David Li aims to develop transformative technologies that enable new biological insights, approaches and therapies.
With a background in engineering and a strong interest in molecular biology, Li sees an opportunity to design new tools for manipulating cells and molecules. After graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology this spring, Li will spend time in the U.K. as a Marshall Scholar, studying the structure of amyloid filaments in neurodegenerative disease at the MRC Lab of Molecular Biology through Cambridge University, before pursuing a Ph.D. in bioengineering at Stanford University. Li received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science with minors in mechanical engineering and economics from MIT in 2022.
Throughout his undergraduate career at MIT, Li worked on gene editing technologies in the Broad Institute laboratory of Feng Zhang. As part of the Zhang laboratory, Li not only played key roles in the development of new biological tools for genome editing and directed evolution, but also, in 2021, helped design a new, large-scale COVID-19 testing method.
Li has been interested in gene editing technologies since middle school, when he enrolled in MIT’s online classes in introductory biology and molecular biology. In high school, he carried out research in the lab of Eric Hendrickson at the University of Minnesota. In 2018, he was the national winner of the Genes in Space competition as part of a team that designed a pipeline for understanding how changes in gravity could affect DNA break repair. This experiment, performed on the International Space Station, constituted the first use of CRISPR in space.
In his free time, Li develops online biology courses on EdX and enjoys recreational swimming.