Gene E. Robinson's directory photo.

Gene E. Robinson


Primary Affiliation

Intelligence, Learning, and Plasticity


Status Affiliate Faculty

Home Department of Entomology

Phone 265-0309



  • Biography

    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. He is a member of NAS, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, National Academy of Medicine, and American Philosophical Society.

  • Honors

    2005: Chancellor's Center for Advanced Study Special Lecture Series, Inaugural Speaker, UIUC

    Member, National Academy of Sciences (NAS); K.C. Fisher Lecture, Univ. Toronto; Fellow, American Academy of Arts & Sciences

    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

    Wolf Prize in Agriculture.

  • Research

    Dr. Robinson studies mechanisms of behavior in social insects. The honey bee is the primary study organism because its rich social life is uniquely amenable to experimentation, a consequence of the many techniques available to alter precisely genetic, physiological, and environmental parameters.

    • Current research is focused on one aspect of colony organization, the division of labor among workers. Efforts in this area involve: identifying behavioral, neural, endocrine, and molecular genetic mechanisms that regulate the activities of individual colony members; and then
    • determining the role these mechanisms play in integrating worker behavior into a cohesively functioning colony.

    Neuroanatomical studies performed in collaboration with S.E. Fahrbach explore the role of brain plasticity in honey bee behavioral plasticity. We seek to understand complex social behavior from "society to gene."

  • 2012

    • Ament, S. A.; Wang, Y.; Chen, C. C.; Blatti, C. A.; Hong, F.; Liang, Z. Z. S.; Negre, N.; White, K. P.; Rodriguez-Zas, S. L.; Mizzen, C. A.; Sinha, S.; Zhong, S.; Robinson, G. E., The Transcription Factor Ultraspiracle Influences Honey Bee Social Behavior and Behavior-Related Gene Expression. PLoS Genetics 2012, 8, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1002596.


    • Brockmann, A.; Annangudi, S. P.; Richmond, T. A.; Ament, S. A.; Xie, F.; Southey, B. R.; Rodriguez-Zas, S. R.; Robinson, G. E.; Sweedler, J. V., Quantitative peptidomics reveal brain peptide signatures of behavior. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2009, 106, (7), 2383-2388.
    • Robinson, G. E.; Fernald, R. D.; Clayton, D. F., Genes and Social Behavior. Science 2008, 322, (5903), 896-900.


    • Ismail, N.; Robinson, G.E.; Fahrbach, S.E., Stimulation of muscarinic receptors mimics experience-dependent plasticity in the honey bee brain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, (in press).


    • Robinson, G.E.; Grozinger, C.M.; Whitfield, C.W., Sociogenomics: Social life in molecular terms. Nature Reviews Genetics 2005, 6, 257-70.


    • Grozinger, C.M.; Sharabash, N.; Whitfield, C.W.; Robinson, G.E., Pheromone-mediated gene expression in the honey bee brain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Suppl. 2 2003, 14519-25.
    • Whitfield, C.W.; Cziko, A.-M.; Robinson, G.E., Gene expression patterns in the brain predict behavior in individual honey bees. Science 2003, 302, 296-299.


    • Ben-Shahar, Y.; Robichon, A.; Sokolowski, M.B.; Robinson, G.E., Influence of gene action across different time scales on behavior. Science 2002, 296, 741-744.