Chaolin Zhang is an associate professor in the Department of Systems Biology, the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, and the Motor Neuron Center at Columbia University Medical Center, New York. He received Ph.D. training in computational biology at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and conducted his postdoctoral work at Rockefeller University before joining Columbia University as an assistant professor in 2012.
The Zhang laboratory uses a multidisciplinary approach to study neuronal RNA-binding proteins and how they regulate the transcriptomic diversity in the nervous system through alternative splicing in both normal and disease contexts. A recent focus of his work is to elucidate the mechanisms underlying the precise control of transcript isoform switches during neural development and across specific neuronal cell types and their functional consequences. This research uses model systems including in vitro neural differentiation from pluripotent stem cells and mouse models, in combination with a variety of experimental and computational techniques. Zhang’s work has contributed to mapping protein-RNA interactions at single-nucleotide resolution, leading to a better understanding of RNA-binding protein specificity and the organizational principles of neuronal RNA regulatory networks.
Zhang has been engaged in understanding protein-RNA interactions and alternative splicing in events disrupted in neurodevelopmental conditions, including autism. His lab demonstrated important roles of RNA binding proteins, including RBFOX proteins, which are implicated in autism, in regulating neuronal development and maturation. His lab is also interested in transforming fundamental discoveries of RNA regulation to RNA-based precision genetic therapies to address tremendous unmet medical needs related to a spectrum of disorders.