The giant in biomedical engineering, Robert Langer

As a member of Professor Robert (Bob) Langer’s group, it is my pleasure to write a blog to introduce Bob and the journey to join the most creative group at MIT. If you want to know more about our research, please find my previous blog, “What engineers can do in the biomedical field?

The Journey to Langer Lab

I could vividly remember the first time I arrived in the U.S. in 2012, and the next day was the Cornell Biomedical Engineering annual retreat, where Bob was the keynote speaker. However, for an international student who had just entered the US, I did not know who he was and why so many people/faculties stood around him. After the retreat, I learned about him through a google search.

Educational training of Bob

Bob is a pioneer in biomedical engineering, and he is the first engineer who worked in a hospital to do biomedical research. In his educational training, he received his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering at Cornell University and a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Unlike his classmates, Bob did not go into the petroleum industry after graduation from MIT. Still, he chose to do his postdoctoral training in Dr. Judah Folkman’s lab at Boston Children’s Hospital to develop anti-VEGF drugs for cancer treatment.

Bob Langer, Edison of Medicine

Bob is called Edison of Medicine; also, he is one of 12 Institute Professors at MIT, which is the highest honor that can be awarded to a faculty member.  Bob has written more than 1,500 articles, and he is the most cited engineer in history (h-index 299 with over 363,000 citations according to Google Scholar).  He also has over 1,400 issued and pending patents worldwide.  Additionally, his patents have been licensed or sublicensed to over 400  pharmaceutical, chemical, biotechnology, and medical device companies. More importantly, Bob is a co-founder of many companies, including Moderna, which developed great COVID-19 to help humans build immune protection from coronavirus during the pandemic. From 1999 to 2002, Bob served as Chairman of the FDA’s Science Board (its highest advisory board). Last, Bob received numerous awards, including both the United States National Medal of Science and the United States National Medal of Technology and Innovation (he is one of 3 living individuals to have received both these honors), the Charles Stark Draper Prize (often called the Engineering Nobel Prize), Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, Albany Medical Center Prize, Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, Kyoto Prize, Wolf Prize for Chemistry, Millennium Technology Prize, Priestley Medal (highest award of the American Chemical Society), Gairdner Prize, Hoover Medal, Dreyfus Prize in Chemical Sciences, and the BBVA Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Biomedicine. He holds 36 honorary doctorates and has been elected to the National Academy of Medicine, the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences, and the National Academy of Inventors. That is why people called him the Edison of Medicine.

The Cornell alumni event in Boston where I first talk to Bob.

Cornell alumni event in Boston

In December 2017, I attended an alumni event in Boston where Bob was the host, and it was my first time to have an in-person interaction with Bob because it was a small event with 20-30 people. After the event, I connected with Bob. I received a lot of help from him, including the recommendation letter for my green card application, sharing his experience when I did not know what I decided to do after graduation, and advice for my career development. Now I am working in Langer/Anderson lab at MIT. It is a wonderful experience in this creative environment and being part of Langerites.

Langer Syndrome

It is a common genetic disorder (particularly in Langerites) caused by the overexpression of the genes for wanting to be like Bob. 😂 The symptoms are “carrying multiple mobile devices”, “tendency to respond to emails in <5 mins”, “High frequency of saying, “That’s gonna be big”,”Super”, “fantastic”,…”, “High craving for chocolate and diet coke”. I believe if you found someone has any symptoms above, he/she is highly possible one of the Langerites.

Bob’s advice

Bob always gives us simple, true, and powerful advice. Here, I would like to share with everyone: “Believe in yourself. If you love this work, pursue it. Be persistent. Don’t give up!”


This is my mentor, role model, Bob Langer, and my journey to Langer lab at MIT. I hope one day we could have seen/done further by standing on the shoulder of the giant, Professor Robert Langer.

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