Gene E. Robinson, ESA Fellow (2009)

Dr. Gene E. Robinson, professor of entomology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), was elected as Fellow in 2009. His research group studies the mechanisms and evolution of social behavior, focusing primarily on the honey bee (Apis mellifera L.). The research is integrative, involving perspectives from evolutionary biology, behavior, neuroscience, molecular biology, and genomics.

Born on 9 January 1955 in Buffalo, NY, Robinson earned his B.S. in life sciences at Cornell University in 1977. After a few years working in the apiculture industry, Robinson returned to Cornell to pursue a Ph.D. in entomology, which he completed in 1986. Upon graduation he received a postdoctoral fellowship at Ohio State University, and after three years, he joined the faculty at UIUC. Robinson serves as a professor of entomology with affiliate appointments in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology; the Program in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology; and the Beckman Institute of Science and Technology. After serving as director of the Neuroscience Program from 2001–2011 and as founding leader of the Genomics of Neural and Behavioral Plasticity research theme at the Institute of Genomic Biology since 2003, he became the director of the Institute in 2012.

Robinson is a dedicated educator and has mentored 23 postdoctoral associates and 31 graduate students, most whom have continued on to successful careers in science, and almost 100 undergraduates, some of whom contributed to published research.  He has taught several courses including Introduction to Entomology, Genes and Behavior, Current Topics in Neuroscience, and Animal Behavior.  Additionally, he has given hundreds of invited presentations, including many honorific lectures and plenary presentations.    

Robinson has received almost $30 million in extramural funding and authored or co-authored over 250 papers and articles including cover stories in Science and Nature and an Op-Ed in The New York Times. He serves as an editorial board member for such publications as Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences; Journal of Insect Physiology; Journal of Insect Biology; Genes, Brain, and Behavior; and Journal of Experimental Zoology, as well as associate editor for the Annual Review of Entomology. He pioneered the field of sociogenomics, spearheaded the effort to gain approval from NIH for sequencing the honey bee genome, and heads the Honey Bee Genome Sequencing Consortium. His current studies include elucidating behaviorally related transcriptional regulatory networks in the brain, in honey bees and solitary bees, to better understand how insect societies evolve and function.

Robinson’s honors include: University Scholar and member of the Center for Advanced Study at the University of Illinois, G. William Arends Professor of Integrative Biology, Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Certificate of Distinction from the International Congress of Entomology, Burroughs Welcome Innovation Award in Functional Genomics, the ESA Founders’ Memorial Award, a Fulbright Senior Research Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, Fellow of the Animal Behavior Society, NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and election to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.   Robinson is married and has three children.

(updated June, 2012)