Department of Molecular and Cell Biology

School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

News and Events

Health Science Researcher to Head UT Dallas’ Department of Molecular & Cell Biology

Richardson, TX (Sept. 11, 2007) – The University of Texas at Dallas has appointed a noted Columbia University professor of environmental health sciences to lead the Department of Molecular & Cell Biology.

Dr. Li Zhang will also hold the Cecil H. and Ida Green Distinguished Chair in Systems Biology Science.  She starts work Nov. 1.   Zhang will succeed Dr. Donald Gray, who has headed the Department of Molecular & Cell Biology for three years and previously from 1985 to1995. 

“I see a great opportunity here for the future of UT Dallas’ Department of Molecular & Cell Biology,” Zhang said. “This department has the potential to attain national and international prominence.”

Zhang’s research focuses on oxygen sensing, heme signaling and molecular actions of environmental neurotoxicants.

Heme is a deep-red, nonprotein, iron-containing pigment found in hemoglobin and myoglobin. In humans, defects in oxygen sensing and heme signaling can cause cancers and other diseases. An altered heme metabolism also is associated with schizophrenia.

“Zhang combines experience in a broad range of biomedical research with a clear vision for the future of the department,” said Dr. Myron B. Salamon, dean of the UT Dallas School of Natural Sciences & Mathematics. “I look forward to working with her to build a strong department that develops deep connections with engineering, other science departments and the broader biomedical community.”

Zhang holds a doctorate in biochemistry from the University of California at Los Angeles.  She did her postdoctoral training in molecular biology and molecular genetics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Zhongshan University in Guangzhou, China.

In addition to being professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, her academic appointments have included assistant and associate professor of biochemistry at New York University’s School of Medicine.

The Department of Molecular & Cell Biology is one of the fastest-growing departments on campus. Its mission is to maintain a nationally competitive research program, to train students to become outstanding scientists and to provide an exceptional foundation for students pursuing careers and continued education in the life sciences, medicine or other healthcare fields.

  • Updated: September 14, 2007