Dr. Xia Yang is an Associate Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and a faculty member of the Institute for Quantitative and Computational Biology. Her research has been focused on developing and applying integrative genomics and systems biology approaches to understand gene networks perturbed by genetic and environmental risks of cardiometabolic diseases.
This year, Dr. Yang joins AMSI’s BioInfoSummer to deliver her talk, “Elucidating Gene Networks of Cardiometabolic Diseases via Systems Genomics”. This talk will focus on her team’s recent studies reporting how they leverage genetic, transcriptomic, and epigenetic datasets from human populations and rodent models to derive gene networks and pivotal regulators causally associated with cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes.
AMSI recently spoke with Dr. Yang about her research interests, thoughts on the field of bioinformatics, and advice for early career researchers.
Why did you become involved in bioinformatics?
While I was in graduate school I was initially enrolled in the Molecular Genetics program and I realised the need to learn data mining skills in order to process the large amount of genetic data that became available. I was fortunate enough to be able to concurrently join the Bioinformatics program to complete a joint Ph.D. in both fields. It was challenging to do both but I enjoyed everything I learned about Bioinformatics and felt in love with the field ever since.
What are your favourite applications of your work?
By leveraging genetic and transcriptomic data from human and rodent populations, we identified core gene networks governing diverse molecular processes such as metabolic, inflammatory, and cell-cell communication pathways for cardiometabolic diseases and comorbidity.
[Also] environmental risks such as high sugar diet perturb similar gene networks as genetic risks, which can be reversed by nutritional remedies.
What kind of problems are you interested in broadly in the field?
What has been your biggest career success so far?
I think being able to position myself in a unique setting where bench biology is seamlessly integrated with computation and bioinformatics is the biggest success in my research career.
Do you have any advice for future researchers?
I think it is important to have diverse research skills and be equipped to do multidisciplinary research. Collaboration is also the key to success.
To hear more from Dr Yang, register for the AMSI BioInfoSummer 2016 symposium at the University of Adelaide between 28 November and 2 December 2016. For more information, please visit http://bis.amsi.org.au.