125 Stanford Stories

NO. 116
Behind the Scenes

The value of basic research

Stanford invests in biomedicine’s future by funding inquiries into uncharted paths


Basic science aims to advance knowledge, not develop new drugs or cure disease. Yet today’s biomedical innovations are only possible because of fundamental research conducted decades ago.

It’s impossible to divine where the work of Stanford investigators doing this basic research will lead them. But investing in their work – and in basic science in general – is crucial to keeping the #NextGreatDiscovery alive.

Stanford works to independently fund graduate students in the biosciences who are investigating organisms and processes that they feel passionate about.

The hope is that these gifted researchers, released from pressure to “follow the money” from an adviser or outside funding agency, will pursue their passion toward findings that eventually benefit humanity.

“Growing up in Africa, you come in contact with disease. A lot of people get sick and we don’t really understand why. There’s this idea that everything is voodoo or witchcraft, and I knew it couldn’t just be that. I just wanted to understand it.”

– Stanford postdoctoral fellow Pascale Guiton on her research into the parasite Toxoplasma gondii

Writer Kylie Gordon and Magnum photographer Peter van Agtmael met Guiton and other early-career Stanford researchers and learned what motivates them on their uncharted paths.

Browse their visual essay on the vibrancy of basic research at Stanford.