Yan’s Former Researchers Thriving in New Positions

Published October 14, 2021

story by bill bruton

Four researchers who worked in the laboratory of Zhen Yan, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of physiology and biophysics, are putting their scientific talents to use in new positions.


Rein Studies Brain Disorders at Stanford University

Benjamin Rein, PhD

Benjamin Rein, PhD, who completed his postdoctoral training in Yan’s lab and earned his doctoral degree in neuroscience from the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in 2021, is a postdoctoral researcher working in the lab of Robert Malenka, MD, PhD, the Nancy Friend Pritzker Professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University.

Rein conducts research on the molecular mechanisms of neural communication as well as the role of circuit dysfunction in brain disorders including autism and depression.

Rein won the 2021 Dean’s Award for outstanding dissertation research. In his doctoral research, Rein investigated cellular and synaptic mechanisms underlying social deficits in various transgenic mouse models of autism spectrum disorder, with specific focus on models of 16p11.2 deletion and duplication.

Outside of the lab, Rein runs multiple social media channels as a science communicator, and he is the founder and president of the Aspiring Scientists Coalition, an international organization designed to provide career guidance for students in science.

Wang Takes Position at University of Kansas

Zijun Wang, PhD

Zijun Wang, PhD, who completed her postdoctoral training in Yan’s lab in 2020, is an assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Kansas.

Wang’s research focuses on how brain reward pathways are influenced by the environment — especially stress and drug exposure — and how maladaptation can lead to disease states.

Her long-term research goal is to develop novel pharmacotherapies for brain disorders with abnormal reward processing — specifically drug addiction and autism — by focusing on the epigenetics and circuit mechanisms.

Cheng is Scientific Editor of Cell

Jia Cheng, PhD

Jia Cheng, PhD, who completed her postdoctoral training in Yan’s lab and earned her doctoral degree in neuroscience from the Jacobs School in 2015, has been hired as a scientific editor of Cell, a high-impact flagship journal of the Cell Press in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Before this new position, Cheng was a postdoctoral fellow at the Rockefeller University.

She was also a Beverly Patterson Bishop and Charles W. Bishop Neuroscience Fund award winner, and she presented research on molecular mechanisms underlying long-term severe stress at the Society for Neuroscience meeting. Her data suggested that long-term severe stress may induce sustained changes in synaptic transmission via DNA methylation, which may contribute to behavioral abnormality related to mental disorders.

Cheng’s PhD thesis work at UB has revealed the complex effects of a psychostimulant drug used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder on glutamate receptors and behaviors.   

Qin Takes Position as Assistant Professor in SD

Luye Qin, PhD

Luye Qin, PhD, a research assistant professor of physiology and biophysics who completed her postdoctoral training in Yan’s lab in 2021, has taken a position as an assistant professor in the Basic Biomedical Science Department at the University of South Dakota.

Qin’s research at UB focused on epigenetic strategies for autism and biological mechanisms of newly identified autism risk factors.