UC Berkeley News


Howard Hughes Medical Institute names five Berkeley faculty as investigators

| 04 June 2008

Christopher Change (Noah Berger/AP photos © HHMI) 

Five Berkeley faculty members have received one of the most sought-after honors in biomedical research: appointment as Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigators with guaranteed research support for five, 10, or more years into the future.

The five are among 56 researchers “given the opportunity to tackle their most ambitious, risky research plans,” the nonprofit institute announced on May 27 from its headquarters in Chevy Chase, Md. The Berkeley professors will join 300 other HHMI investigators, nine of them at Berkeley, from academic institutions around the country.

Yang Dan  

The Berkeley members of the new class of investigators are Christopher Chang, assistant professor of chemistry and faculty scientist in the Chemical Sciences Division of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL); Yang Dan, professor of molecular and cell biology; Abby Dernburg, associate professor of molecular and cell biology and faculty scientist in LBNL’s Life Sciences Division; Michael Eisen, associate professor of genetics, genomics, and development in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology and faculty scientist in LBNL’s Genomics Division; and Jay Groves, associate professor of chemistry and faculty scientist in LBNL’s Physical Biosciences Division.

Abby Dernberg

Chang, Dernburg, Eisen, and Groves also are Berkeley faculty affiliates of the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3), a cooperative effort among three UC campuses and private industry to apply the tools of quantitative science to understanding biological systems.

“These 56 scientists will bring new and innovative ways of thinking about biology to the HHMI community,” said Thomas Cech, HHMI president. “They are poised to advance scientific knowledge dramatically in the coming years, and we are committed to providing them with the freedom and flexibility to do so.”

Michael Eisen  

The institute prides itself on taking risks on individual scientists, relying upon their innovation and daring to explore new areas, extend the boundaries of science or even change direction, no matter how long it takes to yield results. This “people, not projects” approach has proven successful: 124 investigators are members of the National Academy of Sciences and 12 have received Nobel Prizes.

Jay Groves

The new investigators were chosen in a nationwide competition among 1,070 applicants following a 2007 announcement soliciting researchers with four to 10 years of experience as faculty members.

HHMI is a nonprofit medical research organization that has invested more than $8.3 billion over the past two decades in support, training, and education of the nation’s most creative and promising scientists.

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