Hilary Catherine Robinson
JD, Harvard Law School, 2006;
AB, Harvard College, 2003
As an adjunct professor at VLS, Professor Robinson is accepting AWR and IRP advising in areas of her research interests, which broadly involve the role of law in the transformation of norms by scientific innovation.
While an assistant professor of law at VLS from 2009 until 2012, Professor Robinson taught the required first-year course in Constitutional Law, appellate advocacy, and first-year legal writing. She developed a seminar that focused on the interaction of intellectual property law with civil society at the site of agricultural biotechnology. In this domain, environmental objectives and local interests often fail to track with the interests of multinational corporations that hold patent rights to specific crop technologies in which these organizations have invested years of research and development. Professor Robinson brought a multidisciplinary approach to other areas of the law curriculum that intersect with technological innovation, developing a course structured around the question “what are the elements of a right to privacy, and what are the legal remedies for infringement of this right?” in an “Information Age”—where everyday activities increasingly involve the capture, recording, and transfer of large amounts of information, and where governmental policy is heavily reliant on information technology as a means of “knowing” and thereby lawmaking for an increasingly populous society. Professor Robinson’s appellate advocacy course focused on the case of United States v. Comstock (2009), exploring the legal uptake of psychiatry as a predictive science of abnormal behavior and its impact on public policy commitments to the criminal justice system as a rehabilitative function that eventually returns lawbreakers to society after the terms of their sentences are served.
Currently in Washington, D.C., as a visiting researcher at Georgetown University Law Center, Professor Robinson is working on two projects focused on federal government regulation and the concept of race. The first project (her dissertation), considers the interaction of race, statistical probability, and DNA databases in technologically-assisted law enforcement in the United States. She aims to answer the question of whether DNA databases are “sociotechnical” objects in which a society’s historic racial bias persists while giving rise to a new kind of positivism in the analysis of wrongdoing by refiguring the demographics of crime and punishment at the level of genes. In another project, she is looking at the use of race as a demographic descriptor in the modern regulatory state as it fosters innovation in biomedical science and manages the products of that innovation. Taking as a case study BiDil, a recently marketed drug for “African American heart failure,” this research explores how, despite the Human Genome Project’s twenty-first century declaration that race does not exist at the level of genes, race still conceptually drives regulatory decision making, and analyzes the pitfalls of channeling this scientifically-indeterminate concept into political and market objectives for biomedicine.
Professor Robinson received her AB, magna cum laude, from Harvard University with a special concentration in genomic science and public policy. She wrote her thesis on legal concepts of “kinship” in reproductive biotechnology. Professor Robinson received her JD from Harvard Law School, where she was co-chairwoman of the Women’s Law Association. She served as the Reginald F. Lewis Fellow for Law Teaching at Harvard Law School from 2006 to 2007, and received the Kenan Sahin Graduate Fellowship from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to pursue a doctorate in the Department of History, Anthropology, Science, Technology and Society, which she put on hold to teach at VLS. She has worked between academic terms for law firms Ropes & Gray and Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr, for the Harvard Center for International Development, and for the U.S. Department of State in Pretoria, South Africa, where she assessed the country’s capacity for biotechnology development.