As a laboratory of developmental biology, our guiding interest is to comprehend how complex biological patterns can be assembled with stereotyped precision. This requires a detailed understanding of how cells come to execute appropriate behaviors — be it adoption of specific cell fates, proliferation, or apoptosis — and do so at the right times, in the right places, and in the right numbers. Dysfunction of processes that direct normal tissue patterning results not only in developmental disorder but also underlies adult disease. Tellingly, many factors whose mutation is relevant to human cancer were first identified and characterized with respect to development in model organisms.

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Selected Achievements

Louise and Allston Boyer Young Investigator Award for Basic Research, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (2009)

Kimmel Scholar, Sidney Kimmel Foundation for Cancer Research (2007-2009)

V Scholar, V Foundation for Cancer Research (2006-2008)

Career Award in the Biomedical Sciences, Burroughs Wellcome Fund (2005)

Special Fellow, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (2004-2006)

Fellow, Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation (2000-2003)

First elucidation of the major basis of miRNA-target recognition

Discovery of novel transcription and signaling and factors that regulate neural development

Eric Lai

At Work: Developmental Biologist Eric Lai

The two distinct interests that have shaped Eric Lai’s life — science and music — still resonate powerfully with his developmental biology work.