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Yongli Zhang, PhD, MS

Professor of Cell Biology

Contact Information

Yongli Zhang, PhD, MS

Lab Locations

  • Sterling Hall of Medicine, C-Wing
    333 Cedar Street, Ste C215
    New Haven, CT 06510
  • Sterling Hall of Medicine, I-Wing
    333 Cedar Street, Ste E90
    New Haven, CT 06510

Office Location

Mailing Address

  • Cell Biology

    PO Box 208002, 333 Cedar Street

    New Haven, CT 06520-8002

    United States



Dr. Zhang obtained a bachelor's degree in applied physics and a master's degree in theoretical physics in China before he came to the US in 1997. He began to use pipettes as a graduate student in the Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale University and barely passed his qualifying exams. Fortunately, he seemed to do research well under the supervision of Prof. Donald M. Crothers and got a Ph. D. in 2003. His thesis work is related to the sequence-dependent DNA bending and flexibility. Dr. Zhang then became a postdoctoral fellow in Prof. Carlos Bustamante's lab at UC Berkeley. Using optical tweezers, he found that representative chromatin remodeling factors contain DNA translocases and first measured their translocation speed, processivity, and stall force.

Prof. Zhang has broad interests and skills in measuring the intra- and inter-molecular forces and the forces generated by molecular machines. He tries to use these measurements to better understand the working mechanisms and biological functions of macromolecules. With his collaborators, Prof. Zhang combines high-resolution optical tweezers with single-molecule fluorescence microscopy to simultaneously manipulate and visualize single molecules in real time. As a result, dynamic structures of proteins inaccessible by other experimental methods can be obtained. Prof. Zhang's primary interests are mechanical force in biology and folding dynamics of proteins involved in fundamental biological processes and human diseases, with a focus on SNARE proteins and their regulators essential for intracellular vesicle fusion.

Education & Training

  • Postdoc fellow
    University of California (2006)
  • PhD
    Yale School of Medicine, Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry (2003)
  • MS
    Chinese Academy of Sciences, Institute of Theoretical Physics (1997)

Honors & Recognition

AwardAwarding OrganizationDate
Postdoctoral FellowshipThe Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Fund for Medical Research2004, 2006
Sinsheimer ScholarThe Alexandrine and Alexander L. Sinsheimer Fund

Departments & Organizations