November 2021:Cheng Lab



What is the main focus of your lab?

Our research focuses on the interface of nutritional and transcriptional regulatory networks. We study how adult stem and progenitor cells perceive the nutritional states and change their cell-fate decisions in tissue regeneration and disease development processes.

How long have you had your lab? When did you join Columbia University?

11 months - I joined Columbia University on January 1st, 2021

How big is your lab currently?

I have two research assistants, three students on site and three visiting students (mostly work remotely).

Where is your lab located?

My lab is located at Columbia Stem Cell Initiative (CSCI) in William Black Medical Research Building. We share the open lab space with Passegué lab, Smeeton lab, and Viny lab.

Current affairs:

What are the most exciting projects/directions in the lab at this moment?

We have recently identified a group of metabolic genes revealing an intrinsic metabolic feature of adult intestinal stem cells. We are currently studying the functional role and developmental origin of this fascinating connection between cell metabolism and cell identity.

What are the biggest accomplishments that your lab recently had?

We managed to have a couple of hybrid lab meetings during the pandemic where we presented each other’s favorite food and shared scientific findings (see our group picture).  We also published our first paper in September, which was featured on the cover of Current Protocol (


What are the model systems that your lab is using? 

Currently, we use transgenic mouse models and organoid cultures (mostly Cre or loxp lines) as in vivo and in vitro models. We are happy to share all the published mouse and organoid lines with other labs.

What are the key techniques that your lab is using? Are you open to training scientists from other labs?

We routinely perform analyses for the dietary-induced physiology, metabolism, gene expression and stem cell function using ELISA, metabolomic, RNA-seq, flow-cytometry, organoid cultures and histology. Happy to share protocols with and train scientists from other labs.

What facilities or equipment does your lab absolutely rely upon? Do you use CSCI cores?

We absolutely rely on histology facilities and certainly will use CSCI flow cytometry and iPSC cores in near future.

Who shall be contacted with questions about equipment, resources and training?

Me,, the multifunctional PI (for now).


What's your best approach to mentoring trainees in the lab?

I recruit people who want to learn more and make things better. I let them know what my lab can help (and what we can't). So far, we really can't see what is the best, because things just keep getting better and better.  

Who were your most influential mentors/role models in science and what did you learn from them?  

Charles Darwin and John Forbes Nash Jr. For those who don’t know me: I don’t really know them in person. However, I have deeply admired and been influenced by the way they seek the principles behind the facts.

Are you accepting rotating students at the moment?

Absolutely, yes.

Lab management

Does your lab have any fun traditions?

When joining, each member introduce themselves and their favorite food to the lab.

What was the most exciting part about starting your new lab?

Almost nothing has happened as expected. For the worst and the best, we think it's always better to be together.

Stem Cell Directions:

Which stem cell conferences does your lab attend?

The phenomenal in-person event this year: CSCI retreat.


What was the main reason of you joining CSCI? What are the beneficial aspects of CSCI membership for your lab?

I want my group to be surrounded by scientists who are passionate about stem cell biology.