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Introduction of the Zhang Laboratory

We are part of the Department of Systems Biology, the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, and the Motor Neuron Center at Columbia University Medical Center.

We are fascinated by the complexity of the mammalian nervous system and its underlying molecular mechanisms. While mammals have a similar number of genes compared to phenotypically simpler organisms (such as worms), one apparent feature of mammalian genes is their more complicated gene structures, providing an opportunity for sophisticated regulation at the RNA level.

The focus of the Zhang lab is to dissect RNA regulatory networks in the nervous system as a way to understand the mammalian complexity manifested in evolutionary-developmental (evo-devo) processes and in several neuronal disorders. The lab has a mixed dry and wet setup, and takes a multidisciplinary approach that tightly integrates high-throughput biochemistry, genomics and computational approaches applied to mouse models and in vitro neuronal differentiation systems from pluripotent stem cells. On the mechanistic side, the Zhang lab focuses on fundamental understanding of the targeting specificity of RNA-binding proteins (RBPs), how they regulate alternative splicing in various cellular contexts, especially in the nervous system, and how such regulation can be disrupted by mutations and genetic variations. On the functional side, the lab aims to uncover the roles of RBPs in determining the neuronal cell fate, morphological and functional properties during neural differentiation and maturation. The lab has also been working on translating fundamental knowledge on RNA regulation to precision genetic medicine, with a particular focus on multiple devastating monogenic diseases affecting the central nervous system.


2023 Systems Biology Department Retreat (Woodloch Pines Resort, PA)

Lab News

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Congrats, Dr. Moakley!! (11/2023)

  • 11/22/2023. Congrats Dan Moakley for successfully defending the PhD thesis on neuron type-specific alternative splicing regulation!
  • 10/17/2023. Congrats Yocelyn Recinos for winning the poster award at Systems Biology department retreat!
  • 10/02/2023. (Belated news) We released our preprint on SpliceRUSH, a high-throughput screening method for mapping both proximal and distal splicing-regulatory elements in native sequences. Congrats Yocelyn and team!
  • 10/02/2023. (Belated news) Welcome new PhD students Albertine Albertine Neal, Fahad Paryani, and Tianji Yu for rotating in the lab!
  • 07/17/2023. Welcome Madeline Scalon, Vivian Coraci, and Matthew Yuan for joining the lab as visiting high school students to perform their summer research!
  • 07/14/2023. Welcome Ruchika for starting her postdoc in the lab!
  • 06/08/2023. Congrats to Brian Joseph, joint postdoc in Zhang and Wichterle labs, for winning the prestigious postdoc fellowship from New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute:
  • 06/01/2023. Welcome Shah Alam for starting his postdoc in the lab!
  • 05/10/2023. Congrats Yocelyn Recinos for her successful PhD thesis defense!
  • 01/23/2023. Our department highlighted our work in the annual news letter.

Where We Are

Columbia University Medical Center is located in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City. It is situated at the northern tip of Manhattan, at the intersection of West 168th Street and Broadway. The Medical Center is easily accessible by public transportation, with the 1, A and C trains stopping at the 168th Street station.


Columbia University Irving Medical Center (image credit: internet)

Washington Height, NYC (image credit: @KellyrKopp/twitter)