Robinson received her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1981) and did her postdoctoral work at Brandeis University (Waltham, MA). She has been a faculty member of the Department of Biological Sciences at UMBC since 1992. A former Graduate Program Director, Robinson has been particularly committed to both undergraduate and graduate research. The University System of Maryland Board of Regents has recognized her mentoring with a Faculty Award for Excellence in Mentoring in 2002 and she received a mentoring award from the Leadership Alliance in 2006.
A Boston native who graduated with B.A. in Biology from Wellesley College (Wellesley, MA), Robinson is known for her efforts to increase the participation of women and minorities in science at UMBC. She co-founded the Women in Science and Engineering group at UMBC and was a Co-PI on the UMBC NSF ADVANCE grant and currently co-chairs the University executive committee on Gender and Diversity in Science, technology, engineering and math. UMBC’s President’s Commission on Women in 2012 recognized her work on behalf of women in STEM with an Achievement Award.
Robinson’s research has focused on the problem of phototransduction: how light is transformed into a biological signal. In particular, much of her research has concentrated on visual pigments, the molecules directly involved in light detection. Her pioneering work on the visual pigments of aquatic mammals has furthered our understanding of how mammals adapted to their marine environment. Her recent research on melanopsin, a recently described and novel visual pigment, is helping to elucidate melanopsin’s role in non-image forming light perception which is involved in the regulation several important physiological processes. New work from her laboratory has described the regulation and inactivation of light activated melanopsin.