Dong Lai

Benson Jay Simon ’59 MBA ’62 and Mary Ellen Simon MA ’63 Professor


After undergraduate study at the University of Science and Technology of China, Dong Lai came to the US for graduate study, receiving Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Cornell in 1994. He joined the Astronomy faculty in the Fall of 1997 after three years as a postdoctoral fellow at Caltech.  He has held visiting positions at Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics, and several research research intitutues in China (National and Shanghai Astronomical Observatories, Tsinghua University, Shanghai Jiaotong University).  His research lies in theoretical astrophysics.

Research Focus

Current research interests include:

1. Compact Objects: Neutron stars, black holes, white dwarfs, gravitational waves.

2. Astrophysics of Exoplanets: Dynamics and formation, protoplanetary disks.

3. Astrophysical Fluid Dynamics in general:   Disks, waves, instabilities, tides, celestial mechanics, etc.


  • Fuller, J., and Lai, D. 2012, “Dynamical Tides in Compact White Dwarf Binaries: Tidal Synchronization and Dissipation”, MNRAS, 421, 426-445
  • Lai, D. 2012, “DC Circuit Powered by Orbital Motion: Magnetic Interactions in Compact Object Binaries and Exoplanetary Systems”, ApJ, 757, L3
  • Foucart, F., and Lai, D. 2013, “Assembly of Protoplanetary Disks and Inclinations of Circumbinary Planets”, ApJ, 764, 106
  • Fuller, J., Lai, D., and Storch, N.I. 2014, "Non-radial Oscillations in Rotating Giant Planets with Solid Cores: Application to Saturn and its Rings", Icarus, 231, 34
  • Lai, D. 2014, “Star-Disc-Binary Interactions in Protoplanetary Disc Systems and Primordial SpinOrbit Misalignments”, MNRAS, 440, 3532-3544
  • Storch, N.I., Anderson, K.R., and Lai, D. 2014, “Chaotic Dynamics of Stellar Spin in Binaries and the Production of Misaligned Hot Jupiters”, Science, 345, 1317
  • Munoz, D.J., and Lai, D. 2015 “Survival of Planets Around Shrinking Stellar Binaries”, PNAS, 112, 9264
  • Lai, D. 2016, “Solar Obliquity Induced by Planet Nine: Simple Calculation”, AJ, 152, 215
  • Anderson, K.R., Storch, N.I., and Lai, D. 2016 "Formation and Stellar Spin-Orbit Misalignment of Hot Jupiters from Lidov-Kozai Oscillations in Stellar Binaries", MNRAS, 456, 3671
  • Wang, C., and Lai, D. 2016 "Axion-Photon Propagation in Magnetized Universe", JCAP, 6, 006
  • Lai, D., and Pu, B. 2017, “Hiding Planets Behind a Big Friend: Mutual Inclinations of MultiPlanet Systems with External Companions”, AJ, 153, 42
  • Xu, Wenrui, and Lai, D. 2017, “Resonant Tidal Excitation of Oscillation Modes in Merging Binary Neutron Stars: Inertial-Gravity Modes”, Phys. Rev. D 96, 083005
  • Miranda, R., Munoz, D.J., and Lai, D. 2017, “Viscous Hydrodynamics Simulations of Circumbinary Accretion Discs: Variability, Quasi-Steady State, and Angular Momentum Transfer”, MNRAS, 466, 1170
  • Zanazzi, J.J., and Lai, D. 2017, “Lidov-Kozai Mechanism in Hydrodynamical Disks: Linear Stability Analysis”, MNRAS, 467, 1957
  • Liu, B., and Lai, D. 2017, “Spin-Orbit Misalignment of Merging Black-Hole Binaries with Tertiary Companions”, ApJ Letters, 846, L11
  • Vick, Michelle, Lai, D. 2018, “Dynamical Tides in Highly Eccentric Binaries: Chaos, Dissipation and Quasi-Steady State”, MNRAS, 476, 482
  • Xu, Wenrui, Lai, D., and Morbidelli, A. 2018, “Migration of Planets Into and Out of Mean Motion Resonances in Protoplanetary Discs: Overstability of Capture and Nonlinear Eccentricity Damping”, MNRAS, in press (arXiv:1805.07501)
  • Liu, Bin, and Lai, D. 2018, "Black Hole and Neutron Star Binary Mergers in Triple Systems: Merger Fraction and Spin-Orbit Misalignment", ApJ, in press (arXiv:1805.03202)

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