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A message from the 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 society for more than 35 years, so perhaps it’s not unusual for me to draw parallels between the hive and the busy, bustling labs that comprise the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology. I am truly struck by the similarities—we are hundreds of faculty, staff, postdocs, 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 it is an honor for me 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 is getting stronger and stronger, we’ve seen numerous startup companies based on IGB research, and IGB researchers continue to push the boundaries and increase our knowledge and discovery.

IGB Construction
Breaking ground on the IGB, May 6, 2005 / Don Hamerman

The progress and promise of the IGB is especially apparent in the early career successes of our early career investigators, who are bringing fresh perspectives to bear on important problems and motivating themselves and their peers to even greater achievements. These individuals have already established themselves as valuable scientific contributors, and are poised for even greater success in the years ahead. Their participation in our thematic research groups helps drive the creative spark to push further into the undiscovered.

A dynamic institute such as ours must balance the need for continuity and consistency in the research that we are pursuing with a forward-looking stance that embraces new opportunities whenever we can. In conjunction with our faculty and staff, we continue to evaluate our research themes to 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.

World of Genomics, Field Museum, 2017
IGB volunteers bring science to society at the Chicago Field Museum Member's Night, 2017 / Kathryn Faith

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. The treasure trove of “big data” generated by genomic research brings its own unique challenges in data management, necessitating an increase in computation prowess. Given that IGB researchers come from more than 40 different departments and 9 colleges across campus and contribute to leading partnerships both locally and nationally, the institute is clearly equipped to lead that charge.

Our research is creative, collaborative and innovative. We focus on the significant problems facing humanity, such as treating chronic human diseases, managing new and emerging pests and pathogens, and maintaining an abundant and healthy food supply. We also address fundamental questions in science, such as the origin of life, or how the brain works. Genomic biology will continue to help solve some of these grand challenges in health, technology, and our environment. The integrative, interdisciplinary and collegial approach of the IGB has made remarkable and pathbreaking advances. I hope you will join us as we continue on our journey.


Gene E. Robinson

Gene E Robinson SignatureGene E. Robinson

IGB Director


Gene E. Robinson obtained his Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1986 and joined the faculty of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1989. He holds a University Swanlund Chair and a Center for Advanced Study Professorship, and since 2001 has served as director of the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB), an interdisciplinary team science institute whose mission is to use genomics to address grand challenges in science and society. Robinson also is co-director of the Bee Research Facility, with former appointments including director of the campus Neuroscience Program and interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. Robinson pioneered the application of genomics to the study of social behavior, led the effort to sequence the honey bee genome, authored or co-authored 350 publications, obtained over $70M in extramural research funding, and has trained over 35 postdoctoral associates and 25 doctoral students, about half with faculty/independent scientist positions in academia, government, and industry. He serves or served on the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Council Executive Committee, National Research Council Governing Board and Executive Committee, NIH National Institute of Mental Health Advisory Council, Chan Zuckerberg Chicago Biohub Advisory Committee, provided Congressional testimony, and has past and current appointments on scientific advisory boards for companies and foundations with significant interests in genomics. Dr. Robinson’s honors include: Fellow and Founders Memorial Award (Entomological Society of America), Fellow and Distinguished Behaviorist (Animal Behavior Society), Distinguished Scientist Award (International Behavioral Genetics Society), Guggenheim Fellowship, Fulbright Fellowship, NIH Pioneer Award, Honorary Doctorate (Hebrew University), and the Wolf Prize in Agriculture. He is a member of NAS, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, National Academy of Medicine, and American Philosophical Society.

Robinson Lab

The Robinson lab uses the Western honey bee, Apis mellifera, to understand the evolution and mechanisms of social behavior.

Visit Robinson Lab