The Trustees of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) have elected Leslie B. Vosshall, PhD, now an HHMI Investigator at The Rockefeller University, as Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer. Vosshall will assume her new position full time on February 1, 2022.
Vosshall is currently the Robin Chemers Neustein Professor, head of the Laboratory of Neurogenetics and Behavior, and director of the Kavli Neural Systems Institute at Rockefeller. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the recipient of many awards recognizing the impact of her science and leadership.
Since becoming an HHMI Investigator in 2008, Vosshall has done groundbreaking work with her lab colleagues and collaborators to establish the Aedes aegypti mosquito as a genetic model organism for neurobiology – with particular emphasis on how mosquitoes hunt humans and the design of small molecules to block mosquito biting behavior. This research holds promise for combating the spread of yellow fever, dengue, Zika, and other emerging viruses that are transmitted to humans through the bite of a female mosquito.
Vosshall will succeed David Clapham, MD, PhD, who will step down from the chief scientific officer position in March 2022 and return to full-time research as a senior group leader at HHMI’s Janelia Research Campus. Clapham became HHMI’s chief scientific officer in 2016.
“I’m thrilled to welcome Leslie to our HHMI leadership team,” said HHMI President Erin O’Shea. “Her combination of scientific skill, HHMI experience, and passion for building the future of science will help us take big leaps forward to achieve our goals. I also want to deeply thank David for his leadership, stewardship, and tireless commitment to our basic science mission.”
Under O’Shea’s leadership, HHMI is pursuing a vision for the Institute centered on discovery science; diversity, equity, and inclusion; a healthy academic ecosystem; and public engagement. Through this work, HHMI seeks to influence academic science with the aim of building a scientific workforce in the United States that more fully reflects our increasingly diverse country and fostering a scientific culture that prizes mentorship, inclusive environments, and open sharing of research.
Vosshall will lead and manage HHMI’s Science department portfolio, which includes the HHMI Investigator and Hanna H. Gray Fellows programs, among other efforts. In its 2020 fiscal year, HHMI spent $653 million on biomedical research.
“This is a truly exciting time at HHMI, and I’m so grateful to be part of it,” Vosshall said. “We have a unique opportunity to meaningfully develop the next generation of scientists, right now. I’m eager to work with Erin and everyone at HHMI to make thoughtful investments for the future.”
Vosshall earned her PhD in molecular genetics at Rockefeller and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Columbia University lab of Richard Axel, an HHMI Investigator and Nobel laureate. It was in Axel’s lab that she developed a career-long interest in how smell works, with an early focus on using the Drosophila melanogaster fly as a model genetic organism. Since becoming an Investigator in 2008, she has pivoted her lab’s research focus to the deadly Aedes aegypti mosquito, including its biology and behavior – a significant change made possible by HHMI’s flexible support model and encouragement of risk-taking science, she says. Vosshall has participated as a mentor in HHMI’s Gilliam Fellowships program and serves on the advisory board of bioRxiv, the preprint server for biology.
Vosshall will maintain her lab at Rockefeller. She will begin her duties part time at HHMI in January 2022, transitioning to full time in March.
HHMI is the largest private biomedical research institution in the nation. Our scientists make discoveries that advance human health and our fundamental understanding of biology. We also invest in transforming science education into a creative, inclusive endeavor that reflects the excitement of research. HHMI’s headquarters are located in Chevy Chase, Maryland, just outside Washington, DC.