatomy and Physiology II – BIO 140
  • Ecological and Evolutionary Systems – BIO 211
  • Organismal Biology – BIO 212
  • Insect Biology – BIO 325
  • Field Biology: Freshwater Ecology – BIO 340

Experience in Field

  • Research Interest: Morphology, Physiology, and Development of Identified Neurons
  • Lecturer, University of California, San Diego (UCSD), 1998 – 2004
  • Project Scientist, UCSD, 1991 – 2003  
  • Visiting Postgraduate Researcher, UCSD, 1988 – 1991
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Bristol, U.K., 1985 –1988

Professional and Community Involvement

  • Society for Neuroscience
  • Human Anatomy and Physiology Society

Awards and Honors

  • National Science Foundation Research Grant, 1999 
  • Science & Engineering Research Council (U.K.) Postdoctoral Fellowship, 1985
  • Clare College University of Cambridge Entrance Scholarship, 1981

Dissertations, Presentations, and Publications

Selected research publications:

  • Marin B, Pinto RD, Elson RC, Colli E. (2014). Noise, Transient Dynamics, and the Generation of Realistic Interspike Interval Variation in Square-Wave Burster Neurons. Physical Review E 90: 042718.
  • P.F. Rowat and R.C. Elson. (2004). State-Dependent Effects of Na Channel Noise on Neuronal Burst Generation. Journal of Computational Neuroscience. 16: 87-112.
  • R.C. Elson, A.I. Selverston, H.D.I. Abarbanel, and M.I. Rabinovich. (2002). Inhibitory Synchronization of Bursting in Biological Neurons: Dependence on Synaptic Time Constant. Journal of Neurophysiology. 88: 1166-76.
  • R.D. Pinto, R.C. Elson, A. Szucs, M.I. Rabinovich, A.I. Selverston, and H.D.I. Abarbanel. (2001). Extended Dynamic Clamp: Controlling Up to Four Neurons Using a Single Desktop Computer and Interface. Journal of Neuroscience Methods. 108: 39-48.
  • R.C. Elson, R. Huerta, H.D.I. Abarbanel, M.I. Rabinovich, and A.I. Selverston. (1999). Dynamical Control of Irregular Bursting in an Identified Neuron of an Oscillatory Circuit. Journal of Neurophysiology. 82: 115-122.

    Recent poster presentations:
  • Bellora M, Donason A, Smith R, Soch, J, and Elson RC. (2015). Dynamic Expression of Serotonin in Identified Neurons During Metamorphic Development of a Mealworm Beetle. Poster at West Coast Biological Sciences Undergraduate Research Conference.
  • Elson RC, Fregoso J, Smith R, and Soch J. (2013). Post-Embryonic Development of Serotonergic Neurons in a Tenebrionid Beetle: Time-Course and Hormonal Dependence. Poster at Society for Neuroscience annual meeting.