Lai named director for partnerships and innovations at Swanson School

Eva Lai has been impressed by the innovative research at the University of Pittsburgh for some time. Now she’s part of the team that’s growing its potential. 

Lai was named director for partnerships and innovations at the Swanson School of Engineering, with an additional appointment as visiting research professor of mechanical engineering and materials science. She began her appointment Feb. 1, 2022.

Lai made a site visit to Pitt in 2006 when she was building a national research program for regenerative medicine for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to address wounded warriors’ injuries. Lai, a chemical engineer and deputy chief scientist with the DoD, was in the process of meeting with experts from universities, government and industry to understand the state of the science and determine how to create a program that could move more discoveries from laboratories into commercialization. She was impressed by the depth and collaborative spirit of the bioengineering work underway at Pitt. 

Over the years, as Lai continued developing and managing complex multi million-dollar research programs for the DoD, she was always impressed when she came across conference posters or plenary talks about Pitt research and technologies. Now she is working at Pitt to elevate research and the transfer of the University’s technologies into real-world uses. 

She earn a Ph.D. in chemical engineering at Johns Hopkins University and later worked as a senior scientist for NASA. At the Office of Space Flight, she led a $1 billion robotics development and acquisition program.

Lai served in multiple positions, including as deputy chief scientist, with the DoD’s U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command from 2006 to 2021. She played a key senior role in launching the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine that resulted in more than $200 million in research investments, provided oversight of $500 million in annual research programs for the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center as its deputy chief scientist, and leveraged the Small Business Innovation Research program to fund more than $40 million in new product lines ranging from mobile health applications to sensors to cell therapies.