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Erez Lieberman
2008 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize Finalist

Erez Lieberman
Courtesy of Erez Lieberman

Born in New York, Erez Lieberman studied mathematics, physics and philosophy as an undergraduate at Princeton. He won multiple thesis prizes, an International Manufacturing Technology Show “Best in Show,” and recognition as a USA Today academic All-American in 2001 and 2002. Following his undergraduate work, he spent a year at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, where he studied mathematics while earning a master's degree in history.

Now a graduate student in applied mathematics and genomics at Harvard University and a student at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, Lieberman’s interests span the theoretical and applied sciences.

One problem that Lieberman has focused on is human balance. One quarter of senior citizens chronically fall down, leading to over 300,000 broken hips annually in the United States. Tragically, 40 percent of broken hips are followed by death within a year. (Lieberman’s beloved grandmother, Sylvia Kasner, was one of these people). Yet balance problems are rarely addressed till it is far too late.

Lieberman was the lead developer of an artificial intelligence system to enable early diagnosis of poor balance in aging adults, a technology, which is presently being commercialized. One of the early adopters was NASA. Today, Lieberman’s diagnostic system is in use by NASA astronauts.

Lieberman was a member of the team that developed ChIP-Seq, a pioneering method for mapping protein binding across an entire genome. (The article describing that method was September 2007’s most downloaded Nature paper). Together with Martin Nowak and Christoph Hauert, Lieberman discovered evolutionary graph theory, a novel approach to population genetics, which now appears in several textbooks on probability theory and evolution. His most recent work showed that the emergence of linguistic rules over the centuries follows an inverse-square principle, the first clear proof that natural selection applies to the evolution of language. This paper appeared on the cover of Nature and was named one of Nature's “Best of 2007.” Lieberman’s research has been described in over 100 newspapers and media outlets; the list includes USA Today, London Telegraph, Paris Metro, Berliner Zeitung, Pakistan Daily Times, National Public Radio, BBC Radio, Radio Sweden, and PBS.

In his free time, Lieberman is an avid modern artist. His work has appeared in galleries across the United States and Europe. He has co-authored two books, The Apollo Prophecies and City of Salt; the latter was named one of PhotoEye's “Best Books of 2006.”