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From Math Club to the Broad

The trajectory of the Broad Institute's Eric Lander's career was anything but a straight line, writes Gina Kolata in The New York Times. Lander became interested in mathematics as a high school student, and received a doctorate in the field from Oxford University. But as he taught managerial economics at Harvard Business School, "he was growing restless, craving something more challenging," Kolata says. Lander became interested in biology, and met David Botstein, who was searching for a mathematician to help with a project. Soon enough, Lander was part of the Human Genome Project, and heading up the Broad. "I feel like it's so incredibly lucky to end up here," he says. "I could not have planned this. What if I hadn't met David Botstein? What if I hadn't gone to a meeting where the human genome was discussed? I have no idea. This is as random as it gets."

A related article in the Times notes that the Broad started with a lunch to bring together both Harvard and MIT. "One of the few things that everyone who attended can agree on is that it was pretty much a disaster," the article says. Lander's vision for the Broad hinged on computer scientists and engineers from MIT working with medical researchers from Harvard's hospitals. "It was a messy process involving big personalities and different cultures, ripe for misunderstanding," says Harvard's then-provost Steven Hyman. Lawrence Summers, then Harvard's president, adds that "it was a no-brainer that Harvard had to be part of it."

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