Basic Sciences Division

About the Division

Basic science discoveries are the foundation for ultimately understanding the causes of and developing the treatments for human disease. 

motil colon cancer cells

Immunofluorescence of the actin cytoskeletin of motil colon cancer cells expressing Myc-nick.

Photo provided by Maralice Conacci-Sorrell, PhD

The Basic Sciences Division at the Fred Hutch was founded in 1981 with the goal of providing a unique and exciting environment to foster creative and groundbreaking research.  The division consists of 29 laboratories, each working in diverse areas related to all aspects of biology.  The labs employ structural, genetic, molecular, cellular, developmental, and evolutionary biology methods to address unresolved questions in biology using a wide range of model systems.  These include: viruses, bacteria, yeast, nematode worms, fruit flies, zebrafish, mice and humans.  This wide spectrum of models enables a thorough analysis of the internal workings of cells as well as studies of the complex interactions between cells and organisms. 

Mouse cortical neuron expressing green fluorescent protein (GFP)

Mouse cortical neuron expressing green flourescent protein (GFP)

Photo provided by Cooper Lab

Basic Sciences maintains an egalitarian philosophy that promotes stimulating and creative science.  The division's emphasis on scientific excellence, collegiality and interactivity has led to many important scientific advances.  These include key discoveries related to the molecular basis of differentiation, epigenetic and genetic controls of gene transcription, mechanisms of signal transduction, regulation of the cell cycle, molecular controls over HIV and other viruses, the structural basis for RNA and DNA enzymes, and regulation of developmental processes.  The division is set up with common equipment and resource areas to promote frequent discussions and many of the investigators actively work at the bench.  The egalitarian philosophy is manifested by space and salary being determined solely on the basis of rank, and major decisions such as hiring and promotion are made by vote of the faculty (one person, one vote, regardless of rank, with the exception of promotions for which only those in a higher rank vote).

Confocal image of the head of a 5-day old zebrafish showing the cranial motor neurons in the brain.

Confocal image of the head of a 5-day old zebrafish showing the cranial motor neurons in the brain

Photo provided by Moens lab

The laboratories are highly interactive and collaborations are highly encouraged.  Our extensive process of sharing has resulted in the spread of new ideas, reagents and techniques throughout the division within a matter of days of their introduction.  A network of informal weekly laboratory meetings helps to foster this exchange, as do regular meetings of clubs composed of scientists with common research interests, such as the developmental biology club, structural biology group and Seattle area mitosis meeting. Moreover, this collaborative approach to science naturally produces numerous publications jointly authored by members of different laboratories in the division.

Budding yeast Saccharomuces cerrevisiae

Budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Photo provided by Gottschling Lab

The division also sponsors the Friday Evening Seminar, a forum in which students, postdoctoral fellows, technicians and faculty present their work to the entire research community, followed by "beer chat".  A vigorous program of weekly seminars, presented by scientists from other institutions, makes sure that scientists keep in touch with the latest developments. In addition, the Basic Sciences faculty meet weekly to informally discuss their recent research.

Biomolecular catalytic reaction design

Biomolecular catalytic reaction design

Photo provided by Stoddard Lab

The division is committed to graduate education and the faculty participates in the Molecular and Cellular Biology Graduate Program, a joint effort between the Hutch and University of Washington that began in 1994. There are currently about 29 graduate students in the Basic Sciences Division.  Our graduate program competes directly for students with the strongest research universities across the nation and the students are outstanding.  In 2000, we established the Harold M. Weintraub Graduate Student Award and Symposium, which is held at the Center annually and recognizes outstanding achievements in the biological sciences by graduate students throughout the world.  Ten students from the division have won this award.

Our goal is to continue to attract the best and most dedicated scientists at all levels to contribute to the outstanding scientific milieu that fosters interactions and to the nurturing environment provided by our senior members.


Many of the approximately 50 past and current faculty members in the Basic Sciences Division have received prestigious awards recognizing their scientific achievements. Dr. Linda Buck won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2004 for her discoveries of odorant receptors and the organization of the olfactory system and in 2015 elected to the Unidted Kingdom's Royal Society. The late Dr. Hal Weintraub and seven current division faculty members were elected into the National Academy of Sciences, a society that promotes the development of science and technology. Dr. Mark Roth was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2007. Four members of the faculty are Fellows of the American Academy for Arts and Sciences, and six have been elected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The division has ten past or present Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators and Early Career Scientists.

The division faculty has received numerous junior faculty awards. Drs. Cecilia Moens and Harmit Malik were awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. The division has also had four Pew Scholars, a Rita Allen Foundation Scholar, two Searle Scholar, two Basil O'Connor Scholar awards, three Sloan Research Fellow, two Sidney Kimmel Scholars, a Beckman Foundation Scholar, two Keck Foundation Distinguished Young Investigators in Medical Research and a Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation Scholar.

Basically Amazing


Video presenting basic science research at the Hutch