Gerald Rubin and Janelia Farm the focus at Chamber luncheon
Loudoun County may well house a future Nobel Prize winner. In fact, as long as Janelia Farm Research Campus is around, it seems quite likely.
This was one takeaway for attendees of Tuesday's Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce Leadership Luncheon with Dr. Gerald Rubin, the vice president and executive director of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Janelia Farm.
A graduate of MIT and Cambridge, Rubin leads several hundred scientists at his research campus, a leading biomedical facility where prolific minds from diverse disciplines use the latest technologies to tackle biology's greatest questions. Janelia's core mission includes identifying general principles guiding how information is processed by neuronal circuits and developing new imaging technologies and computational methods for image data analysis.
And the scientists are doing this cutting-edge research right here in Loudoun, at the magnificent, multi-million-dollar Ashburn facility.
Janelia has become a partner to the Loudoun civic community, donating $1 million annually to Loudoun County Public Schools, supporting the Loudoun County Fire and Rescue squad and hosting four public lectures with thought-leaders in science. Moreover, roughly two-thirds of the scientists and employees at Janelia live in Loudoun.
The approach for Rubin and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute is “people, not projects.”
“We say to someone, we think you're very smart – we're going to give you $1 million a year to support your scientific research,” Rubin said.
Pushing boundaries is ingrained in Rubin's mindset. When plans for Janelia first began circulating publicly, Rubin said roughly 90 percent of the reaction was negative, with the term “money sink” being tossed around.
“I liked this because my feeling was, if everyone liked it, you must not be taking enough of a risk,” he said.