Gene Robinson, a professor of entomology and director of the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB), has been awarded the 2018 Wolf Prize in Agriculture for “leading the genomics revolution in the organismal and population biology of the honey bee.”
Awarded each year since 1978 by the Wolf Foundation in the fields of agriculture, chemistry, mathematics, medicine, physics, and rotated among disciplines in the arts, recipients are considered outstanding members in their field. Laureates receive their awards from the President of the State of Israel, with a special ceremony held at the parliamentary building in Jerusalem.
“I am deeply honored to receive this award," said Robinson. "The new science of genomics has truly revolutionized how we study all organisms, including honey bees, whose intricate social life enables them to play a vital but often overlooked role in world agriculture as the premier pollinator on the planet.”
According to the Jerusalem Post, nine laureates will receive a Wolf Prize this year, including British rocker Paul McCartney. Robinson's prize is the only category in 2018 not being divided between two people.
Robinson earned his PhD from Cornell University in 1986 and has been a faculty member of the University of Illinois since 1989, holding the Swanlund Chair in Entomology and Center for Advanced Study Professorships in Entomology and Neuroscience. He is the former director of the campus Neuroscience Program, director of the Bee Research Facility, and has served as director of the IGB since 2011.
Employing genomics and systems biology to study the mechanisms and evolution of social life using the Western honey bee as a model organism, Robinson’s lab has made significant advances in the understanding of the role of genes, hormones, and neurochemicals in the mechanisms and evolution of social behavior, as well as discovering the first gene in regulating the division of labor within honey bee colonies.
Robinson has served on the National Institute of Mental Health Advisory Council and has past and current appointments on scientific advisory boards for academic organizations and companies with significant interests in genomics. His 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; Fellow, American Academy of Arts & Sciences; and member, U.S. National Academy of Sciences.
More than 250 scientists and artists from more than 20 countries have been honored since the Wolf Foundation was established. Recipients are chosen for their achievements towards humanity and for friendly relations between peoples, regardless of nationality, race, color, religion, gender, or political outlook, selected by an international awards committee.