Pitt Chemist Pushes Boundaries with Alzheimer's Research; Rena Robinson's Adviser Quickly Learned He Had Stumbled onto a One-in-A- Million Mind and a Tenacious Scientist 12 Years Ago When the Young Woman from Louisville, Ky., Walked into His Lab at Indiana University in Bloomington to Begin Work on Her Doctorate. [Derived Headline]

By Erdley, Debra | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 6, 2016 | Go to article overview

Pitt Chemist Pushes Boundaries with Alzheimer's Research; Rena Robinson's Adviser Quickly Learned He Had Stumbled onto a One-in-A- Million Mind and a Tenacious Scientist 12 Years Ago When the Young Woman from Louisville, Ky., Walked into His Lab at Indiana University in Bloomington to Begin Work on Her Doctorate. [Derived Headline]


Erdley, Debra, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Rena Robinson's adviser quickly learned he had stumbled onto a one-in-a-million mind and a tenacious scientist 12 years ago when the young woman from Louisville, Ky., walked into his lab at Indiana University in Bloomington to begin work on her doctorate.

Professor David Clemmer marvels at everything Robinson, a professor who directs a research lab at the University of Pittsburgh, accomplished in his lab.

By the time Robinson finished her doctorate, Clemmer said, she had done groundbreaking work, detailing the aging processes in the brains of fruit flies and developing techniques in high-definition mass spectrometry that are used in cutting-edge labs around the world.

Today others are taking note of the 37-year-old scientist whose research lab at Pitt is pushing the boundaries of chemistry in the study of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Last week, Chemical & Engineering News, a trade publication that covers the industry, named Robinson one of the "Talented 12," an annual designation reserved for the nation's most promising young chemists, those pushing the boundaries of discovery.

"This group is monitoring our food supply for contaminants, tackling unyielding diseases such as Alzheimer's, and finding better ways to convert sunlight into electricity. ... We expect them to help safeguard the planet for future generations," Chemical & Engineering News boasted in an introduction to the young chemists.

Robinson came to Pitt seven years ago after finishing her postdoctoral work at the University of Kentucky. She, her husband and their two children, 3 and 18 months, live in Dormont.

In the interim, Robinson, a self-described fitness nut who loves spinning classes, has fallen in love with Pittsburgh and claimed an active role in her Hill District church as well as a number of professional societies that celebrate the accomplishments of black women in the sciences.

Robinson said that knowing that blacks and Hispanics are two to three times more like to be diagnosed with Alzheimer's has added to the urgency of her quest to identify triggers for the disease.

She marvels that her research has come this far. To get a lab up and running with a crew of talented post-doctoral students in seven years is more than Robinson imagined she would accomplish.

Their work focuses on finding clues at the molecular level in the aging process that could point to what sets off the changes that lead to Alzheimer's. …

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Pitt Chemist Pushes Boundaries with Alzheimer's Research; Rena Robinson's Adviser Quickly Learned He Had Stumbled onto a One-in-A- Million Mind and a Tenacious Scientist 12 Years Ago When the Young Woman from Louisville, Ky., Walked into His Lab at Indiana University in Bloomington to Begin Work on Her Doctorate. [Derived Headline]
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