UW News

September 22, 2016

5 UW professors among HHMI’s inaugural class of Faculty Scholars

Photo by Katherine Turner.

Photo by Katherine Turner.

Amid a decline in funding for scientific research, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute is partnering with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Simons Foundation to launch a new Faculty Scholars program. Announced Sept. 22 by HHMI, the inaugural crop of early career scientists includes five faculty members from the University of Washington.

The Faculty Scholars program, which is distinct from the HHMI Investigator Program, is intended to support scientists in their initial years as research faculty. With dwindling grant opportunities, early and mid-career research scientists may feel more pressure to shelve innovative yet risky projects in favor of “safe,” more conventional alternatives. According to its statement, HHMI intends for this support to provide faculty members freedom and flexibility to pursue more innovative or risky projects — endeavors which have greater potential for scientific advancements but also less certainty for success.

The 84 scholars will share $84 million in funds over five years, broken down into $600,000 to $1.8 million for each recipient. Scholars are based at 43 institutions across the United States.

Three HHMI Faculty Scholars have primary appointments at the UW School of Medicine or the College of Arts & Sciences.

Maitreya Dunham

Maitreya Dunham

Maitreya Dunham: associate professor of genome sciences

Dunham uses comparative genomics and experimental evolution techniques to investigate how yeast genomes evolve over spans of a few weeks to millions of years. Her research informs therapies that counter the evolution of drug resistance in fungal and bacterial pathogens, viruses and cancer.

Jennifer Nemhauser

Jennifer Nemhauser

Jennifer Nemhauser: professor of biology

Nemhauser studies plant signaling pathways to learn how multicellular organisms develop and respond to their environment. She gleans information about molecular networks in natural systems and then synthetically programs these core functions into yeast cells to measure the effect of evolved and engineered changes. Her ultimate aim is to develop technologies that support farmers and foster global health.

Daniel Stetson

Daniel Stetson

Daniel Stetson: associate professor of immunology

Stetson studies how our cells detect infection by a virus. Sensors of foreign DNA and RNA are essential for activating immune responses to viruses, but they can also cause autoimmune disease if not properly regulated. Stetson’s lab explores this dichotomy of protective immunity and autoimmunity activated by the same antiviral sensors.

In addition, two scholars based at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have joint appointments as UW faculty members.

Jesse Bloom

Jesse Bloom

Jesse Bloom: assistant member at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and UW affiliate associate professor of genome sciences and microbiology

Bloom studies the evolution of proteins and viruses. He develops experimental and computational techniques to understand the forces that shape evolution at the molecular level. This work provides insight into how viruses such as influenza can rapidly change to evade immune system defenses.

Frederick "Erick" Matsen

Frederick “Erick” Matsen

Frederick Matsen: associate member at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and UW affiliate associate professor of statistics

Matsen is developing computational algorithms to analyze large sets of genetic data from an evolutionary perspective. He also is working to improve the accuracy of analyses used by biologists to infer evolutionary relationships between species or individual organisms.


Portions of this post were adapted from materials provided by HHMI.

For more information, contact James Urton in the UW Office of News & Information at 206-543-2580 or jurton@uw.edu.