In Perspective

By David Chao, PhD, President and CEO

In this letter, I am delighted to share more about our upcoming transitions to a new Scientific Director and Dean of the Graduate School. As we announced late last year, Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado will succeed Robb Krumlauf as Scientific Director and Matt Gibson will succeed Scott Hawley as Dean

Since Robb joined the Institute as its founding Scientific Director almost two decades ago, the Institute has grown and matured from a start-up of a few dozen members to an established institution of five hundred. Robb has played an invaluable role in converting Jim and Virginia Stowers’ vision into a world-class basic research institute recognized around the world for its accomplishments. He has made innumerable concrete contributions to the Institute’s success, but perhaps his most significant impact has been intangible. Robb’s love of science, the Institute and its people has permeated the Institute and become a distinctive part of the Stowers way. After handing over his responsibilities as Scientific Director, Robb will continue to lead his research program on the Hox genes and contribute to the community as a Stowers Investigator.

Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado will succeed Robb in July of this year. Alejandro joined the Institute in 2011, and, from the outset, his exceptional scholarship, scientific acumen and warm laughter have been welcome additions to the community and culture of the Institute. He has led a groundbreaking research program on regeneration that has been recognized by many awards and honors, including his recent election to the National Academy of Sciences. Since 2013, Alejandro has also led an effort critical to the Institute’s current and future success - the recruitment of new principal investigators. His work in this role led to the recruitment of four promising junior researchers as new assistant investigators. Driven by the same passion for science and the Institute, Alejandro is eager and ready to build upon the foundation laid by Robb and others and lead the Institute’s science to the next level. After adding this new role, Alejandro will continue leading his research program as an investigator of the Stowers Institute and of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He will also be assisted by Stowers Investigator Kausik Si in the new role of Associate Scientific Director.

In addition to a new Scientific Director, the Institute will soon have a new Dean for its graduate school. Over a decade ago, Scott Hawley co-authored the original proposal outlining the vision for the graduate school. Soon thereafter, Scott became the founding dean of the newly named Graduate School for the Stowers Institute for Medical Research. Under Scott’s leadership, the Graduate School grew from a germ of an idea to a thriving program with almost 50 pre-doctoral researchers in residence. Scott’s passion for training, mentoring and teaching has always been a critical driver of the school’s meteoric rise. After transferring his responsibilities as Dean, Scott will continue to lead his research program in meiosis as a Stowers Investigator. Scott will be ably succeeded by Investigator Matt Gibson as the new Dean and Assistant Investigator Sarah Zanders in the newly created role of Vice Dean.

As the Institute welcomes its next generation of leaders, I am as struck as much by their differences as by their similarities. Our scientific leaders, past and present, come from dramatically different backgrounds, work on dramatically different areas of biology and have effective, but dramatically different, leadership styles. There is strength in the diversity of our leaders, and there is even more strength in what our leaders have in common—a love for science, the Institute and its members. As they prepare to build upon the accomplishments of our founding generation of scientific leaders, I am impressed by our new leaders’ confidence, passion and commitment. Perhaps the greatest gift that the Institute has received from its founders is a vision and set of values that have inspired our leaders and members to build a special institution where collaboration, creativity and an enterprising approach all combine to make magic happen.

As you read the latest examples of the Institute’s accomplishments and initiatives in these pages, I hope you share my pride in what the Institute has achieved, my excitement about our new leaders, and my confidence in Jim and Virginia Stowers’ credo that “The Best is Yet to Be.”