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Pulin Li, Ph.D.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Dr. Pulin Li is a member of the Whitehead Institute and the Eugene Bell Career Development Professor in the Department of Biology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She completed a Ph.D. in Chemical Biology with Dr. Leonard Zon from Harvard University, where she discovered novel signaling pathways that regulate hematopoietic stem cells during embryo development and adult stem cell transplantation. She then completed postdoctoral work with Dr. Michael Elowitz at California Institute of Technology, studying how cell-cell communication coordinates tissue patterning. To answer this central question in developmental biology, she developed a bottom-up approach by genetically engineering communication circuits in individual cells and then reconstituting multicellular interactions in a petri dish, which led to the successful reconstitution of morphogen gradients, a key module in embryo development. Using this approach, together with quantitative imaging and mathematical modeling, she discovered crucial roles of negative feedback loops in ensuring the precision of morphogen gradients and tissue patterning. At Whitehead Institute, her lab is further developing molecular, cellular and computational tools to expand our capability of engineering genetic circuits and reconstituting multicellular interactions. The lab is applying these tools to study a broad range of tissue-level questions, with a keen focus on understanding how the spatial relationship among diverse cell types is established and how the spatial organization influences tissue physiology. These engineering efforts are also complemented with quantitative analysis in natural tissues. Dr. Li is a recipient of the NIH Pathway to Independence award, NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, Santa Cruz Developmental Biology Young Investigator Award, and R. R. Bensley Award from the American Association of Anatomy.

Science Programs at Allen Institute