Dr. Zhang is a molecular biologist focused on developing tools to better understand brain function and treat neurological and psychiatric disorders. He played an integral role in the creation of two revolutionary tools, optogenetics and CRISPR-Cas9-mediated genome engineering systems. Dr. Zhang is a core member of the Broad Institute, an Investigator at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research, the James and Patricia Poitras Professor of Neuroscience at MIT, an associate professor in the departments of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and Biological Engineering at MIT, a New York Stem Cell Foundation-Robertson Investigator, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.

Research Interests

Current research in the Zhang laboratory is centered on the development and application of the next generation of genome engineering tools to dissect the effects of genetic and epigenetic variation on the nervous system. A central aspect of this work is exploring the diversity of natural systems that may form the basis for novel technologies. This approach lead to the discovery of programmable RNA-targeting CRISPR-Cas enzymes, which the Zhang lab harnessed for use as tools in mammalian cells. In addition to his pioneering work with CRISPR-Cas systems, Dr. Zhang and his team are applying genome engineering tools to advance understanding of the brain, and particularly the molecular mechanisms underlying neuropsychiatric diseases. The longterm goal of Dr. Zhang's work is to develop new new avenues for much needed novel therapeutic treatments for neuropsychiatric disease.

Membership Type


Election Year


Primary Section

Section 24: Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

Secondary Section

Section 21: Biochemistry