Shubin's family is originally from Russia (Шубин Shubin being a frequent Russian surname).
Shubin earned a Ph.D. in organismic and evolutionary biology from Harvard University in 1987. He also studied at Columbia University and the University of California, Berkeley.
Shubin was ABC News's "Person of the Week" in April 2006 when Tiktaalik was unveiled. and appeared on The Colbert Report on January 14, 2008, and again on January 9, 2013. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2011. He is also the host of the show Your Inner Fish on PBS. 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.