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Our Model

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About Us / Our Model
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Our Model
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The Howard Hughes Medical Institute has spent six decades advancing discovery science. From the beginning, our core strategy has been to find and generously support innovative scientists, allowing them to focus on their research; gain access to tools, space, and staff; and accelerate discovery.

In many ways, our Janelia Research Campus distills our mission into its purest form. Janelia systematically removes the obstacles that normally slow scientists down and adds elements that boost productivity or even alter the kinds of research possible.  

Key Features

Our model purposefully includes key features that have historically been found among the most innovative research institutions in the world:

  • Small individual research groups that promote collaboration, communication, and mentoring
  • Group leaders who are active bench scientists
  • Internally funded research – no outside grant applications allowed, and no pressure for science coming out of Janelia to have immediate medical or commercial value
  • Excellent support facilities and infrastructure
  • Accelerated career growth – we strive to enable individuals to set and reach challenging goals during their time with us
  • Originality, creativity, and collegiality are expected and rewarded
  • Scientific diversity, with researchers in biology, physics, chemistry, engineering who represent a range of computational, experimental, and theoretical approaches
  • Free-flowing and self-assembling collaborative teams rather than “top-down” projects
  • A culture of risk-taking that values intellectual freedom and alternative paths over academic security

Janelia allows its scientists to follow their passions, motivated by the HHMI motto, "People Not Projects." You pitch your bold ideas – freed from the constraints and priorities of government funding agencies – and we provide the support and intellectual freedom to pursue them. We expect our laboratory heads to be adventuresome, passionate, and courageous. When we hire you, we bet millions of dollars of support on your success and we expect you to bet your future on vigorously pursuing your boldest ideas.

What We Value

Admittedly, this arrangement is not for those who are risk-averse. We value demonstrable, game-changing advances, but not modest or incremental advances. We value success, but we recognize the importance of collaborations and teams more than individual achievement. When Eric Betzig won the Nobel Prize, he said, “I view this prize as much as Harald [Hess]’s as it is mine. Basically, together we found this missing link that made the idea I’d pitched 10 years earlier work. I would not have had the courage to do that alone.”

We believe that one of the major reasons behind the success of the MRC LMB and Bell Labs was that individual scientists were inspired to do their best work by frank yet constructive input from their colleagues. At Janelia, each of us sees it as our role to help one another succeed, not just by sharing reagents and technical knowledge but by creating an intellectual environment where it is acceptable to ask probing questions, to suggest different approaches to problems, or even to ask whether a problem is worth studying at all. We believe it is our responsibility to be our own toughest critics. At Bell Labs, this ethos allowed scientists from different disciplines to work together to tackle challenges that led to fundamental advances in human knowledge and a revolution in communications and computing technologies. At Janelia, we want to do the same for imaging and neuroscience.