New genetics faculty member Xuehua Zhong studies epigenetic control of gene regulation

Xuehua Zhong  joined the faculty in the Department of Genetics as an assistant professor in August.


Briefly describe your career path—up to this point.
As a little girl, life was always very mysterious to me. The formation of a human or plant from a single cell was unbelievable to me. My undergraduate studies in Wuhan University opened my eyes to the world of science. I then moved to The Ohio State University and obtained my Ph.D degree in Plant Cellular and Molecular Biology, working on viroid RNA replication and trafficking and on the biogenesis and function of viroid and cellular small RNAs. During my graduate studies, I developed a strong interest to understand how the genetic mechanisms underlying the diversity of biological forms and functions have evolved and operated. I feel that the study of the mechanism of epigenetic control of gene regulation may help me approach these fundamental biological questions. Thus, I decided to move into the field of plant epigenetics and joined Dr. Steve Jacobsen’s laboratory at UCLA and Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) as a postdoctoral fellow, working on the mechanisms of RNA silencing and DNA methylation.

What is the main focus of your research program?
Although the genome is a blueprint for making an organism, the epigenome governs the functional expression of genes and ultimately shapes the organism. Given the great importance of epigenetic regulation of gene expression in many aspects of biology, ranging from genome integrity, imprinting, cellular differentiation, normal growth and development, disease formation, to potential biotechnological applications, our overall research goal is to understand the fundamental mechanisms of chromatin-based gene regulation under normal growth and development as well as stress conditions.

 What drew you to UW-Madison?
I had an opportunity to visit UW-Madison several years ago and was really impressed by the wide variety of research resources/environments and the beautiful lakes. In addition to being a top-ranked school in research, the university also has a great football team. The city of Madison is also an ideal place to live in, not too big but is very close to the big city.  The combination of exciting research environment, colorful social life, and outstanding school sports makes this school unique from other colleges.

What do you like to do outside of work?
Gardening and biking.