Raised outside Philadelphia, Shubin earned a Doctor of Philosophy in organismic and evolutionary biology from Harvard University in 1987. He also studied at Columbia University and the University of California, Berkeley.
He is the Robert R. Bensley Professor of Organismal Biology and Anatomy, Associate Dean of Organismal Biology and Anatomy and Professor on the Committee of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Chicago along with being the Provost of the Field Museum of Natural History. He is best known for his discovery of Tiktaalik roseae. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2011.
Shubin was American Broadcasting Company News" "Person of the Week" in April 2006 when Tiktaalik was unveiled, and made appearances on The Colbert Report January 14, 2008 and January 9, 2013.
The Communication Awards of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine awarded a $20,000 prize for excellence in communicating science to the general public to Michael Rosenfeld, David Dugan, and Neil Shubin in Film/Radio/television on October 14, 2015 for "Your Inner Fish". The awards are given to individuals in four categories: books, film/radio/television, magazine/newspaper and online, and are supported by the West. M. Keck Foundation.
Neil Shubin hosted Your Inner Fish on Public Broadcasting Service. The show was produced by Windfall Films and Tangled Bank Studios, a production company for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute that makes materials available for science classroom education.