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Douglas N. Robinson, M.Phil., Ph.D.

Headshot of Douglas N. Robinson
  • Professor of Cell Biology

Research Interests

Disease states; Model systems; Cell-shape control; Homeostasis; Tissue development; Cytokinesis (Cell division); Cellular mechanosensing; Molecular mechanisms more


Dr. Douglas N. Robinson is a professor of cell biology, pharmacology and molecular sciences, and chemical and biomedical engineering in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. A cell biologist, geneticist and biophysicist, Dr. Robinson investigates how cells form the shapes required for the specialized functions necessary for human health.

Dr. Robinson received his undergraduate degree in genetic biology from Purdue University. He earned his M.Phil. and his Ph.D. in genetics from Yale University School of Medicine. He completed postdoctoral research in the Department of Biochemistry at Stanford University School of Medicine. Dr. Robinson joined the Johns Hopkins faculty in 2001.

He is a member of American Society for Cell Biology and the Biophysical Society and serves on the editorial board of Biophysical Journal, Current Biology, and Cytoskeleton. His work has been recognized with a number of awards, including the American Cancer Society Research Scholar Award, the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation Young Investigator Award, and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award in Biomedical Sciences. more


  • Professor of Cell Biology
  • Joint Appointment in Medicine
  • Professor of Oncology
  • Professor of Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences

Departments / Divisions

Centers & Institutes



  • B.S.; Purdue University (Indiana) (1991)
  • M.Phil.; Yale University (Connecticut) (1993)
  • Ph.D.; Yale University (Connecticut) (1997)

Additional Training

  • Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA, 2001, Biochemistry

Research & Publications

Research Summary

Understanding Cytokinesis and Cell Shape Control

Multicellular living organisms grow from single cells into multicellular, complex systems composed of highly diverse cell-types organized into tissues, which in turn form organs and organ systems. To organize and maintain this complex architecture, the organism must undergo constant renewal through cell proliferation and elimination of unwanted cells. This process of tissue development and homeostasis requires chemical and mechanical information to be sensed by the cells within the tissues, and in turn, interpreted to guide their decision making: to divide, migrate, constrict, or die. Failure in these processes lead to diverse diseases, such as hypertension, degeneration, and cancer.

We have been studying cytokinesis (cell division) as a model cell behavior that incorporates internally generated signals with external mechanical cues to drive healthy cell shape change. We have discerned the mechanics that drive this process, and identified how the cell senses external forces (mechanosensing) and transmits them to changes in the chemical signaling pathways that guide cytokinesis. While we continue to study how these processes direct cytokinesis, we are also learning how these same principles apply to diseases such as cancer. For example, we have identified how mechanical cues guide aberrant behaviors of breast cancer cells. In this case, we found that cancer and non-cancer cells can compete with each other, and due to their unique mechanical properties, the cancer cell (winner cell) can often engulf and kill the non-cancer cell (loser cell).

In another project, we are exploring how cellular growth control pathways lead to defects in cell mechanics. In particular, a key regulatory pathway that guides liver formation and leads to liver cancer if the pathway becomes uncontrolled, also controls the hepatocyte mechanical properties.

Finally, we have found that many of these same principles apply to the development of a mammalian egg where disruption of the cell mechanics machinery causes defects in the formation of a healthy egg. Such mechanics defects could contribute to some types of human infertility and/or birth defects.


You can see information about Dr. Robinson's lab here

Lab Website: Robinson Lab

Selected Publications

View all on PubMed

Luo T, Srivastava V, Ren Y, Robinson DN. “Mimicking the mechanical properties of the cell cortex by the self-assembly of an actin cortex in vesicles.” Appl Phys Lett. 2014 Apr 14;104(15):153701. Epub 2014 Apr 17.

Luo T, Mohan K, Iglesias PA, Robinson DN. “Molecular mechanisms of cellular mechanosensing.” Nat Mater. 2013 Nov;12(11):1064-71. doi: 10.1038/nmat3772. Epub 2013 Oct 20.

Kabacoff C, Srivastava V, Robinson DN. “A summer academic research experience for disadvantaged youth.” CBE Life Sci Educ. 2013 Fall;12(3):410-8. doi: 10.1187/cbe.12-12-0206.

Kryzak CA, Moraine MM, Kyle DD, Lee HJ, Cubeñas-Potts C, Robinson DN, Evans JP. “Prophase I mouse oocytes are deficient in the ability to respond to fertilization by decreasing membrane receptivity to sperm and establishing a membrane block to polyspermy.” Biol Reprod. 2013 Aug 29;89(2):44. doi: 10.1095/biolreprod.113.110221. Print 2013 Aug.

Kee YS, Robinson DN. “Micropipette aspiration for studying cellular mechanosensory responses and mechanics.” Methods Mol Biol. 2013;983:367-82. doi: 10.1007/978-1-62703-302-2_20.

Contact for Research Inquiries

Physiology Building
725 N. Wolfe Street
Baltimore, MD 21205 map
Phone: 410-502-2850
Fax: 410-955-4129

Academic Affiliations & Courses

Graduate Program Affiliation

Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology

Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Activities & Honors


  • Leukemia Research Foundation, Postdoctoral Award, 2000
  • Research Scholar Award, American Cancer Society , 2007
  • Young Investigator Award, Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation , 2003
  • Career Award in the Biomedical Sciences, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, 2000
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Cancer Research Fund , 1997


  • American Society for Cell Biology
  • Biophysical Society

Professional Activities

  • , Biophysical Journal, 2009
  • BCMB Faculty Advisor for Annual Retreat, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, 2003
  • BCMB Graduate Program Admissions Committee, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, 2002
  • Cell Biophysics Day Symposium, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, 2008
  • Chair, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine IBBS Imaging Director Search Committee, 2006
  • Council, Johns Hopkins Medical School, 2005
  • Dept. of Cell Biology, Hay Graduate Student Fellowship Committee, 2009
  • Dept. of Cell Biology, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, 2008
  • Editorial board, Cytoskeleton, 2011
  • Editorial board, Current Biology, 2010
  • Educational Policy and Curriculum Committee, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, 2008
  • INBT Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Admissions Committee, Johns Hopkins, 2010
  • NBMed/HHMI Graduate Program Admissions Committee, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, 2007
  • Orals Committees, Johns Hopkins Graduate Examination Board, 2003
  • Summer Internship Program (SIP) Admissions Committee, Johns Hopkins, 2010
  • Young Investigators Day Postdoc/Medical Student Committee, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, 2007

Videos & Media

Recent News Articles and Media Coverage

Doug Robinson on the Shape of Amoebas (Fundamentals)

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