Randall Packer

Randall Packer 

I was born on 5 November, 1945 and was raised by my grandparents in Blanchard Pennsylvania. I graduated from Lock Haven high school in 1963 and in the fall of 1963 entered Lock Haven State College with the intention of being a high school biology teacher. I was the first in my extended family to attend college.

In 1965 I married Beverly Barner and we remain married. We had no children.

I was offered graduate research fellowships from Cornell University to work in the laboratory of David Pimentel and at Penn State to work in the lab of William A Dunson. After interviewing at both places I chose Penn State because Bill Dunson did comparative physiology and the idea of studying how animals interacted with their environment physiologically was inherently interesting to me. I started my PhD program in September 1967. Bill Dunson was a wonderful mentor.

Prof. Dunson urged me to do postdoctoral work but I was anxious to get a job and so in the summer of 1970 I interviewed for a position as an assistant professor at George Washington University. I started working at GW in January 1971 and have been on the faculty ever since except for one year when I took a job in the fall of 1999 as VP for academic affairs and Dean of faculty at Moravian college in Bethlehem Pennsylvania. I realized that a small undergraduate college was not where I wanted to spend the remainder of my career and I was able to return to GW as a tenured full professor.

From 1971 until about 1990 I continued doing comparative physiology along with undergraduate and graduate students. My work on acid-base balance in trout was supported by the National Science Foundation but we looked at different physiological questions in animals ranging from crabs to tunicates. I was teaching an undergraduate course in human physiology, a second undergraduate course in advanced human physiology and a graduate course in comparative physiology.

In 1987 I read a paper by Mark Knepper using the tubule perfusion technique devised by Berg and Orloff in the Laboratory of Kidney and Electrolyte Metabolism within the Heart Lung and Blood Institute of the NIH. I contacted Mark Knepper who was the senior author of the paper, met him, spent a sabbatical semester in the lab and went on to maintain a twenty year collaboration. I loved my work in renal physiology and was constantly stimulated by the people with whom I interacted.

In 2008 I accepted a position as associate Dean in the liberal arts school of GW, the Columbian college of arts and sciences. Taking that position and continuing to teach one course required me to close my laboratory. When I resigned as Associate Dean in the spring of 2014 and went back into my lab I decided to finish up my research career investigating a problem that I encountered in my very first project at Penn State, the mechanisms of sodium influx across the gills of freshwater fish.

I have continued to teach Human Physiology for my entire career at GW and it has never stopped being fun. I have taught several thousand undergraduate biology majors and hundreds of have gone on to careers in medicine. I mentored a dozen or so Masters students, most of whom also left my lab and went to medical school. Teaching and mentoring undergraduate students really was the rock on which my career was built. I continue to enjoy research but teaching has been