Prize Recipient

Lei Dai
University of California, Los Angeles


"Spatio-Temporal Dynamics Before Population Collapse."


Lei Dai received his Ph.D. in physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2014. His thesis research was supervised by Jeff Gore. In the Gore Lab of Ecological Systems Biology, he used yeast populations as a model system to investigate the spatiotemporal dynamics before population collapse. In particular, he demonstrated that a set of "critical slowing down" indicators can be used to assess the fragility of populations.

Lei studied theoretical physics at University of Science and Technology of China from 2005 to 2009. As an undergraduate, he worked on phenomenological high energy physics at electron-positron linear collider. He was amazed to recognize the close relation between high energy physics and astrophysics, which investigate objects differing by forty orders of magnitudes in size (from quarks to quasars). To him, discovering connections between different scientific fields is a wonderful intellectual experience. So when he moved on to explore the world of living systems, he was thrilled to find many links between physics and biology. Lei is currently pursuing his interests in evolutionary dynamics of RNA viruses as a postdoc at UCLA, where he is co-supervised by Ren Sun and James Lloyd-Smith.