Robert R. Gaines

Pomona College Geology Professor Robert Gaines

Pomona College Geology Professor Robert Gaines, with his record of extensive service on campus and research around the globe, has been named vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college.

Gaines arrived at Pomona in 2003 as a visiting geology professor and was hired on the tenure track the next year. The Edwin F. and Martha Hahn Professor, he conducts research in locations ranging from Canada to China, has twice won Pomona’s Wig award for his teaching and has served three times on the Faculty Executive Committee, among other roles.

He had been serving as interim vice president and dean since July, after Audrey Bilger, former dean of the college, stepped down to become president of Reed College.

“With his vast experience, knowledge and enthusiasm, Bob is an ideal voice for the liberal arts,” said Pomona College President G. Gabrielle Starr. “He will play an essential role in helping Pomona move forward in working across academic disciplines and fostering creative collaboration.”

Gaines currently serves as co-chair of the Strategic Planning Steering Committee and as a member of the Faculty Position Advisory Committee. He also recently served as chair of the Research Committee. 

An expert on paleontology and the Cambrian explosion, Gaines is the recipient of numerous awards, fellowships and grants from the National Science Foundation, National Geographic Foundation and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

In 2019, Gaines was the only American on an international research team that unearthed a nearly pristine fossil record that had not been affected by metamorphosis or weathering at a newly discovered 518 million-year-old site in the Yangtze Gorges area of South China.

Gaines was also part of the team that discovered a new Burgess Shale site in Canada’s Kootenay National Park in 2014. The team has found more than 10,000 specimens, including unfamiliar and new animals from the Cambrian period that offer an increased understanding of early animal evolution on Earth.

As dean of the college, Gaines plans to work to put the College’s strategic plan into action, increase recognition of faculty research and promote sustainability initiatives, as noted in his speech at Convocation this fall. “I’m excited to serve in another role for Pomona, advocating for faculty and scholarship, while working with our community to continually deepen intellectual engagement and discovery at Pomona,” said Gaines.

Gaines received his B.S. from the College of William and Mary, his M.S. from the University of Cincinnati and his Ph.D. from UC Riverside.