Skip to main content

Illinois IGB

Research Areas

Our Research

Named after Illinois professor of microbiology Carl R. Woese, who discovered the third domain of life, the mission of the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB) is to advance life science research at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and to stimulate bio-economic development in the state of Illinois. We do so by tackling grand challenges in fundamental and applied research with genomics and multi-disciplinary team science. The IGB was originally proposed at the dawn of the genomic era as the embodiment of a goal to centralize biological and biotechnological research at Illinois, a role that it continues to fulfill today as the largest comprehensive genomics institute in the country. We are a research pioneer on the Illinois campus, hosting the first NIH Center for Excellence, the first major Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant with Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE), the first research supported by the Simons Foundation, and the first ZEISS labs @ location in North America through our Core Facilities light microscopy suite. Our members conduct path-breaking genomic research to address societal issues in the areas of food security, energy, health, technology, and environmental conservation. View our full list of publications available on our research profile page, or learn more about our nationally recognized outreach and public engagement programs with partners such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Academy of Sciences, and the National Institutes of Health.

IGB members are drawn from many schools and departments, including biology, chemistry, physics, engineering, sociology, and business. Faculty and affiliate members remain an integral part of their home departments while also pursuing collaborative projects in thematic research groups at the IGB.

In each research theme, the common goal of a particular grand challenge in research—developing more effective cancer therapeutics, creating more efficient and robust food and fuel crops, uncovering the origins of life—creates synergy among diverse groups of scientists. Our work ranges from basic research that expands the horizons of human knowledge to applied research that builds on this foundational knowledge to create new technologies. Our complement of research themes is dynamic, adapting to new discoveries, methods, and needs. Anyone in our academic community can propose a new theme.


There are currently twelve research themes at the IGB and three research centers:


Center for Nutrition, Learning, and Memory
The IGB has partnered with Abbott and the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology to establish the first-ever multi-disciplinary nutrition and cognition research center, the Center for Nutrition, Learning, and Memory. CNLM leads directed and solicited research on the impact of nutrition on learning and memory in the human brain.

CompGen Initiative
The CompGen Initiative combines the collective strengths of Illinois’ genomic research with its prowess in large-scale parallel systems and big data to develop new technology enabling genomic breakthroughs. CompGen brings together computer scientists, computer engineers, bioinformaticians and genomic biologists to create new collaborations; so far the initiative has lead to three new large-scale campus projects.

KnowEnG: NIH Center of Excellence in Big Data Computing
KnowEnG (pronounced "knowing") is a National Institutes of Health-funded initiative that brings together researchers from the University of Illinois and Mayo Clinic to create a Center of Excellence in Big Data Computing. It is part of the Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) Initiative that NIH launched in 2012 to tap the wealth of information contained in biomedical Big Data. KnowEnG is one of 11 Centers of Excellence in Big Data Computing funded by NIH in 2014.

Research Portfolio

Our research portfolio as a whole spans three broad areas of research: health challenges and solutions, genomic technologies, and environmental resources and conservation. Learn more about how individual research themes connect to these areas by visiting the pages linked below.

Health Technology Environment


Faculty Committees

An important function our faculty provide to the IGB and the campus is devoting their time and leadership through service via committee on a variety of initiatives. We respect the effort this requires and appreciate our community's contributions to our continued success by serving on the following:

  • Art of Science Public Talks
  • Committee on Diversity
  • Genome Day Advisory
  • IGB Executive Committee
  • International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition (iGEM) Advisory
  • Osher Lifelong Learning Institute Course Speakers (OLLI) Course and Speaker Coordination
  • World of Genomics Activity Coordination