Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI)

GENIE Project Scientist

Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI)

Ashburn, United States

Janelia Research Campus is a pioneering research center in Ashburn, Virginia, where scientists pursue fundamental questions in neuroscience and imaging. The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) launched Janelia in 2006, establishing an intellectually distinctive environment for scientists to do creative, collaborative, hands-on work. To learn more about working at Janelia, visit



The Genetically-Encoded Neuronal Indicator and Effector (GENIE) project designs, screens, optimizes, and collaborates in in vivo deployment of cutting-edge fluorescent protein-based sensors for neural activity imaging for high-resolution monitoring of brain function. The GENIE project employs project team members with expertise in advanced molecular biology, protein engineering, high-throughput cell-based screening, in vivo imaging, and image analysis. The Project Scientist will lead a team of scientists from these different disciplines and oversee several mammalian cell-based screens to improve sensor functionality, as well as the evaluation of these protein-based sensors ranging from in vitro biophysics to in vivo functional imaging.


The Project Scientist is the central hub of GENIE project activity, and is responsible for directing, contributing to, and reporting on every facet of his/her project. Janelia team projects are supported throughout multiple phases of development, from pilot projects intended to explore and define directions for future larger efforts, to large, organized efforts with clear milestones and deliverables, as well as multi-institutional consortia centered at Janelia. The GENIE project team is relatively mature, running for nearly a decade, so the role of GENIE Project Scientist focuses on leading development teams (including development of analysis and software systems and/or data production capabilities), establishing and optimizing new cell-based screens when necessary, enabling wider collaboration, and managing production operations and development staff, while keeping a strong focus on setting and achieving ambitious scientific goals. The Project Scientist has an outward-facing role, as well, giving institute-wide talks on team progress, and speaking at conferences about the mature products of the GENIE pipelines.




Essential Duties and Responsibilities:


Steering Committee (SC) Administration

Each Janelia team project is guided by a steering committee of Janelia lab heads and visiting scientists, who provide high-level scientific guidance and whose laboratories all contribute to and use the results of the team efforts. The Project Scientist serves as the bridge between the steering committee and the research operations under their direction.


  • Plan regular steering committee meetings, gathering input from SC members and organizing and distributing agendas in advance of each meeting, being mindful to keep the SC focused on topics of appropriate level and impact.
  • Document SC meeting discussions, issuing minutes of appropriate detail for future reference.
  • Invite discussion of special topics, involving experts from outside the SC to join meetings as needed.
  • Initiate new proposals and requests for resources as needed.
  • Keep SC members informed about project performance toward goals and milestones, status of performance to budget, and operational challenges encountered.
  • Prepare, communicate, and revise research and production plans, with input from the SC.
  • Initiate, drive, and document SC discussions and approval of project-specific policies and procedures (e.g., collaboration relationships, publication and reagent sharing policies).


Manage Project Scientific Efforts and Operations

  • Ensure active, productive collaboration with postdocs and researchers within SC member and collaborating labs, sometimes with team projects serving as highly-engaged service providers of data and information critical to their research.
  • Assist in and direct the development of project-associated tools (e.g., data analysis and representation tools) that will be of broad use to collaborators and the research community. This may include individual research contributions, software and algorithm development, as well as software system architecture design.
  • Assure timely, smooth transfer of data and information to project collaborators and users.
  • Provide custom-tailored tools and solutions for individual collaborators as needed.
  • Effectively work with commercial suppliers and vendors to develop custom solutions, ensure proper equipment operation, and assure quality of reagents used in project operations. This may involve collaboration with the Janelia Purchasing department.
  • Manage sharing of data and reagents as outlined in project policies and guided by general academic research norms, including the use of commercial vendors for distribution of research reagents.


Maximize Project Effectiveness by Leveraging Janelia Resources

  • Work closely with Janelia Shared Resources and Project Technical Resources to achieve project goals. Efforts can range from staffing early-stage efforts from these groups to utilizing services as an integral part of project operations.
  • Plan, negotiate clear agreements on scope of work, commitment levels, and pricing with internal resource groups.
  • The Project Scientist is responsible for working closely with the Finance group to prepare, communicate, and operate within project budgets.


Directly Manage Project Staff (including Research Technicians, Specialists, Postdocs)

  • Recruit the very best staff members, authentically representing the unique opportunities afforded by being part of Janelia research and team projects.
  • Evaluate and decide on appropriate staffing approaches, including use of internal resources, temporary staff, temporary-to-hire positions, contractors, use of unique-to-Janelia resources such as Scientific Computing, etc. to optimally meet project needs.
  • Effectively manage performance (goal setting, reviewing performance, mentoring) of direct staff, who have a range of career interests and aspirations.
  • Plan staff training, motivation and morale efforts within project resources and scope to ensure employee engagement and productivity.
  • Plan staff salary levels and increases on an annual or as-needed basis.
  • Schedule staff time off to minimize disruptions to project progress.
  • Directly address and handle performance evaluations & specific issues, in collaboration with the Janelia People and Culture department.


Communicate Project Outcomes and Future Directions

  • Janelia team projects receive periodic input from external sources, including project-focused advisors and the Janelia Advisory Committee.  The Project Scientist leads efforts with the SC to produce biennial project proposals, present updates and plans, and interact with advisors.
  • Project team efforts are represented at the annual Janelia Symposium, through scientific talks and posters, and a biennial Janelia Thursday Seminar. Project Scientists are expected to actively participate in presentations to the wider Janelia research community.
  • The Project Scientist plays a key role in coordinating input from SC members and others in the preparation of scientific manuscripts for publication, as well as providing academic access to data and reagents.


Other Duties and Responsibilities

  • Collaborate with Janelia Technology Transfer Office as necessary.
  • Perform other related duties as required.




  • May manage project technical and research staff, both HHMI and contract staff, of up to 20 people. 


Preferred Qualifications:


  • Advanced degree in Biology, Biochemistry, Neuroscience, Protein Engineering, Physics, Chemistry, Computer Science, Engineering, Applied Mathematics, or related field, preferably in the research area of the project under consideration, or equivalent experience.
    • Ph.D. preferred
  • Experience with high-throughput screening.
  • Experience with in-vivo imaging.
  • Depending upon specific project criteria, three to more than ten years of post-education experience required in academia or industry.
  • Experience in managing the development and operation of large-scale algorithm-intensive software systems may be required for analysis-intensive projects.
  • Experience in successfully organizing, managing, and driving scientifically and technically diverse and challenging projects to completion, on time, and within budget required.
  • Excellent communication skills, written and verbal, required.
  • Knowledge of cellular or systems neurobiology preferred.
  • Demonstrated negotiation skills and abilities preferred.
  • Willingness to work in a team environment: sharing responsibilities, work, and credit with others is essential.
  • Experience working at a range of levels of effort, including lab/bench-level experimentation, operational and strategic planning, and communication of plans and results required.
  • Experience managing technical staff preferred.





Physical Requirements:


  • Occasionally lifts and/or carries objects weighing up to 20 pounds.
  • Occasionally stoops and bends.
  • Occasionally reaches and grasps with arms and hands.
  • Work involves possible exposure to malodorous vapors, animal allergens and other animal-borne hazards, experimental microbial agents, low dose radiation, contamination by toxic chemicals and acids and presence of carcinogenic substances.
  • Long periods of standing and/or sitting.


Please apply via recruiter’s website.

Quote Reference: 1003