The deadline is approaching for the first-ever open competition
to become an HHMI (Howard Hughes Medical Institute) Investigator, one
of the sweetest gigs in science. For the first time, HHMI is focusing
on early-career investigators. The application deadline is 13 June at 3
p.m. Eastern Time.
In this competition, HHMI expects to appoint 50 new investigators. Once
appointed, HHMI Investigators become employees of HHMI--the institute
pays 100% of salary--although they keep their faculty appointments and
continue to work at their host institutions. Appointments are for 5
years, but renewals are routine. Research budgets are flexible and
generous, covering staff--postdocs and technicians but not graduate
students--and operating costs. (HHMI considers requests for major
equipment periodically in separate competitions.) HHMI Investigators
are encouraged to change directions when changing directions is a good
idea and to try out new ideas. If your research takes years to bear
fruit, don't worry: HHMI will wait.
The new competition is different from previous ones in several
respects. For the first time, HHMI is seeking early-career
scientists--specifically, people between years 4 and 10 of their
tenure-track faculty (or equivalent) appointments. For just the second
time, scientists can apply directly to HHMI--there's no institutional
endorsement involved--and there's no limit to how many applicants can
come from a single institution. In earlier competitions, except for a
small competition last year limited to physician-scientists, the
eligible institutions nominated scientists to compete to become HHMI
HHMI Investigators must be working on biomedical problems but don't
have to be biologists. HHMI puts chemistry, physics and biophysics,
biomedical engineering, and computational biology on its nonexhaustive
list of eligible fields. HHMI Investigators do, however, have to work
at one of 200 eligible institutions; there's a list
on HHMI's Web site. Applicants must have one or more "active, national,
peer-reviewed research grants that provide at least 3 years of support,
such as an NIH [National Institutes of Health] R01 award."
Career-development awards and mentored grants don't count. HHMI
Investigators cannot be federal employees, they cannot receive material
research support from for-profit entities, and they must be able to
spend at least 75% of their time on research. Finally, HHMI
Investigators can't change institutions during their first (5-year)
Application packages should include a CV, a 250-word summary of major
achievements, a 3000-word or shorter description of current and planned
research, and PDF files of five carefully chosen publications. Letters
of reference are not allowed during the first stage, although they will
be solicited for semifinalists, which will be announced in the fall.
New HHMI Investigators will be announced next spring.
HHMI expects the competition to be "keen"--but don't let that deter you. Be bold.