Dr Jian Yang completed his Bachelor degree in biological science at Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China in 2003. He followed his Bachelor with a 5-year PhD in the area of statistical genetics and bioinformatics at the same university under the supervision of Professor Jun Zhu. Dr Yang’s PhD project focussed on developing statistical methods and software tools to locate gene loci influencing the phenotypic variation of quantitative traits. The methods he developed during this time have since been applied in genetic studies of crops such as rice and to the study of the genetic architecture of complex traits in model organisms such as mouse and rat.

Dr Yang relocated to Australia after receiving his PhD in 2008, when he joined Professor Peter Visscher’s laboratory at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR). By making this move, Dr Yang shifted his research interest from plant and animal genetics to human genetics.

In 2012, he moved to The University of Queensland (UQ), still as a member of Professor Visscher’s laboratory*, to continue his work in the area of statistical genetics.

During his time at UQ, Dr Yang has received a number of prestigious awards, including the Centenary Institute Lawrence Creative Prize in 2012, which recognises young talent in medical research in Australia. In 2013, Dr Yang received a UQ Foundation Research Excellence award and was one of two recipients of the Sylvia and Charles Viertel Charitable Foundation’s Senior Medical Research Fellowship, which will provide $245,000 per year for 5 years to support his research.

Currently, Dr Yang’s research is focussed on developing new statistical methods and performing novel analyses to better understand the genetic basis of human complex diseases such as obesity and neuropsychiatric disorders. This includes quantifying the overall impact of all DNA variants on the risk to a disease, identifying individual genes or genetic variants that affect the disease, and predicting the risk of developing the disease.

Dr Yang says it is both the weather and the research atmosphere that keeps him in Australia and at UQ. He says he is intrigued by the complex nature of how DNA changes ultimately make a difference in our phenotypes.

*Professor Visscher now holds a joint appointment between UQ’s Diamantina Institute and QBI.