Dr. Michael Q. Zhang
Professor, director of Center for Systems Biology
Cecil H. and Ida Green Chair of Systems Biology Science
Michael Zhang, a leading scientist in computational biology and genomic research, joined UT Dallas in 2009.
He is also a joint faculty member in the bioengineering department.
His appointment was the catalyst for a major effort in genomics and computational biology that focuses on the genetic underpinnings of disease.
Computational biology bridges the life sciences and quantitative sciences – mathematics, statistics and computer science – to understand living systems.
Zhang previously served as professor at the Watson School of Biological Sciences and has been conducting research at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory since 1991. His lab specialized in gene structure and regulation, gene control of development, cellular responses to environmental signals and cell differentiation. He is well known in the international bioinformatics community, and serves as a distinguished guest chair professor at Tsinghua University and scientific advisory board member for the CAS-Max Planck Joint Institute of Computational Biology in China.
Zhang has also contributed significantly to the emerging field of epigenomics, or regulatory changes in gene expression without altering DNA sequences. He was instrumental in developing computational tools to identify genes and their regulatory elements.
The long-term goal of research in his lab is to use mathematical and statistical methods to identify functional elements in human genomes. A genome is the program book of a life, and genome research will lead to eventual decoding of the entire genetic language of life and its grammar.
Zhang received his PhD in statistical physics from Rutgers University in 1987. He conducted postdoctoral research at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. He was recruited to UT Dallas with funding assistance from the Science and Technology Acquisition and Retention (STARs) Program. In 2004, the UT System launched STARs Program, which created a multimillion dollar fund to recruit and retain top-flight researchers to UT institutions.
The legacy of Cecil H. and Ida Green at The University of Texas at Dallas was to establish in Dallas a world-class cohort of faculty and students in the new domain of integrated interdisciplinary biomedical research. The resources and talents of UT Dallas and UT Southwestern are combined under the guidance of the two institutions' Green Centers. Endowments were generated for faculty members whose research expertise lies at one of the interfaces between biomedical science and physical, mathematical, computational or engineering science, emphasizing in particular research that will create synergy with research at UT Southwestern. The chair was established in 1995, and Zhang assumed the position in 2009.
Zhang developed one of the first human gene and promoter prediction algorithms. He analyzed the first dynamic yeast gene expression using DNA chips and identified 800 cell cycle regulated genes and major DNA elements that switch these genes on and off (or up and down). He developed some of the most powerful algorithms for discovering regulatory protein binding site patterns in DNA or RNA.
"At UT Dallas, our work focuses on the global or systems-wide understanding of important life and disease processes such as cancers."