Dr. Christine Zhang joined the Department of Medicine in the division of Oncology as an instructor in January 2023. After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree (Honor I) in Genetics, Dr. Zhang realized that genetics alone, in many cases, is insufficient to fully explain human diseases. Thus, she completed her PhD in epigenetics and neuroscience at the University of Queensland (Australia) under the supervision of Dr. Emma Whitelaw to study the long-term impact of epigenetic disruptions on brain structure and function. Using a mouse model of prenatal alcohol exposure, she identified that alcohol consumption during early gestation impairs learning and memory that was mediated by multi-level epigenetic deregulations. She then briefly worked with Dr. Andrew Moore to discover molecular biomarkers of pediatric acute leukemia using a targeted sequencing platform, where she developed a strong interest in identifying mechanisms underlying leukemogenesis.
Since 2019, Dr. Zhang has been undertaking her postdoctoral training with Dr. Grant Challen to investigate how mutations in an epigenetic modifier DNA Methyltransferase 3A (DNMT3A) convey a fitness advantage to hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) during chronic inflammatory signaling and how this process primes clonal hematopoiesis to malignant transformation. Dr. Zhang currently focuses on understanding the cell-intrinsic and extrinsic factors that facilitate the malignant transformation of hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells to blood diseases during normal and stress hematopoiesis. Her research has been supported by various funding opportunities, including an NIH NHLBI Pathway to Independence Award, ASH Scholar Award, and Evans MDS fellowship. Dr. Zhang has a strong interest in understanding molecular mechanisms underlying suboptimal human conditions. Her ultimate goal is to translate her knowledge to improve clinical outcomes. At the start of her research journey, she resorted to Genome-Wide Association Studies to identify genetic vulnerabilities to infertility.