Roger Hangarter received his BA from SUNY Geneseo and his MS and PhD from Michigan State University. He came to IU in 1995 after appointments at Ohio State University and was promoted to professor of biology in 2005 and was named Chancellor's Professor in 2007. He served as a program officer of Integrative Plant Biology at the National Science Foundation, is also a fellow of Indiana University's Molecular Biology Institute, and an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Professor Hangarter is "one of the most accomplished and well-recognized" plant scientists in the country, and is "world renowned for his unique ability to combine high-level science with striking artistic creations that educate and inspire." His groundbreaking research focuses on the molecular mechanisms by which plants respond to environmental cues such as light and gravity, and his artistic creations are a direct outgrowth of this research. His work is "extremely creative, insightful and elegant, and has revealed novel crosstalk between gravity and light perception that was quite unexpected." He was the first to use genetics to identify genes that control plant responses to light and launched an entirely new research program at Ohio State University that established Arabidopsis thaliana genetics as "the premier system for studying plant physiology and development using a genetic approach;" this is now used as a model system by scientists worldwide. Using time-lapse photography to track and measure plant growth he created several movies to stimulate public awareness and understanding of plant biology. "The elegant and beautiful portrayal of the life of plants in Roger's movies captivates people's imagination and evokes the inert sense of curiosity about nature in the young mind." He has developed several traveling exhibit which have toured science museums and botanic gardens across the U.S. and Canada. "This level of exposure and reach is truly exceptional for an individual who is both a ground-breaking scientist and an innovative artist."
Hangarter was elected president of the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) in 2003, and received a MERLOT Award for Exemplary Online Learning Resources in 2004. In 2008, he received a regional Emmy Award for his contributions to a four-part PBS documentary. He was awarded the Charles Edwin Bessey Teaching Award from the Botanical Society of America (BSA) in 2009, and in 2014 received an award for Outstanding Faculty Collaborative Research at Indiana University. The recipient of over $4 million in externally funded research, he is author or co-author of more than 85 scientific papers, two of which have been cited over 100 times. His website, Plants in Motion, averages 1.2 million page views and 30,000 unique viewers per year. His interactive exhibit Dancing with Plants was installed in 21 museums in the U.S. and Canada over a 12-year period and received over 2 million visitors. His installation sLowlife has received over 3 million visitors, and his time-lapse video Return of the 17-year Cicadas won numerous awards, including the 2005 Science & Engineering Visualization Award from the National Science Foundation and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. "Dr. Hangarter reminds me of a modern-day Charles Darwin because he opens up new and fascinating areas of plant biology in a way that combines the biggest picture view with exquisite details of how things work at a molecular level, and he communicates his findings beautifully to other scientists as well as to the public."
Hangarter received the IU Bicentennial Medal in September 2020 in recognition of his distinguished contributions to Indiana University.