Eric Lander

Dr eric lander  director of the broad institute of mit and harvard
is a Professor of Biology at the MIT former member of Whitehead Institute, and founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard who has devoted his career toward realizing the promise of the human genome for medicine.

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Eric_Lander1859 karma

No contest: I'd rather map the genome of 100 duck-sized horses than 1 horse-sized duck! With 100, you get information about the population genetics. So you can learn cool things about why some of the duck-sized horses can fly better and others can run better. Can anyone online get us the DNA for this project?

Eric_Lander989 karma

OK. KillaWillaSea's threat of sending genetically modified chihuahuas is forcing me to respond!

I don't think immortality is technically possible -- evolution has installed many many mechanisms to ensure that organisms die and make room for the next generation. I bet it is going to be very hard to completely overcome all these mechanisms.

I'm also not convinced immortality is such a good idea. A lot of human progress depends on having a new generation with new ideas. Immortality may equal stagnation.

Eric_Lander905 karma

I think Yamanaka's discovery that adult cells can be "reprogrammed" into stem cells was mind-blowing. Completely unexpected. Huge impact.

Eric_Lander737 karma

We need to shorten the time for getting a PhD and for a first faculty job. Young people should get out into the scientific world early, when they have lots of fresh ideas. We should encourage grants to young scientists and should encourage them to take big risks. When you're taking big risks, science is amazingly fun.

Eric_Lander732 karma

First, THANK YOU for teaching science in secondary school. It is so important that knowledgeable scientists take on the crucial (and often under-appreciated) job of preparing and inspiring the next generation!

The single most important thing for students to know is that science is constantly changing: the point is not to memorize what's in the book, but to learn that you can ask your own questions and then learn how to answer them. Science is just organized curiosity!

Eric_Lander531 karma

My recollection is that baldness is associated with higher testosterone levels -- so that could be the (indirect) evolutionary explanation.

(Or maybe it gives you better aerodynamics as a runner!)

Eric_Lander530 karma

One amazing direction will be "synthetic biology". The ability to write any DNA sequences you'd like -- to create new genes, new genetic regulators, new genetic programs. It'll be like writing software in DNA. (Instead of C++, we'll have D++.) There will be tremendous opportunities for creativity (and some possibilities for abuse.)

Eric_Lander486 karma

Two memories:

(1) Getting on the phone every Thursday at 11am Eastern for three years, with the same group of people around the world dedicated to a common goal. We argued with each other, yelled at each other, cajoled each other, bucked each other up. We had ups and downs, but we never doubted the mission of making the information freely and rapidly available to everyone.

(2) Taking my (then 13 year old) daughter Jessica to the White House for President Clinton's announcement of the completion of the draft sequence of the human genome. It was great to share with her.

Eric_Lander293 karma

It came VERY late! I loved math (and hated biology) in high school, college and grad school. It was only when I was out of grad school and my brother gave me some papers to read about the brain that I got interested in biology. I started sitting in on some courses at Harvard and MIT to learn some biology. But I really got hooked when I started doing some experiments in a colleague's lab. Bottom line: It's never too late to discover a passion.

Eric_Lander291 karma

No, I have never advised the President to raise a clone army. As I recall, the clone army didn't work out so well for the Empire.

However, the White House has carefully considered the issue of creating a Death Star (raised in a citizens' petition). You can find the WH answer here: