About Basic Sciences


Providing the foundation for curing cancer and other diseases by engaging in fundamental science that leads to key discoveries


Basic research is at the foundation of all scientific discoveries, underlying the innovative cures and treatments developed at Fred Hutch. Founded in 1981, the Basic Sciences Division has continually evolved to be at the forefront of discovery; seeking to understand the fundamental underpinnings of our own biology as well as the dysregulations that cause disease. Our research has yielded numerous landmark breakthroughs and scientific advances. We believe an inclusive, collaborative, egalitarian and creative environment is the basis for scientific innovation and world-changing discoveries.

Black Lives Matter Banner Over Fred Hutch

Our Commitmemt to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Fred Hutch stands with the victims and families of police brutality and systemic racism inherent in the United States. We believe that Black Lives Matter.

As a division we are committed to dismantling structural racism in science, diversifying our workforce and ensuring that all the members of the division have a supportive environment. As part of these ongoing efforts, trainees in the division have initiated the creation of a discussion group that will help us continually engage with, learn about, and challenge discrimination. We encourage everyone in the division to participate in events and activities aligned with these goals.

Learn more about the actions Fred Hutch is taking to end racial injustice and promote change at our organization and in our community.

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“Every day there’s a new problem to consider. It’s rewarding to lead a department whose goal is to answer fundamental questions about the innermost working of our cells.”

— Sue Biggins

Our Leadership

See our Faculty & Labs
Sue Biggins

Director, Sue Biggins, Ph.D. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Harmit Malik

Associate Director, Harmit Malik, Ph.D. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Toshio Tsukiyama

Associate Director, Toshio Tsukiyama, Ph.D., D.V.M.

Senior Operations Director, Susan Silbernagel, M.P.A.

Director, Sue Biggins, Ph.D. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Dr. Biggins is director of the Basic Sciences Division, an affiliate professor of biochemistry at the University of Washington, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. In her lab, she studies one of biology’s most fundamental processes: how cells sort chromosomes, the long molecules in which DNA is packaged. When chromosomes sort, or segregate, improperly, cellular processes go awry. Cells with too many or too few chromosomes can cause cancer, birth defects, or miscarriage.

Biggins led the first team to isolate the kinetochore, the large molecular machine that coordinates chromosome segregation. The ability to study this key molecular complex in test tubes paved the way for critical new findings, including the role that tension plays in chromosome sorting. Biggins is now working to understand more about how kinetochores form and how they work.

The region of the chromosome to which the kinetochore attaches is called the centromere. Her research also focuses on how cells maintain the location and unique molecular characteristics of the centromere during cellular processes including cell division.

Biggins received her Ph.D. in molecular biology from Princeton University and conducted her postdoctoral work at the University of California, San Francisco. She joined the Fred Hutch faculty in 2000 and served as associate director of the Basic Sciences Division from 2009 to 2018. In 2015 she was selected as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.

Biggins has served on numerous national scientific committees and review groups, including the Next Generation of Science committee of the National Academy of Sciences, which aims to improve science for early stage investigators in the U.S. She has also been actively involved in editing for scientific journals, including the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Journal of Cell Biology, Genetics and PLOS Genetics. She is currently a member of the Coalition of Life Sciences, a national alliance that fosters policies to promote research in the US.

She is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences and the Washington State Academy of Sciences, and is a fellow of the American Society of Cell Biology. Her awards include the 2015 Edward Novitski Prize from the Genetics Society of America and the 2013 National Academy of Sciences Molecular Biology Award.

Cultivating Next-Generation Researchers

Our division strives to attract the most dedicated and accomplished researchers to further the atmosphere of scientific excellence at Fred Hutch. With the goal of fostering advancement and collaboration, our senior faculty cultivates the scientific growth of younger researchers and supports their scientific development.

The division is committed to graduate education. Since 1994, we have participated in the Molecular and Cellular Biology Graduate Program, a partnership between Fred Hutch and the University of Washington. In 2000, we established the Harold M. Weintraub Graduate Student Award and Symposium. Held annually at the Hutch, the prestigious award recognizes outstanding achievement in biology by graduate students worldwide.

Contact Us

Division Administrators 

Susan Silbernagel

Senior Operations Director 

Christy Majorowicz

Associate Operations Director

Phone: 206.667.4496
Fax: 206.667.5939

Jill Thomas

Administrative Manager

Dominique Soldato

Events Coordinator

Matthew Ross

Science Communication Liaison

See Available Jobs in Our Division