Tiger of the Week: Eric Lander ’78

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(Len Rubenstein/Courtesy the Broad Institute)

Who knew that biology could make you such a star? In January, President Barack Obama called Eric Lander ’78 his favorite scientist (it doesn’t hurt that Lander also serves as co-chairman of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology). Last month, Lander was named America’s “hottest” researcher of 2010 by Thomson Reuters, based on the amount of times his work was cited in the past year.

 
A hot paper, according to the list, is “less than two years old and has achieved citations, in the scientific journals indexed by Thomson Reuters, at a rate markedly higher than papers of comparable type and age in the same field.” Lander topped the list as a co-author of 10 highly cited publications on topics ranging from genetic mapping to human disease.
 
Lander, a math major at Princeton who went on to Oxford as a Rhodes scholar, serves as president and director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. He is best known as one of the principal leaders of the Human Genome Project, the groundbreaking effort to sequence the base pairs of human DNA. While the work provided valuable information that drives important research today, Lander believes that future generations of researchers are likely to gain even more from the knowledge that the genome carries. As he explained in a 2009 PAW interview with Hilary Parker ’01:
 
“[A]ll life on this planet contains in its genomes the record of 3.5 billion years of evolution, the lab notebooks of evolution’s experiments, information about exposure to different infectious diseases, and so much more. It’s as if life has been keeping notes in its genomes on all these topics for 3.5 billion years, and this is the generation that finally gets to read these lab notebooks.”
Do you have a nominee for Tiger of the Week? Let us know. All alumni qualify. PAW’s Tiger of the Week is selected by our staff, with help from readers like you.