Phillips Robbins

Phillips Wesley Robbins
Born 1930
Barre, Massachusetts
Fields Biochemistry
Institutions Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston University
Education DePauw University, University of Indiana
Doctoral advisor Herbert E. Carter

Phillips Wesley Robbins is a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the Boston University School of Dental Medicine.[1] He moved to BU in 1998 following a career of almost 40 years on the faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[2][3]

Early life and education

Robbins was born in 1930 in Barre, Massachusetts[2] and attended high school in West Springfield, Massachusetts.[3] He later described a high school physics course as an inspiration for his plans for a science career, though he continued to consider following the family tradition by becoming a medical missionary.[3] He settled on biochemistry as his chosen field as an undergraduate at DePauw University,[3] from which he graduated in 1952.[2] He received his Ph.D. in 1955 from the University of Indiana under the supervision of Herbert E. Carter and then became a postdoctoral fellow with Fritz Lipmann, first at Massachusetts General Hospital and then moving with the group to Rockefeller University.[3]

Academic career

Robbins joined the faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1960[3] as one of several young biochemists hired by Jack Buchanan into the Department of Biology.[4] There he worked particularly closely with Salvador Luria, studying the structure and biochemistry of lipopolysaccharides.[2][3]

In 1998, after nearly 40 years at MIT, Robbins moved to the Boston University School of Dental Medicine, where he has worked in collaboration with John Samuelson[1] and with two of his own former postdoctoral fellows, department head Carlos Hirschberg and associate dean Maria Kukuruzinska.[3]

Robbins received the Eli Lilly Award in Biological Chemistry in 1966,[5] was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1982[6] and received the Karl Meyer Award for Lifetime Achievement in Glycobiology in 2000.[2]


Robbins' research has focused on a variety of biochemical pathways. In his early career at MIT, he worked closely with Luria studying the structure and biosynthesis of lipopolysaccharides, including elucidating the structure of bactoprenol and identifying the direction of chain elongation in LPS synthesis in bacteria. He later moved on to studying the biochemistry of the eukaryotic N-linked glycosylation pathway and more recently, with John Samuelson, has studied the evolution of this pathway in protists. He has also worked on the problem of chitin synthesis and its role in yeast.[3]


  1. 1 2 "Phillips W. Robbins". Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine. Retrieved 5 August 2016.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Kresge, Nicole; Simoni, Robert D.; Hill, Robert L. (29 August 2008). "The Formation of N-Glycosidic Linkages: the Work of Phillips W. Robbins". Journal of Biological Chemistry. 283 (e14).
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Robbins, P. (23 November 2010). "Stents, Statins, and Other Dumb Luck". Journal of Biological Chemistry. 286 (3): 1669–1674. doi:10.1074/jbc.X110.205633.
  4. Chen, Lan-Bo; Hartman, Stan; Zetter, Bruce; Zhang, Shuguang (November 2007). "John M. Buchanan (1917-2007)". Protein Science. 16 (11): 2578–2579. doi:10.1002/pro.162578.
  5. "Eli Lilly Award in Biological Chemistry" (PDF). American Chemical Society Division of Biological Chemistry. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  6. "Phillips Robbins". National Academy of Sciences Member Directory. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
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