Mark Robbins grew up near Boston and received his B.A. and M.A. degrees from Harvard University in 1977. He spent a year as a Churchill Fellow at Cambridge University and received his PhD from University of California, Berkeley in 1983. Following a postdoctoral fellowship at Exxon's Corporate Research Science Laboratory in New Jersey, he joined the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins University in 1986. He was promoted to Assoc. Professor in 1988 and to Professor in 1992.

Mark received a Presidential Young Investigator Award in 1986 and a Sloan Foundation Fellowship in 1987. He became a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) in 2000 and was awarded a Simons Fellowship in Physics for 2012-3. He served as Chair of the APS Group on Statistical and Nonlinear Physics and the Advisory Board of the Kavli Institute of Theoretical Physics (KITP) at the University of California, Santa Barbara and is on the Advisory Board of the Boulder School for Condensed Matter and Materials Physics. He has organized symposia and workshops for the Materials Research Society, the Aspen Center for Theoretical Physics, and KITP, most recently “From the Atomic to the Tectonic: Friction Fracture and Earthquake Physics in 2005 and “Physical Principles of Multiscale Modeling, Analysis and Simulation in Soft Condensed Matter” in 2012. He Chaired the 2010 Gordon Research Conference on Tribology.