October 2022: Hanrui Zhang Lab


What is the main focus of your lab?

We are interested in the role of macrophages in cardiometabolic diseases. The main areas of research in the laboratory include: (1) Functional genomics and mechanistic studies of candidate genes and genetic variants inspired by human genome-wide association studies of cardiometabolic traits. (2) Unbiased CRISPR screening to discover novel regulators of macrophage function, in particular macrophage efferocytosis, and investigate their roles in homeostasis and diseases, including atherosclerosis. (3) Disease modeling and functional genomic studies in human iPSC-derived macrophages

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

I started my lab in July 2018.

How big is your lab currently?

For now, we have two postdoctoral scientists and two research specialists. We also have Master students and undergraduate students.

Where is your lab located?

P&S 10-401 – it’s an open space for the Cardiometabolic Genomics Program.

Current affairs:

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

Our CRISPR screening has identified a number of novel regulators of macrophage efferocytosis with striking phenotypes and surprising mechanisms. We are also working on functional genomic screens to systematically connect variants to functions for all coronary artery disease GWAS loci that will reveal new candidate causal genes for mechanistic studies and translation.

What are the biggest accomplishments that your lab recently had?

There are many and it is hard to say which one is the biggest. I would say it has been really rewarding and fun to watch everyone in the lab making amazing progress every single year.


What are the model systems that your lab is using? 

We use transgenic mice as the model systems in our research.

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

We have extensive experience in working with and manipulating monocytes and macrophages, e.g. knockdown, knockout, overexpression, CRISPR gene editing, iPSC-macrophage differentiation, and all kinds of cellular assays. We also have expertise in functional genomics techniques, e.g. bulk and single-cell transcriptomics, genome-wide CRISPR screening. We have established workflows for data analyses that are available on our lab webpage. We are more than happy to collaborate and help with macrophage-related assays, CRISPR screens, and analyses of functional genomic data (as listed https://hanruizhang.github.io/zhanglab/4_Resources.html).

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

We rely on flow cytometry, microscopy, and high-content imaging a lot. We also perform transcriptomic and proteomics studies. The CSCI core is exemplary.


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

I try to share my own experiences, understand everyone’s motivations and challenges and provide support accordingly.

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

Beyond science, I learned from my PhD mentor to always take it on and be fearless when exploring possibilities; I learned from my postdoctoral mentor to remain calm, seek and create synergy, and be honest and authentic.

What would be your career advice for students/postdocs?

To learn deeply, aim to finish strong, and celebrate wins (to keep momentum) and failures/problems (that often serve as opportunities for one to become more capable).

Are you accepting rotating students at the moment?

Yes, we provide training opportunities for both wet and dry bench skills.

Lab management:

How do members of your lab celebrate accomplishments?

Lunch, cake, coffee, and/or milk tea.

Does your lab have any fun traditions?

Summer BBQ, as many labs do!

What is the key to running a successful lab?

I think it is important to truly care (about people and science), and continuously learn and evolve. Also, PIs are probably almost always in the process of testing and demonstrating the success of strategies (and making changes as needed) because things are different at every stage, just like what everyone does for individual career development. So, remaining flexible and open-minded is also important.

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

There are many exciting parts but I enjoyed seeing stories unfold and people grow. It is also particularly exciting when our work contributed to the knowledge of the scientific community.