In the first floor lobby of the Weintraub Building, which houses Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s basic science research groups, there’s a picture of a laboratory crowded with people.
Or rather, one person — it’s a quirky composite photo of Dr. Paul Neiman, digitally created by his friend and former colleague Dr. Ron Reeder.
“It’s Paul, Paul, Paul, Paul, Paul,” laughed Dr. Ann Reynolds, a Fred Hutch librarian who’s worked with Neiman on several archive and history projects. “That says it right there. Paul’s been involved in so much at the Hutch in addition to his science.”
The picture was unveiled at Neiman’s retirement party in 2009, the same time that the sky-lit lobby where the picture hangs was dubbed the Paul Neiman Atrium.
But Neiman knows a longer backstory of the space that now bears his name.
“You know, this atrium was never supposed to be here,” said the 76-year-old molecular biologist and transplant doctor on a recent visit to the building — and campus — he helped shape as the Hutch’s former scientific director and founder of one of its core scientific divisions.
When the research center moved from its original single-building home in Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood to its current campus in South Lake Union in 1993, Neiman helped direct the planning for what would become the Weintraub Building.
He wanted common spaces in the center of every one of the building’s six floors, he said, where researchers could congregate to catch up, brainstorm ideas and otherwise get a fresh perspective on their research outside of their laboratories. It was an idea emblematic of the informal, unenforced but historically successful spirit of scientific collaboration that’s pretty much the epitome of the building’s Basic Sciences Division.
Unfortunately, the six common areas were deemed unsafe in case of fire during construction, so the builders eliminated all but the ground-floor lobby in the building’s atrium.
“[Current Basic Sciences Division director] Jon Cooper used to call this the Neiman Shaft,” joked Neiman.