Investigator Program
Approximately 324 Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigators, widely known for their creativity and productivity, are pushing the bounds of knowledge in biomedical research.

Nicole King

Howard Hughes Investigator Nicole King

The current group of HHMI investigators includes 25 Nobel laureates and 182 members of the National Academy of Sciences. HHMI urges its researchers to take risks, explore unproven avenues, and embrace the unknown – even if it means uncertainty or the chance of failure. They identify and pursue significant biological questions in a rigorous and deep manner. They develop new tools and methods that enable creative experimental approaches to biological questions, when necessary bringing to bear concepts or techniques from other disciplines. They forge links between basic biology and medicine, opening new pathways for disease diagnosis and drug discovery.

By employing scientists as investigators rather than awarding them grants for specific research projects, HHMI provides its researchers long-term, flexible funding that gives them the freedom to explore and, if necessary, change direction. HHMI investigators have support to follow their ideas through to fruition, even if that process takes a very long time. Our philosophy of selecting “people, not projects” seeks researchers who bring innovative approaches to the study of many different biological problems through the biomedical disciplines of genetics, cell biology, developmental biology, biochemistry, and neuroscience as well as adjacent fields of biophysics, chemical biology, biomedical engineering, and computational biology. Plant scientists, evolutionary biologists, and patient-oriented researchers are also in the ranks of current investigators. 

HHMI investigators are based at host institutions across the United States. This arrangement currently represents collaborative partnerships with more than 60 research institutions. Investigators continue to participate in educational and administrative activities at their host institutions and receive additional research support from a variety of sources.

HHMI investigators Eva Nogales, George Q. Daley, and Linda Buck share thoughts on their research and how HHMI advances science.


Through periodic competitions, HHMI accepts applications from researchers at more than 200 research institutions across the United States, with the aim of identifying individuals who have the potential to make significant contributions to science. Investigators continue to be based at their host institutions; however, HHMI investigators and some of their laboratory personnel are Institute employees and are supported by HHMI field offices throughout the country. Each investigator receives his or her full salary, benefits, and a research budget from HHMI. Appointment is for a five-year term, which may be renewed after an exacting review process.


HHMI investigators include some of the nation’s most innovative plant scientists, appointed to the Institute through a partnership between HHMI and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (GBMF). Despite the central role plants play in maintaining human health and in healthcare, basic research in the plant sciences has long been underfunded in the United States. HHMI and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation are collaborating to support creative plant biologists as HHMI investigators to pursue bold research that could result in large contributions to science and society. These 14 HHMI-GBMF investigators are conducting research on a variety of plants, such as wheat, maize, tomato, Arabidopsis, moss, and algae.


HHMI’s Collaborative Innovation Awards (HCIA) support interdisciplinary teams of scientists, each headed by an HHMI investigator, in pursuing potentially transformative research projects. They are intended to encourage HHMI investigators to collaborate with scientists, both inside and outside of HHMI, to undertake projects that are new and so large in scope that they require a team with a range of expertise. Collaborators receive funds from HHMI to cover their research budget for the HCIA project over four years, along with the flexibility to pursue their best ideas. HHMI began the program in 2008 and made a second round of awards in 2012, selecting awardees after inviting HHMI investigators to propose collaborations.

Program Dates

The 2015 Investigator Competition is now closed. The deadline was June 3, 2014 at 3 p.m. (ET).