Janelia Research Campus

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Janelia Research Campus
Updated Janelia Logo.png
EstablishedSeptember 6, 2006 (2006-09-06)
Research typeneurobiology
Budget$300 million
DirectorRonald Vale
LocationAshburn, Virginia
Campus689 acres (2.79 km2)
Operating agency
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Eric Betzig

Janelia Research Campus is a scientific research campus of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute that opened in October 2006.[1] The campus is located in Loudoun County, Virginia, near the town of Ashburn. It is known for its scientific research and modern architecture. The current Executive Director of the laboratory is Ronald Vale, who is also a vice-president of HHMI. He succeeded Gerald M. Rubin in 2020.[2] The campus was known as "Janelia Farm Research Campus" until 2014.[3]


Most HHMI-funded research supports investigators working at their home institution.[4] However, some interdisciplinary problems are difficult to address in existing research settings, and Janelia was built as a separate institution to address such problems in neurobiology.[5] As of November 2011, it has 424 employees and room for 150 more.[6] They specifically address the identification of general principles governing information processing by neuronal circuits, and the development of imaging technologies and computational methods for image analysis. In 2017, it announced a new research area, mechanistic cognitive neuroscience.[7]

At any given time, Janelia supports several large collaborative projects to address needs for data and techniques of interest to a wide scientific community.[5][8] These currently (as of 2021) include the development of large-scale neuroanatomical data for Drosophila (at the light and electron microscopy levels), a corresponding light level map of the mouse brain, improving the technology of genetically coded fluorescent sensors, and a number of smaller projects. Results include much improved fluorescent calcium sensors and the first entire full-brain image of Drosophila with neuronal resolution.[9][10]

The center was designed to emulate the unconstrained and collaborative environments at AT&T Bell Laboratories and Cambridge's Laboratory of Molecular Biology. Researchers are on six-year contracts and fully internally funded, independent of traditional research grant funding.[11]

Gerald M. Rubin was the first executive director of Janelia, and saw it from concept through construction to operation. Ronald Vale took over as director in early 2020. There are roughly 50 research laboratories headed by senior researchers including Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz, Gerry Rubin, Eric Betzig, Karel Svoboda and Barry Dickson.[12] Previous lab heads include Sean Eddy, Tamir Gonen, Lynn Riddiford, James W. Truman, and Robert Tjian.


The original Janelia Farm house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places,[13][14] and the property was purchased by HHMI from the Dutch software maker Baan Companies in December 2000.[15] The 689 acres (2.79 km2) campus features a 900-foot (270 m) long, arc-shaped laboratory known as the Landscape Building. The building, designed by Rafael Viñoly, 270 feet (82 m) deep at the ground floor, is built into a hill and designed to be the primary research facility.[16] Site and landscape design were completed by Dewberry in 2006 and include over four acres of green roof meadow plantings which blend the building into the surrounding site. In 2006, the institute hired landscape architecture firm Lewis Scully Gionet, Inc., to redo some of the previous landscape work which was completed in fall 2008 (and won an Honor Award from the Maryland and Potomac chapters of the American Society of Landscape Architects). This work includes an architectural water feature, expanded path network, and siting of multiple pieces of artwork, as well as comprehensive planting additions. Additional campus-wide landscape improvement designed by LSG Landscape Architecture followed up until now.

Community involvement[edit]

Together with the Loudoun Academy of Science,[17] HHMI donates approximately $1 million annual support for science education through the Loudoun County Public School District.[18][19] Janelia also hosts a quarterly public lecture series for the public.[20]


  1. ^ Carey, Mac (February 9, 2011). "Brave New World". Virginia Living. Cape Fear Publishing. Retrieved June 27, 2016.
  2. ^ "Ron Vale Named Next Executive Director of Janelia Research Campus and HHMI Vice President".
  3. ^ "History". Janelia Research Campus. Retrieved 23 June 2015.
  4. ^ "About HHMI: Introduction".
  5. ^ a b "Janelia's Philosophy".
  6. ^ M. Mitchell Waldrop (17 November 2011). "Research at Janelia: Life on the farm. Five years in, has a lofty experiment in interdisciplinary research paid off". Nature. 479 (7373): 284–286. doi:10.1038/479284a. PMID 22094670.
  7. ^ "What is Mechanistic Cognitive Neuroscience? | Janelia Research Campus". www.janelia.org. Retrieved 2018-04-12.
  8. ^ "Project Teams - Janelia Research Campus". www.janelia.org. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  9. ^ "In a 'tour de force,' researchers image an entire fly brain in minute detail". Science | AAAS. 2018-07-18. Retrieved 2018-10-16.
  10. ^ Zheng, Zhihao; Lauritzen, J. Scott; Perlman, Eric; Robinson, Camenzind G.; Nichols, Matthew; Milkie, Daniel; Torrens, Omar; Price, John; Fisher, Corey B. (2018-07-19). "A Complete Electron Microscopy Volume of the Brain of Adult Drosophila melanogaster". Cell. 174 (3): 730–743.e22. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2018.06.019. ISSN 0092-8674. PMC 6063995. PMID 30033368.
  11. ^ Yudhijit Bhattacharjee (8 December 2006). "Neurobiology on the Farm". Science. 314 (5805): 1530–1532. doi:10.1126/science.314.5805.1530. PMID 17158300.
  12. ^ "Janelia.org".
  13. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  14. ^ "Howard Hughes Medical Institute Breaks Ground For Janelia Farm Research Campus". Howard Hughes Medical Institute. May 5, 2003. Retrieved January 2, 2019.
  15. ^ "Janelia Farm". HHMI Bulletin. Howard Hughes Medical Institute. 14 (3): 10–15. July 2001. Archived from the original on 2012-07-04. Retrieved 2011-06-03.
  16. ^ "Campus project designed to inspire ground-breaking science" (PDF). R&D Magazine. 13 November 2007.
  17. ^ Michael Alison Chandler (30 May 2014). "Loudoun County's Academy of Science showcases teens' first forays into research". Washington Post.
  18. ^ "Loudoun County Schools, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Announce Innovative Science Education Partnership - HHMI.org". HHMI.org. Retrieved 23 June 2015.
  19. ^ "Janelia in the Community - Janelia Research Campus". www.janelia.org. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  20. ^ "Dialogues of Discovery - Janelia Research Campus". www.janelia.org. Retrieved 24 January 2018.

Further reading[edit]

  • Gerald M. Rubin: Establishing a new Research Institute: The Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Janelia Farm Research Campus. in: Perspectives of Research - Identification and Implementation of Research Topics by Organizations - Ringberg-Symposium 2006 (Max-Planck-Forum 7) Max-Planck-Gesellschaft (Hrsg.), München 2007, ISSN 1438-8715

Coordinates: 39°04′18″N 77°27′53″W / 39.0716°N 77.4648°W / 39.0716; -77.4648