Professor Eric Lander, founder and director of the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Institute, is featured as one of America's 20 best leaders in the Oct. 30, 2006 issue of U.S. News and World Report.
America's Best Leaders is a special section of the weekly magazine, jointly produced by U.S. News and World Report and the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. A committee of government, community and private sector leaders convened by the center selected the honorees. U.S. News does not have a vote.
Lander, 49, is founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and a popular professor of biology who has taught at MIT since 1993. In 1987, Lander received a MacArthur "genius" award. He achieved world renown for his leadership role in the Human Genome Project, which completed sequencing of the human genome in 2003.
"Eric Lander's name is familiar to anyone who has kept an eye on scientific breakthroughs of the past decade or so," said the U.S. News article. "Heading up the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, he's got a hand in most of the things that are possible now that the human genome is sequenced. The challenge for biology, he says, is no less than to reveal the molecular basis of human disease. His 'to do' list includes discovering the mechanisms of cancer, decoding the signals that cells use to communicate, and laying bare the sources of genetic variation. He's equally enthusiastic about developing the technology and techniques needed to do that work."
The panel that picked the leaders accepted nominations from a wide range of sources and compiled research on each nominee. According to the magazine, the committee defined a leader as a person who "motivates people to work collaboratively to accomplish great things." Twenty winners were selected, including some teams, from a field of more than 200.
"Lander is not one of those researchers more comfortable dealing with lab rats than people. His multifaceted background (he was trained in mathematics and taught economics before going into biology) helps him talk across scientific borders and steer notoriously individualistic scientists to work together. With his easy metaphors, he can get even lay audiences excited about concepts that otherwise would sail over their heads," the article said.
Other winners include ex-U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and architect Frank Gehry, who designed MIT's Stata Center.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on November 1, 2006 (download PDF).