Lighting Fires

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Robert Lloyd: An Inspiring Mentor

UMD Associate Professor Robert Lloyd  
Assistant Professor Robert Lloyd  

Robert Lloyd wants students who don’t hold back. An associate professor in the Department of Psychology, Lloyd wants students who ask questions and get involved. “I tell them to look for opportunities and be proactive.” In return, they get a professor who is dedicated to teaching and who has inspired students both while they are at UMD and further on in their careers.

Ryan Bastle, a former student, recalled Lloyd’s influence on him. “I loved his teaching style. He’d admit if he didn’t know something and give you extra credit if you found the answer. I would try to do that. I’d never done that for a class. He made you excited about research and wanted us to be our own scientists,” he said. Bastle, who graduated from UMD in 2009, is now working towards his doctorate in neuroscience at Arizona State University and is researching a genetic approach to curing cocaine addiction. (Read about Bastle's work in a recent Duluth News Tribune article.)

Erin Larson took Lloyd’s psychology of drugs class when she was a junior at Hermantown High School. “There were mostly juniors and seniors in college in the class. I felt intimidated and over my head. Yet he treated me equally, which gave me confidence in myself and pushed me to excel despite my inexperience.”

One day Lloyd announced that after class, students could stay and look at a human brain. “I was the only person who stuck around,” Larson said. “I figured he wouldn’t want to take the time with only one person, but he sat with me one on one and answered all my questions. He even let me hold that brain in my hands. Now neuroscience is my passion. His own passion started the fire,” she said.

Larson, who received her Ph.D. in neuroscience from the U of M Twin Cities, is an assistant professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas and is also doing research in cocaine addiction. When working with students, she often draws upon the lessons that Lloyd instilled. “Now, even though I’m spread thin, when I have a student who needs extra time, I remember how much his time meant to me. It constantly motivates me. If you are excited as a teacher, they’ll be excited as students. I tell myself, ‘Don’t forget why you love it’,” Larson stated.

Research and Results
Lloyd encourages undergraduate students to get involved in the research projects their professors are engaged in, adding that they don’t have to have previous experience. “If you show interest, motivation, and dedication, that’s a great start. You don’t have to know anything about research. We’ll teach you and make sure you’re doing it right,” he said.

UMD alumnus Ryan Bastle  
UMD alumnus Ryan Bastle  
UMD: Erin Larson  
Erin Larson  

Lloyd, who came to UMD in 1994, has sponsored many students conducting Undergraduate Research Opportunity Programs (UROPs). Generally these students are majoring in psychology but he’s been known to sponsor someone from a different area of concentration. One student was majoring in computer science. With typical enthusiasm Lloyd recalled, “He wanted to study audio biofeedback in the control of an airplane. How could I say no?”

Lloyd is a great advocate of students attending conferences and presenting their research either through a poster or orally. “Last spring, we sent nine students to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research. UMD sent more students there than the Twin Cities campus,” he stated. Students can even apply for funding to attend a conference.

Lloyd believes the experience is invaluable and “it’s good for their resumes,” he said. Bastle concurs, “As an undergrad, I did two poster presentations and an oral presentation in Duluth. It was the best experience. It forces you to know your stuff.”

Lloyd enjoys watching his former student’s careers unfold. “Some of them are doing amazing things. Some of them are doing things I couldn’t do,” he said.

He recently caught up with Bastle at a conference. “His work was stunning,” Lloyd said. Bastle recalled the meeting. “I told him he’s basically the reason I’m doing this type of research. He started the spark,” Bastle said.

Larson also reconnected with Lloyd at a conference a couple of years ago. “Here’s the guy who started it all for me, looking at my poster. I had the opportunity to tell him what a major impact he had on me. You don’t often get to tell someone that,” she said.

Lloyd loves what UMD has to offer students. “We have small classes, and we have faculty who are dedicated to mentoring. Students have the opportunity here to go as far as they want to go.”

With professors like Robert Lloyd to guide them, UMD students can explore what truly interests them and ignites their imagination.


For more information, visit the Department of Psychology website.


Written by Kathleen McQuillan-Hofmann, August 2013

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