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Shan Zha M.D. Ph.D.  - PI

I grew up in Beijing, China, and completed my medical training at Peking University, before started my Ph.D. study in Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. My desire to understand the process of oncogenic transformation took me to model organisms – in my case, mouse. I completed my post-doctoral training in Frederick Alt lab at the Harvard Medical School before starting my own lab in Columbia. In addition to my academic home at the Institute for Cancer Genetics, I am a member of the Departments of Pediatrics, Pathology & Cell Biology, and Immunology & Microbiology.  In my spare time, I enjoy being the mommy of two active boys, outdoor activities, taking pictures, and following protocols in my kitchen.


Current Members

"Great vision without great people is irrelevant."

-Jim Colins,  Good to Great

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Brian Lee M.S. Lab Manager

Brian joined the lab shortly after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 2012 with a Bachelor and Master of Science in Engineering (BSE and MSE). He majored in Bioengineering and minored in Mathematics, just because. He is interested in a wide range of fields within the Bioengineering spectrum, ranging from drug delivery to tissue engineering to prosthetics design and development. He hopes to continue working in one of those areas in the future. While in college, Brian was part of a lion dance troupe, so his special talent is lifting people onto his head while under a lion costume in hopes of bringing good fortune and prosperity to the lab. My publications from the lab.


Demis Menolfi Ph.D. Postdoctoral Fellow 

Leukemia Lymphomas Society Senior Fellow

I grew up in a small town, surrounded by mountains, in the north of Italy. After my Bachelor's degree in Biotechnologies, I moved to Milan and I did a Master degree in Molecular Biology. During my Ph.D. at IFOM, in Milan, I was interested in the molecular processes of DNA replication and repair and how they deal with a checkpoint, cell cycle, and chromosome segregation, and I chose to work with budding yeast as a model organism. For my PostDoc, I decided to study DNA replication stress and its connection to cancer in mammalian cells and mice, with a focus on the ATR checkpoint kinase. I like to travel and explore new cities, I enjoy modern and contemporary art, and I like to spend some spare time doing CrossFit and outdoors activities. My publications at Pubmed.


Olivia Cupo B.S. Tech B

I grew up in central New Jersey and completed my undergraduate study at New York State University at Stony Brook. I joined the Zha lab in 2019 and am in charge of genetically engineered mouse models and participating in lab organizations. Outside the lab, I enjoy dancing and teaching figure skating.


Xiaobin (Summer) Wang, Ph.D. Student

Pathobiology and Molecular Medicine Graduate Program.

I grew up in Tianjin, China, and graduated from the University of Washington in Seattle major in Molecular and Cellular Biology. I worked for two and a half years in the Brewer/ Raghuraman Lab in the Genome Science Department. We studied the regulation of DNA replication in budding yeast S. cerevisiae. In particular, I studied the genetic players affect ribosomal DNA copy number and replicative lifespan. Now I am a Ph.D. Candidate at Columbia University Medical Center where I study the molecular mechanism of end resection in lymphocyte-specific rearrangements. In my spare time, I love to travel around, search for different kinds of great food. Checkout my publications from the lab.


Wenxia(Wendy) Jiang Ph.D.

Now the Manager of the HICCC Molecular Cytogenetic Core 

I was an instructor for Phytochemistry at Zhengzhou University, China before I came to America. I worked as a technician in Dr. Beth Levine's lab at Columbia University Medical Center. My interest in molecular biology drove me to start my Ph.D. study at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. After my graduation, I joined Dr. Shan Zha lab and became the first postdoc in her lab in Oct. 2010. I experienced the growth of our lab from one postdoc and one technician to a 12 person team. After work, I take care of my family members. I walk for 1 hour every day to exercise. Check out my publications from the lab.

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Xiaohui Lin Ph.D. Post-doctoral Fellow

I grew up in south China and completed my undergraduate and Ph.D. studies at Nankai University, Tianjin, China. My Ph.D. study focuses on the Hippo pathway in Drosophila and my desire to study a different model system brings to the Zha lab. Here I made new mouse models to study the function of PARP2 in cancer therapy and DNA repair. In my spare time, I like playing basketball, watching movies, and traveling. Check out my publications from the lab.


Yimeng Zhu Ph.D. Post-doctoral Fellow

I grew up in northern China and completed my undergraduate and Ph.D. studies at Naikai University, Tianjin, China. My Ph.D. study in Dr. Junjie Hu's lab in the Chinese Academy of Science focuses on protein quality control and ER trafficking. I joined the Zha’s laboratory in 2018 summer to expand my research in the DNA repair and animal models.  In my spare time, I like to organize or clean anything around me while listening to some rhythmic music, watch variety shows to relax my brain, and discuss the philosophy of life with someone.C Check out my publications from the lab.  

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Zhengping Shao M.D. Ph.D. Post-doctoral Fellow

I entered the Ph.D./M.D. program of Zhejiang University in China in 2007 and conducted my pre-doctoral research in Dr. David Chen’s laboratory in the Department of Radiation Oncology, UTSW for 2 years as a joint training Ph.D. student supported by China Scholarship Council. During this time, I used live-cell imagining and other cell biology techniques to study mechanisms of DNA Double-Strands Breaks repair, especially the balance and choice between the Non-homologous End Joining and homologous recombination pathways. I completed my Ph.D. in 2012 and finished my M.D. training in Oncology in 2014. I joined Columbia University to continue my research in DNA repair now. In my spare time, I am interested in reading and anything digital. Check out my publications from the lab. 

Alumni             Thank you! You are proud of your achievements! 


Maja Milanovic Ph.D. now Senior Scientist at Arvinas Inc

Post-doc 2016-2020

I am from Belgrade, Serbia where I finished my undergraduate and Master's study in Molecular Biology and Physiology at the University of Belgrade and completed the Ph.D. in the laboratory of Dr. Lienhard Schmitz at the University of Giessen in Germany on NF-κB pathway. After a short post-doc with Dr. Ulf Klein's laboratory at Columbia University (German Research Foundation Fellow), I joined the Zha lab to study ATM function in lymphomagenesis. I like biochemistry and genomics. I am a music fanatic, movie theater addict, foodie, and long-distance runner. 

Milanovic M, Shao Z, Wang XS, Menofi D, Lin X, Lee BJ, Xu J, Cupo O, Dong W, and Zha S. FATC domain deletion compromises ATM protein stability, lymphocyte development and delays lymphomagenesis J Immunol. 2021 Feb 3:ji2000967. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.2000967. Online ahead of print.
PMID: 33536256


Milanovic M, Houghton LM, Menolfi D, Lee JH, Yamamoto K, Li Y, Lee BJ, Xu J, Estes VM, Wang D, McKinnon PJ, Paull TT, Zha S. The cancer-associated ATM R3008H mutation reveals the link between ATM activation and its exchange. Cancer Res. 2020 Nov 25:canres.2447.2020. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-20-2447. Online ahead of print. PMID: 33239428

Yu Tao, Ph.D. Now a professor at Sun Yat-sen University

Post-doc 2017-2019 

I received my BS degree (2009) from Nanjing Normal University, China. After that, I obtained my Ph.D. degree from the Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2015, and worked in the City College of New York for a year. I joined the laboratories of Dr. Shan Zha and Dr. Jean Gautier, at the Institute for Cancer Genetics, Columbia University. My current scientific interest is mainly focused on the nonviral gene delivery and nanomaterials-based DNA damage sensing.

Tao Y, Li M, Liu X, Leong KW, Gautier J, Zha S. Dual-Color Plasmonic Nanosensor for Radiation Dosimetry. ACS Appl Mater Interfaces. 2020 May 7


Verna Estes B.S. Tech B.

I grew up in Somerville, Massachusetts, and graduated from Barnard College as a member of an undergraduate organic chemistry research group. With the desire to expand my research experience to more biological fields, I joined the Zha lab as a research technician in May 2016. 

Check out my publication from the lab at Pubmed

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Xiangyu Liu Ph.D. now a principal investigator at Shenzhen University 

Follow of Leukemia and Lymphomas Society  

I grew up in China and went to Peking University for my bachelor's and Ph.D. degrees. I joined Shan’s group when there were only 3 people in the lab. I am interested in the mechanisms of DNA damage repair and the NHEJ pathway. More publications.

Liu X, Wang XS, Lee BJ, Wu-Baer FK, Lin X, Shao Z, Estes VM, Gautier J, Baer R, Zha S. CtIP is essential for early B cell proliferation and development in mice. J Exp Med. 2019 Jul 1;216(7):1648-1663. 

Liu X, Shao Z, Jiang W, Lee BJ, Zha S.  PAXX promotes KU accumulation at DNA breaks and is essential for end-joining in XLF-deficient mice. Nat Commun. 2017 Jan 4;8:13816.

Jiang W*, Crowe JL*, Liu X*, Nakajima S, Wang Y, Li C, Lee BJ, Dubois RL, Liu C, Yu X, Lan L, Zha S. Differential phosphorylation of DNA-PKcs regulates the interplay between end-processing and end-ligation during nonhomologous end-joining. Mol Cell. 2015 Apr 2;58(1):172-85. *equal contribution

Liu X*, Jiang W*, Dubois RL, Yamamoto K, Wolner Z, Zha S. Overlapping functions between XLF repair protein and 53BP1 DNA damage response factor in end joining and lymphocyte development. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Mar 6;109(10):3903-8.  *equal contribution

Jennie Crowe -Ph.D. student Now a consultant at L.E.K. Consulting

Kirschstein National Research Service Award (F31) Awardee  

My scientific interests stem from a strong desire to connect the intricacies of cellular biology to improving human life. I studied at Hartford College and worked at the Livingston lab of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute before I joined Columbia and the Zha lab for my Ph.D. study. My thesis research studies focus on DNA-PK. More publications on Pubmed.

Crowe JL*, Wang XS*, Shao Z, Lee BJ, Estes VM, Zha S. DNA-PKcs phosphorylation at the T2609 cluster alters the repair pathway choice during immunoglobulin class switch recombination. PNAS 2020 * equal contribution

Shao Z*, Flynn RA*, Crowe JL*, Zhu Y, Liang J, Jiang W, Aryan F, Aoude P, Bertozzi CR, Estes VM, Lee BJ, Bhagat G, Zha S#, Calo E# DNA-PKcs has KU dependent function in ribosomal RNA processing and hematopoiesis Nature 2020 Mar;579(7798):291-296 * equal contribution

Crowe JL*, Shao Z*, Wang XS, Wei PC, Jiang W, Lee BJ, Estes VM, Alt FW, Zha S#. Kinase-dependent structural role of DNA-PKcs during immunoglobulin class switch recombination. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Aug 21;115(34):8615-8620.

Jiang W*, Crowe J*, Liu X*, Nakajima S, Wang Y, Li C, Lee BJ, Dubois RL, Liu C, Yu X, Lan L, Zha S#. Differential phosphorylation of DNA-PKcs regulates the interplay between end-processing and end-ligation during non-homologous end-joining. Molecular Cell 2015 Apr 2;58(1):172-85 PMID:25818648 * equal contribution


Denis Loredan -Tech. B Now a Ph.D. student in NYU 

I grew up in New York City and attended NY State University before I joined the Zha lab.

Check out my publications from the lab at Pubmed.


Kenta Yamamoto -Ph.D. student now Postdoc at UCSD

I was born in Japan and grew up in both Japan and Boston, Massachusetts, and completed my undergraduate study at Brandies University with research in human B cell lymphomas. I joined Columbia and the Zha lab in 2010, as the first Ph.D. student in the lab.  My Ph.D. work focuses on the molecular mechanism of ATM in DNA repair and lymphomas. On Pubmed.


Yamamoto K, Wang J, Sprinzen L, Xu J, Haddock CJ, Li C, Lee BJ, Loredan DG, Jiang W, Vindigni A, Wang D, Rabadan R, Zha S.Kinase-dead ATM protein is highly oncogenic and can be preferentially targeted by Topo-isomerase I inhibitors.  Elife. 2016 Jun 15;5. 

Yamamoto K, Lee BJ, Li C, Dubois RL, Hobeika E, Bhagat G, Zha S.Early B-cell-specific inactivation of ATM synergizes with ectopic CyclinD1 expression to promote pre-germinal center B-cell lymphomas in mice. Leukemia. 2015 Jun;29(6):1414-24.

Yamamoto K, Wang Y, Jiang W, Liu X, Dubois RL, Lin CS, Ludwig T, Bakkenist CJ, Zha S.Kinase-dead ATM protein causes genomic instability and early embryonic lethality in mice. J Cell Biol. 2012 Aug 6;198(3):305-13.

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Chen Li M.S. Tech.B. now Columbia MBA and an associate at A.T. Kearney

I grew up in Sichuan, China, and obtained my M.S. in Biochtech from Newyork University before I joined the Zha lab. 

Check out my publications from the lab at Pubmed


Richard Dubois, Tech B Now a Surgery resident at Columbia Univ. Med. Center 

I received my BS degree at New York University at Rochester and joined the Zha lab as the very first team member!

Check out my publications from the lab at Pubmed

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