Gene E. Robinson

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For other people named Gene Robinson, see Gene Robinson (disambiguation).
Gene E. Robinson
Born (1955-01-09) January 9, 1955 (age 62)[1]
Institutions University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign[2]
Alma mater Cornell University
Notable awards Fulbright scholar
Member of the United States National Academy of Sciences

Gene Ezia Robinson (born January 9, 1955) is an American entomologist, Director of the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology and National Academy of Sciences member. He pioneered the application of genomics to the study of social behavior and led the effort to sequence the honey bee genome.[3] On February 10, 2009, his research was famously featured in an episode of The Colbert Report whose eponymous host referred to the honey Dr. Robinson sent him as "pharmaceutical-grade hive jive".

Life and education[edit]

After acquiring his bachelor's in biology from Cornell University, Robinson went on to earn his Ph.D in entomology from Cornell in 1986. He joined the faculty of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 1989. Currently, Robinson is the Director of the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois and a Swanlund and Center for Advanced Study Professor of Entomology, with affiliate appointments in the Neuroscience Program, the Department of Cell & Developmental Biology, the Program in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology, and the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology.

Work and discoveries[edit]

Authoring or co-authoring over 250 publications, Robinson has made a wide range of fundamental advances in understanding the endocrine, neural, and genetic regulation of behavior at the individual and colony levels in honey bees. His discoveries have significantly advanced the understanding of the role of genes, hormones, and neurochemicals in the mechanisms and evolution of social behavior.

Robinson’s lab discovered the first gene known to be involved in regulating the bee colony’s famous division of labor, and in 2002 published this in Science.[4] The very next year, Robinson’s lab was the first to show that social information causes mass changes in brain gene expression, also publishing this in Science.[5]

Robinson’s discovery on social regulation of brain gene expression has had a profound effect on understanding the roots of behavior. He developed a new paradigm to address the age-old “nature-nurture” problem, which was published in 2004 in an essay in Science[6] and an Op-Ed in the New York Times.[7]

In October 2006, a collection of biologists, led by Robinson, successfully published the sequence of the honey bee Apis mellifera together with the Baylor Human Genome Sequencing Center (HGSC).[8] This discovery spurred an explosion of new bee research in molecular biology and genomics.

More recently, Robinson was part of a team that has discovered a plausible cause of colony collapse disorder, a malady that in 2007-2008 killed off more than one third of commercial honey bees in the U.S. By analyzing differences in gene expression between healthy and infected honey bees, researchers learned that bees in CCD hives have unusually high levels of fragmented ribosomal RNA, a symptom of infection with multiple viruses.

Honors and awards[edit]

University Scholar and member of the Center of Advanced Study at the University of Illinois; Burroughs Wellcome Innovation Award in Functional Genomics; G. William Arends Professor of Integrative Biology; Certificate of Distinction from the International Congress of Entomology; Founders Memorial Award from the Entomological Society of America; Fulbright Senior Research Fellowship; Guggenheim Fellowship; NIH Director's Pioneer Award (2009);[9] Fellow, Animal Behavior Society; Fellow, Entomological Society of America; Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2004);[10] Member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (2005).[11] In May 2015, Robinson received an honorary doctoral degree from Hebrew University in Jerusalem for "his scientific leadership and groundbreaking contribution to the molecular basis of social behavior".[12]


  1. ^ Gene E. Robinson Curriculum Vitae. Retrieved March 13, 2015
  2. ^ Robinson, G. E. (1992). "Regulation of Division of Labor in Insect Societies". Annual Review of Entomology. 37: 637–665. doi:10.1146/annurev.en.37.010192.003225. PMID 1539941. 
  3. ^ Zagorski, N. (2006). "Profile of Gene E. Robinson". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 103 (44): 16065–16067. doi:10.1073/pnas.0608392103. PMC 1637537Freely accessible. PMID 17065325. 
  4. ^ Ben-Shahar, Y.; Robichon, A.; Sokolowski, M. B.; Robinson, G. E. (2002). "Influence of Gene Action Across Different Time Scales on Behavior". Science. 296 (5568): 741–744. doi:10.1126/science.1069911. PMID 11976457.  (reported in NY Times, Washington Post, German Public Radio, South African Public Radio, Genome News Network; included in Perspectives of Animal Behavior 3rd ed., Goodenough et al.; Animal Behavior, Alcock)
  5. ^ Whitfield, C. W.; Cziko, A. M.; Robinson, G. E. (2003). "Gene Expression Profiles in the Brain Predict Behavior in Individual Honey Bees". Science. 302 (5643): 296–299. doi:10.1126/science.1086807. PMID 14551438.  (reported in Reuters,, St. Louis Dispatch, Wall Street Journal, Belgium De Standaard; included in Perspectives of Animal Behavior 3rd ed., Goodenough et al.; Animal Behavior, Alcock)
  6. ^ Robinson, G. E. (2004). "GENOMICS: Beyond Nature and Nurture". Science. 304 (5669): 397–399. doi:10.1126/science.1095766. PMID 15087536. 
  7. ^ Robinson, G.E. 2004. The behavior of genes. New York Times Op-Ed, 13 December [1]
  8. ^ Honeybee Genome Sequencing Consortium (2006). "Insights into social insects from the genome of the honeybee Apis mellifera". Nature. 443 (7114): 931–949. doi:10.1038/nature05260. PMC 2048586Freely accessible. PMID 17073008. 
  9. ^ "2009 Pioneer Award Recipients". NIH Director's Pioneer Award Program. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved September 17, 2011. 
  10. ^ "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter R" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved September 17, 2011. 
  11. ^ "NAS Membership Directory". U.S. National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved September 17, 2011.  Search with Robinson as last name.
  12. ^ "Director Receives Degree in Honor of Hebrew University 90th Celebration". Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology. Retrieved January 31, 2015. 

External links[edit]