Rob Rawson received his BA in Botany and History from the University of California, Berkeley in 1982. He returned to school at the California State University, Hayward (now Cal State East Bay) to earn a Masterís degree in Biology in 1987. There, he worked with Dr. Steve Benson studying spicule development in sea urchin embryos.
Determined to pursue a career in academic science, he entered the doctoral program at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. He joined Steve Wassermanís laboratory in the Department of Biochemistry. From Steve and lab colleagues, he learned genetics and developmental biology using Drosophila as a model system. Fellow Wasserman lab alumni currently at Southwestern include Diego Castrillon, Kim Orth, and Rene Galindo. Rob defended his dissertation on the characterization of two genes required for spermatogenesis in flies in 1993.
He continued his scientific training at UT Southwestern, joining the Brown and Goldstein laboratory as a postdoctoral fellow. While there, he participated in the identification of the two-step cleavage of SREBPs. Using a somatic cell genetic complementation approach, he and Nick Zelenski, a graduate student in the lab, identified the Site 2 protease. This was the first intramembrane cleaving protease found. Subsequently, the unusual phenomenon first detailed for the SREBP pathway, regulated intramembrane proteolysis (Rip), was shown to operate in a wide range of cellular signaling processes in virtually all organisms (bakerís yeast being an exception).
Continuing with somatic cell genetics, Rob isolated mutant Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells lacking the Site-1 protease and cells lacking SCAP. Along with fellow postdocs Dong Cheng and Russell DeBose-Boyd, he characterized these mutants that proved crucial to the cloning of the Site 1 protease and to the analysis of SCAP function.
In 1999, Rob joined the Faculty of Molecular Genetics where his lab continues to study the SREBP pathway and lipid metabolism in Drosophila melanogaster.