Biographic Sketch (Research): Dong Lai

Dong Lai was born in 1968 in Ganzhou (Jiangxi), China. He received a B.S. degree in 1988 from University of Science and Technology of China. He came to the US through the T.D.Lee (CUSPEA) program and received Ph.D. in physics from Cornell University in 1994. After three years of postdoctoral fellowship at Caltech (TAPIR), he joined the Cornell Astronomy faculty as an Assistant Professor, and eventually became a full Professor (2008).

Lai is a theoretical astrophysicist who has worked on several different areas, from compact objects to exoplanets. He has made original contributions on the physical processes that take place in strong magentic fields of neutron stars (L01, HL06), such as the effect of QED on radiative transfer in neutron star atmospheres (LH02, LH03, HL03) and x-ray polarization signatures (LH03, VL06, WL09), and the magentic effect on the property of neutron star surfaces and interiors (LS91, LS97, ML06, ML07). His theoretical works have also helped constrain and elucidate the physical mechanisms of supernova kicks (LBV95, LQ98, AL99, AL99, LG00, LCC01, WLH06).

Lai has contributed significantly to the understanding of hydrodynamical processes in coalescing neutron star binaries: the first analytic calculation of gravitational wave phase shift due to (Newtonian) static tides and related tidal instability (LRS94, LW96, WL00), resonant tides and tidal heating, (L94, HL99, XL17) and magnetic effect (L12). He made the first calculation of the gravitational waveform from young neutron stars undergoing nonlinear bar-mode instability (LS95). Since the detection of GWs by LIGO, he has returned to this "old" field and has studied dynamical formation of binary black holes, predicting signatures of spin-orbit misalignments (LL17, LH18).

Lai made an original contribution to accretion disks around magnetic stars, showing that magnetic star - disk interaction can give rise to disk warping and precession (L99). He developed the theory of corotational excitation of global oscillations of accretion disks around black holes in an attempt to understand QPOs (LT09, TL09, FL09, FL11) -- while the theory is beautiful (GR really makes the mode grow), whether this is the explanation of QPOs is unclear (L13; unforunately, BH accretion disks are messy...). Lai has also studied dynamical tides in compact white dwarf binaries (FL12), heartbeat stars (FL12) and highly eccentric binaries (L97, VL18).

Since 2010, Dong Lai has devoted a large part of his research on exoplanet dynamics and formation. He has studied the formation of hot Jupiters (still the most enigmatic among all exoplanets) (ASL16, MLL16), and has explored several mechnisms of producing spin-orbit misalignments (LFL11, L14, ZL18, AL18), He showed that stellar spin dynamics (often chaotic) driven by migrating planets plays a most important role in determining the stellar obliquities (SAL14, SL15, SL17). He has also studied the dynamics of planets and disks around binaries (FL14, ML15, ML15, ML16, MML17, ZL18), tides (L12, SL14) and resonances (XL16, XLM18) in exoplanetary systems, as well as the influences of external companions on the inner multi-planet systems (LP17, LAP18). He found that not being formally trained in celestial mechanics sometimes has an advantage, allowing him to do some calculations in a simple way (L96).

Dong Lai enjoys working with students in small groups, and most of his research papers have been written with a student. He is fortunate to have worked with some wonderful students over the years.

CV , publications (to be updated occasionally); see astro-ph arXiv for recent papers.


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