Gene E. Robinson, Director
A beehive is breathtakingly beautiful in both its simplicity and its complexity. A successful hive requires all parts to be working in harmony—roles are clearly defined. As an entomologist, I’ve been studying bee behavior for more than 25 years, so perhaps it’s not unusual for me to draw parallels between the hive and the busy, bustling labs that comprise the Institute for Genomic Biology.
As the Director of the Institute, I am struck by the similarities—we are more than 800 people, faculty, staff, post docs, graduate and undergraduate students, all working toward a common goal to pioneer advances in the life sciences.
As one of the Institute’s original theme leaders, I have been a part of the IGB since the beginning, and as I begin my second year it remains an honor to lead an institution of this caliber. The state of Illinois invested $75 million in 2003 to fund the construction and start up of the IGB—in under a decade, those costs were more than recouped with external grants and contracts. Our scientific productivity and intellectual property output remains strong: In FY2012 we published 216 papers, including 6 in Science and Nature, and made twenty disclosures, three U.S. patent applications and optioned one license. IGB researchers have developed:
- A new antibiotic to combat food-borne diseases
- A non-electronic biological machine capable of locomotion
- A new yeast strain that will improve biofuels production
- A technique to isolate tumor-seeding cancer cells
- A genome map of the energy crop miscanthus sinensis
I am confident that many other advances and discoveries will soon appear in publication as our research progresses another year.
The progress and promise of the IGB is especially apparent in the early career successes of our younger investigators, who are bringing fresh perspectives to bear on important problems and motivating themselves and their peers to even greater achievements. These men and women have already established themselves as valuable scientific contributors, with the greater portion of their careers remaining for the future. Positioning these individuals in one or more of the IGB Research Themes helps drive the creative spark to push further into the undiscovered.
As Director, I am mindful of the need for continuity and consistency in the research that we are pursuing, but I also know that we cannot afford inertia—we must embrace new opportunities whenever we can! In conjunction with our faculty and staff, we continue to evaluate our research themes, identify new areas to explore, undertake outreach and educational opportunities, and develop new ideas to generate economic development through our discoveries. I am passionately committed to the founding mission of the IGB, to advance life sciences research and stimulate bioeconomic development in the state of Illinois.
Our strategic approach to the future is critical to our continued success. Realizing the full potential of the genomic revolution requires integrating approaches and results from different sub-disciplines of biology with technologies, concepts, approaches, and information from disciplines such as engineering, computer science, physics, chemistry, mathematics, and the geological, atmospheric and social sciences. Given that IGB researchers come from more than 30 different departments and 8 colleges across campus, the institute is clearly poised to lead that charge.
IGB research is creative, collaborative, and focused on solving real-world problems in agriculture, health, the environment, and energy, as well as pursuing fundamental research. The progress our researchers make working alongside their colleagues, the faculty and students that intermingle every day in our labs, is remarkable and pathbreaking. As I look at this talented, creative, and resourceful assembly of scientists, it’s easy to see the best is yet to come.
— Gene E. Robinson
About Dr. Robinson
Gene E. Robinson is the Director of the Institute for Genomic Biology. He holds a Swanlund Chair at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he has been since 1989. He is also the Director of the Neuroscience Program and a Professor of Entomology with affiliate appointments in the Department of Cell & Developmental Biology, the Program in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology, and the Beckman Institute of Science and Technology. He received his Ph.D. from Cornell University and was an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow at Ohio State University. Robinson’s research group studies the mechanisms and evolution of social behavior, using the honey bee as the primary model. The research is integrative, involving perspectives from evolutionary biology, behavior, neuroscience, molecular biology, and genomics. He has authored or coauthored approximately 250 publications. He pioneered the field of sociogenomics, spearheaded the effort to gain approval from NIH for the sequencing of the honey bee genome, and heads the Honey Bee Genome Sequencing Consortium. He also serves as a member of the National Advisory Mental Health Council (NAMHC) of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). His honors include: University Scholar, G. William Arends Professor of Integrative Biology, and Center for Advanced Study Professor at the University of Illinois; Certificate of Distinction from the International Congress of Entomology; Burroughs Welcome Innovation Award in Functional Genomics; Founders Memorial Award from the Entomological Society of America; Distinguished Animal Behaviorist, Animal Behavior Society; Fulbright Senior Research Fellow; Guggenheim Fellow; Fellow, Entomological Society of America; Fellow, Animal Behavior Society; Fellow, American Academy of Arts & Sciences; and election to the US National Academy of Sciences.