Zhang Lab

brain development and disorders


We study fundamental mechanisms of brain development with the ultimate goal of diagnosing and treating neurological disorders. Current research centers on:

Neuronal cell diversity in the cerebral cortex: The six-layered neocortex is an evolutionary invention in mammals. While diverse neuronal cell types have been identified among millions of brain cells, the molecular mechanisms underlying neuronal cell fate and lineage specification remain largely unclear. We are interested in understanding how neurons are generated and specified in the neocortex.

RNA splicing diversity and neural development: Alternative RNA splicing generates remarkable molecular diversity and in extreme cases enables a single gene to produce hundreds of different protein isoforms. What are the roles of mRNA splicing diversity in brain development? Single cell analyses from us and others start to uncover cell type-specific mRNA isoforms, master splicing regulators and their roles in brain formation.

Genetics of neurodevelopmental disorders: The massive expansion of human neocortex is associated with the highest cognitive functions. DNA mutations that affect brain development can cause diseases such as autism and epilepsy. Using genetic and genomic approaches, we aim to understand gene regulation mechanisms in brain development and genetic causes of neurological disorders.

At the University of Chicago, we work closely with labs within the Department of Human Genetics which has unusual strength in population genetics, comparative and functional genomics, and computational biology. We also share strong interests with peer labs in neuroscience, developmental biology, systems and single cell biology.

Lab News:

08/2019: Xinran (Sherry) Feng received the International Student Fellowship (BSD). Congratulations!

07/2019: Undergraduate students Denise Fischer (UChicago) and Yuheng Liu (TsingHua) joined our group! Welcome Denise and Yuheng!

06/2019: UChicago undergraduate Jasper Lee joined the lab. Welcome Jasper!

01/2019: Human Genetics graduate student Wenhe Lin starts rotation with us! Welcome Wenhe!

09/2018: Our RNA splicing project receives new support.

08/2018: Xinran (Sherry) Feng, a graduate student in Human Genetics, starts in our Department! Welcome Sherry!

08/2018: Xiangbin (Cham) from Beijing joins the lab as a postdoc scholar! Welcome!

07/2018: Zhuoyue Shi, a graduate student in GGSB, starts rotation with us! Welcome Zhuoyue!

07/2018: Cai Qi from Yale joins us as a postdoc scholar! Welcome Cai!

06/2018: Nate Westneat, a high school student joins the lab for summer research. Welcome Nate!

06/2018: Irena Feng, majoring in biochemistry, and Isadora Kucera an inaugural DNUFO fellow join the lab. Welcome!

04/2018: Grazyna Bozek joins the lab as a Research Assistant. Welcome Grazyna!

01/2018: The Zhang lab @ UChicago started in the Department of Human Genetics and the Grossman Institute for Neuroscience, Quantitative Biology and Human Behavior.

We are supported by: