URBANA — A top University of Illinois entomologist and neuroscientist has been named director of the UI's Institute for Genomic Biology, pending approval by trustees next week.
Professor Gene Robinson has headed the institute on an interim basis since March 2011 and before that was leader of its research group on the genomics of neural and behavioral plasticity.
Robert Easter, interim vice chancellor for research, announced the appointment to administrators on Tuesday.
Under Robinson's leadership, the institute joined with the Beckman Institute to launch a new center, funded by Abbott Laboratories, for the study of nutrition and cognition.
"Genomics is at a very exciting point in time. We're about to start what I call the second genomic revolution, where genomics is going to permeate and really transform biology," Robinson said Tuesday.
Scientists have already sequenced the human genome and that of several other key species, he said.
"We are going, within five to 10 years, to have the genomic sequences of thousands of different species, of microorganisms, plants and animals, and also thousands of genomic sequences of individuals within some species," he said.
The institute is "extremely well positioned" to be a leader of the next genomics revolution, he said.
"It's already one of the pre-eminent genomics institutes in the world," he said.
The next wave will require new partnerships with computer science, also a strength of the Urbana campus, he said.
The institute has plans for new themes and partnerships with other units to bring in new faculty, he said.
"We're very excited about those opportunities," Robinson said. "I'm very grateful to my colleagues for the confidence they have shown in me."
A recipient of a 2009 National Institutes of Health Pioneer Award, Robinson holds the Swanlund Chair in the Department of Entomology and is on the faculty of the Center for Advanced Study. He also a member of the National Academy of Sciences.
An expert on the behavior of honeybees, Robinson received his doctorate in entomology from Cornell University in 1986 and joined the Illinois faculty in 1989.
He was director of the UI's neuroscience program for 10 years and has been a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study and a Fulbright Senior Research Fellow.
His work has received funding from the National Science Foundation, NIH and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In his announcement, Easter said he is confident that Robinson will continue "transformative research in neuroscience and genomics" as director of the internationally known institute.
Easter said Robinson has made "a wide range of fundamental advances in elucidating the endocrine, neural and genetic regulation of behavior at the individual and whole-colony levels in honeybees. He has significantly advanced the understanding of the role of genes, hormones and neurochemicals in the mechanisms and evolution of social behavior."
"I look forward to working with Gene and the IGB research community to support and expand IGB's extensive research program, and its already excellent national and international visibility," Easter said.