Hutch Magazine

The icons

These pioneering researchers at Fred Hutch, who are shaping modern science and medicine and paving the way for others, offer advice to the next generation.

The icons

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch

Julie McElrath

"Make your own decisions, carefully, and stay open to change. Don’t be complicated. Value each person’s contributions.”

Dr. Julie McElrath saw her first patient with AIDS in the early 1980s, around the time HIV was identified. Today as the director of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division and the head of the laboratory program for the Hutch-based HIV Vaccine Trials Network, she plays a key role in the largest international program for testing HIV vaccines — the best hope for ending the pandemic.

"Don’t have this idea that there’s one mentor. I think the key for making it through is defining when you need help and finding the right person to give you advice. Think about the idea of different mentors for different parts of your life and career."

Dr. Sue Biggins, associate director of the Basic Sciences Division, studies how cells correctly distribute their chromosomes to their daughter cells when they divide. The Hutch biologist and her team made waves in their field a decade ago as the first to isolate the kinetochore, the complex molecular machine that orchestrates this delicate and precise segregation, from live yeast cells and
to study it in test tubes. That technique has allowed Biggins — and teams worldwide — to make significant discoveries about how the
system works.

“You need grit. All kinds of ups and downs will happen in your career: Papers won’t be accepted, grants won’t get funded. You’ve got to stick with it.”

Dr. Denise Galloway, associate director of Fred Hutch’s Human Biology Division, focuses on cancer-promoting viruses. Her research paved the way for one of the most stunning recent public health advances: the cancer-preventing human papillomavirus vaccine, which Galloway described as “the best since the polio vaccine.”

"Know your own talents and bring them to an important problem or question that truly interests you. Try to keep the bigger picture in view and focus on what you can contribute to it. The big picture includes your work, your family, and your own well-being."

A central figure in the Women’s Health Initiative, Dr. Garnet Anderson was instrumental in the WHI study that revealed the harmful effects of combined hormone therapy — a landmark finding that has saved thousands of lives and produced a net economic return of $37.1 billion. Anderson is also the director of Fred Hutch’s Public Health Sciences Division.

"First and foremost, pick a research problem that fascinates you. If you work on a project you love, you will be inspired to work through the challenging obstacles and the process itself will be enjoyable and worthwhile."

Dr. Linda Buck is one of only 12 women to have won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. The neurobiologist in the Basic Sciences Division has spent 25 years delving into the science of smell — including discovering the genes responsible for the majority of scent detection and leading studies illuminating how humans can identify more than 10,000 distinct odors.

"Don’t count on things that are fleeting."

Dr. Beverly Torok-Storb helped pioneer bone marrow transplantation as a cure for certain leukemias and lymphomas through her studies of blood stem cells and their requirements for successful growth. Today, the transplant biologist in the Clinical Research Division also runs internship programs at Fred Hutch that introduce students from underrepresented groups to science careers.