Li Zhao

Assistant Professor, Evolutionary Genetics and Genomics

B.S., Inner Mongolia University, China

Ph.D., Chinese Academy of Sciences

Each living species and every phylogenetic clade has a unique set of genes and phenotypes. Understanding how novel genes originate and subsequently evolve is crucial to explaining the genetic basis of novel phenotypes and ultimately the diversity of life. However, because the relationship between genes and phenotypes is complex and multidimensional, how and what type of genetic innovations contribute to novel organismal phenotypes remains largely unknown. Research in the Zhao Laboratory aims to understand the origination and evolution of molecular innovations as well as how they contribute to phenotypic innovation and adaptation. One of the focuses in the lab is to use de novo genes, which are genes that have originated from non-genic sequences of genomes, as a unique paradigm to tackle these questions. In the long-term, the Zhao lab aims to decipher the principles of gene origination and its underlying positive or negative impact on population dynamics and human health.