Dr. Nieng Yan received her B.S. degree from the Department of Biological Sciences & Biotechnology, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China, in 2000. She then pursued her PhD in the Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton University under the supervision of Prof. Yigong Shi between 2000 and 2004. She was the regional winner of the Young Scientist Award (North America) co-sponsored by Science/AAAS and GE Healthcare in 2005 for her thesis on the structural and mechanistic study of programmed cell death. She continued her postdoctoral training at Princeton University, focusing on the structural characterization of intramembrane proteases. In 2007, she joined the faculty of School of Medicine, Tsinghua University. Her lab has been mainly focusing on the structural and mechanistic investigation of membrane transport proteins exemplified by the glucose transporters and Nav/Cav channels. In 2012 and 2013, she was promoted to tenured professor and Bayer Endowed Chair Professor, respectively. She returned to Princeton University as the founding Shirley M. Tilghman Professor of Molecular Biology in 2017. Dr. Yan was an HHMI international early career scientist in 2012-2017, the recipient of the 2015 Protein Society Young Investigator Award, the 2015 Beverley & Raymond Sackler International Prize in Biophysics, the Alexander M. Cruickshank Award at the GRC on membrane transport proteins in 2016, and the 2019 Weizmann Women & Science Award.

Research Interests

Dr. Yan is a structural biologist that aims to understand the governing principle of membrane transport of ions and solutes, a vital physiological process that maintains cellular homeostasis, converts different energy forms, and generates and transduces signals. Her lab has combined structural biology, biochemical, and biophysical approaches to reveal the molecular choreography, at atomic resolutions, of the transporters for cellular uptake of glucose and the sodium and calcium channels that generate electrical signals. They have elucidated the crystal structures of the human glucose transporters, GLUT1 and GLUT3, in multiple functional states that enable recapitulation of the working cycle of GLUTs. Taking advantage of the technical advances of single-particle cryo-EM, they have elucidated the high-resolution structures of representative eukaryotic voltage-gated sodium and calcium (Nav and Cav) channels, and the ryanodine receptors in skeletal and cardiac muscles, RyR1 and RyR2, which are the largest ion channels known to date. These structures establish the foundation for structure-function relationship studies, provide the molecular template for examination of hundreds of mutations associated with various sodium and calcium channelopathies, and affords the opportunity for rational drug design and optimization.

Membership Type

International Member

Election Year


Primary Section

Section 23: Physiology and Pharmacology

Secondary Section

Section 29: Biophysics and Computational Biology