Dr. Jennifer Robbins
- Associate Professor, Biology
First Year at Xavier University:
- Ph.D., Stanford University
- B.S., Ohio Northern University
Microbiology, Infectious disease
How have pathogens evolved to take advantage of humans in order to spread? They exploit human molecules, as when bacterial proteins interact with human proteins and tissues in order to steal resources and evade detection by the immune system. And they exploit human socioeconomic structures, as when viral spread accelerates because social systems encourage people to have more than one concurrent sexual partner.
Dr. Robbins both studies and teaches about infectious disease—its molecular biology as well as the natural and human ecologies that shapes it. Recent biology courses at Xavier include Parasitology, Virology, HIV Seminar, Microbiology, Introductory Life Sciences for Education Majors and General Biology I. Many of her courses are taught in an inverted structure, with students reading and viewing online lectures before class, and arriving prepared to engage in problem-based learning in the classroom. In 2010, she was recognized with the Joan G. McDonald Award for outstanding teaching in the sciences. In 2012-13, she served as Faculty-in-Residence at Xavier's Center for Teaching Excellence.
Dr. Robbins has also acted as a trip leader and professor in Kumasi, Ghana, through Xavier’s Academic Service Learning Program. Other experiential learning experiences include co-trip leader for Xavier's Tropical Biodiversity course in Costa Rica and five issue-centered, educational student service trips with Xavier's Alternative Breaks program (AIDS dementia in Birmingham, Alabama; fair trade and Jesuit solidarity in El Salvador; orphans and poverty in Ukraine; justice for Native Americans in Pine Ridge, SD; and green urbanism in Vancouver, Canada). In past years, she's taught Immunology, Human Physiology, Molecular Biology, ninth grade biology in California and interned in an A-level biology class in Arusha, Tanzania. While faculty at St. Mary's College of California, she was named a fellow of the Catholic Institute of Lasallian Social Action in order to create and execute a service-learning course on the root causes of HIV in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa.
Her current scholarly work concerns how pathogens have co-evolved with the placenta in order to cross and strengthen, respectively, the feto-maternal barrier. She spends most summers in the Pediatrics Department at University of California, San Francisco as a Visiting Assistant Professor, studying placental transmission of Listeria and Toxoplasma with Dr. Anna Bakardjiev. Recent peer-reviewed papers include two primary articles featured on major journal covers and an invited review article on the tissue-level interactions between pathogens and the placenta. At Xavier, she and her research students are using statistics to better understand the socioeconomic correlates of HIV infection in the United States, a project for which she was named Xavier's Jesuit Faculty Fellow in 2011-2012. She is also currently exploring ways to improve and assess learning outcomes in Xavier Biology's mandatory student research experiences. This includes mentorship of continuing projects and student-directed laboratory projects.