Assistant Professor Robert (Rob) P. Igo Jr. was known as a thoughtful genetic epidemiologist who embodied the spirit of team science by his colleagues in the Department of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences (PQHS). He passed away over the weekend.
Igo had many professional accomplishments, and was known for his generous spirit and his understated—and quirky—sense of humor. His colleagues relied on him as a principal or co-investigator who brought integrity and novel insight to every collaboration.
“Rob was an integral part of our team—a researcher, author, professor and all-around great colleague,” shared Jonathan Haines, chair of the Department of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences. “He brought levity and gravity to the mix, an unusual combination. Everyone who knew him will say that above all else, he was kind. We mourn his loss and extend our condolences to his wife, family and loved ones.”
After earning a PhD in anatomy from the University of Utah and an MS in biostatistics from the University of Washington, Igo came to CWRU as a postdoctoral fellow in 2005, was named an instructor in 2007 and promoted to assistant professor two years later.
Over the years, he built a reputation as an expert in the theory and application of genomic analysis to explore genetic determinants of human health. Igo worked with research teams and several consortia concerned with common and complex diseases, including glaucoma, Fuchs endothelial corneal dystrophy, age-related macular degeneration and Alzheimer’s disease.
His collaborations resulted in significant publications that advanced understanding of the genetic causes or influences of these conditions. He was a lead or collaborating author on more than 60 peer-reviewed articles, with a recent collection of papers in influential journals, echoing the trajectory of his career.
“The world lost a gentle, bright soul this past weekend,” said Jessica Cooke Bailey, a colleague of Igo and assistant professor in the Department of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences. “I don’t know what we’ll do without him, but my hope is that we will find a way to honor his memory by, at the very least, raising awareness about mental health issues among friends and colleagues. We have lost a humble and humorous friend and colleague. We will hold Rob in our hearts.”
His students regularly commented on his ability to help them navigate complex concepts by making their studies applicable to real-world research. During his CWRU career, he developed and taught several courses and served on dissertation committees for many students who have gone on to careers in academia and industry.
“Rob was the big brother I needed as I was getting through my dissertation,” said friend and colleague Laura Kopplin of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine. “He was the guy I could go to when I had something to share, or when life wasn’t going my way. He stood in for my formal mentor at my ‘hooding’—when you are recognized as a PhD. It was special that it was both a mentor and friend who played that role for me.”
Outside of work, Igo was a naturalist. He enjoyed biking and hiking and took beautiful photos of landscapes, flowers, and his beloved Seattle. He regularly played board games with a group of friends, and he was a “cat person.” He regularly drew cat doodles, typically when meetings were getting too serious.
The Daily will share information about memorial services should they become available.
Students who would like support during this time are encouraged to contact counseling services at 216.368.5872. This line is staffed by a counselor 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Faculty and staff can access counseling at any time by calling IMPACT Solutions at 1.800.227.6007; you can learn more about their programs at myimpactsolution.com.