Q&A: Ron Vale, new chief of Janelia Research Campus, on why 15 years is a good research time frame

Science | AAAS | 2/22/2019 | Staff
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This week, cell biologist Ron Vale was named executive director of Janelia Research Campus, the in-house research arm of the $20 billion Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Vale, now at the University of California, San Francisco, has been part of HHMI’s cadre of roughly 300 investigators at institutions for the past 24 years. Next January, he will replace fruit fly geneticist Gerald Rubin, Janelia’s director since its founding in 2003.

When the now–$130 million Janelia opened its doors on the site of a former farm in Ashburn, Virginia, some questioned its narrow focus on neurobiology and suggested the funding should go toward adding HHMI investigators. But the institute is now a well-established research center with 41 small groups and 190 total lab staff.

HHMI - Tweaks - Focus - Areas - Years

In late 2017, HHMI announced some tweaks: Focus areas will be limited to 15 years. The institute is refocusing its work on brain circuitry to study the mechanisms of cognition. And a new research area will be added every 5 years, starting with one to be chosen by an ongoing open competition. One constant will be the institute’s work on tools such as novel microscopes.

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Q: What appealed to you about this position?

Culture - Reasons - Janelia - Kind - Experiment

A: I'm greatly interested in science culture and that’s one of the reasons I was very attracted. Janelia is a very interesting, kind of unique experiment that allows scientists to do their work in unique ways, from small groups that work together to promoting young scientists, to an environment that rewards technology and tool building. Doing that experiment well is important for scientists elsewhere as...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Science | AAAS
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