Associate Professor, Department of Medicine
University of Colorado Denver and
Center for Genes, Environment and Health
National Jewish Health
Yang began her career in chemistry, but eventually gravitated toward the genomic sciences when, as a graduate student, she became intrigued by the use of DNA microarrays to study gene expression. She pursued this interest, completing a post-doctoral fellowship in genomics and bioinformatics with John Quackenbush while his group was at The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) in Maryland.
Since then, Yang has devoted her career to research in genomics and genetics. Learning to navigate a whole new field while at TIGR proved an inspiring challenge, she says; at the time, the Human Genome Project had also just taken wing, and it became clear that the genomic sciences were going to be an integral part of understanding human disease and developing better treatments.
From TIGR, Yang moved to Duke University Medical Center to work with David Schwartz. She has remained in his group since, through a three-year stint at the National Institutes of Health and, most recently, a move to National Jewish Health in Colorado. Her current research focuses on using genomics to study lung diseases including, pulmonary fibrosis and asthma, and factors that contribute to the disease, such as the body’s innate immune response.
As Deputy Director of the Center for Genes, Environment, and Health, Yang established a variety of instruments and other technical approaches for analyzing genomic data. It’s not an easy task, she says, and everyday progress at work is often “only incremental.” She stays motivated by thinking about the big picture—how discoveries that she and other scientists make will hopefully result in improved long-term therapies for those with chronic lung diseases. Her involvement with the LGRC includes leading whole-genome analyses and epigenetic profiling of subjects with COPD and pulmonary fibrosis.
Given the hard work involved in science, those contemplating the career path of a basic scientist should heed Yang’s advice to first be sure you enjoy it and not worry if you don’t immediately know what to specialize in. “Scientific fields and techniques change quickly,” she says, “and we are all constantly learning.”
• B.S. in Chemistry/Mathematics, College of William and Mary (1996)
• Ph.D. in Chemistry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2000)
• Postdoctoral Fellow, The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR, 2003)
• Assistant Professor, Duke University Medical Center (2003–2005)
• Staff Scientist, National Institutes of Health (2005–2008)
• Reviews manuscripts for several journals, including the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine and Bioinformatics.
• More than 25 publications (as of April 2010).
The following select publications by Dr. Yang are related to her work in the LGRC:
Yang IV, Wade CM, Kang HM, Alper S, Rutledge H, Lackford B, Eskin E, Daly MJ, Schwartz DA. Identification of novel genes that mediate innate immunity using inbred mice. Genetics. 2009 Dec;183(4):1535-44.
Huang YC, Li Z, Carter JD, Soukup JM, Schwartz DA, Yang IV. Fine ambient particles induce oxidative stress and metal binding genes in human alveolar macrophages. Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2009 Nov;41(5):544-52.
Yang IV, Burch LH, Steele MP, Savov JD, Hollingsworth JW, McElvania-Tekippe E, Berman KG, Speer MC, Sporn TA, Brown KK, Schwarz MI, Schwartz DA. Gene expression profiling distinguishes familial and non-familial forms of pulmonary fibrosis. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2007 Jan 1;175(1):45-54.
Brass DM, Yang IV, Kennedy MP, Whitehead GS, Rutledge H, Burch LH, Schwartz DA. Fibroproliferation in LPS-induced airway remodeling and bleomycin-induced fibrosis share common patterns of gene expression. Immunogenetics. 2008 Jul;60(7):353-69.
Burch LH, Yang IV, Whitehead GS, Chao FG, Berman KG, Schwartz DA. The transcriptional response to lipopolysaccharide reveals a role for interferon-gamma in lung neutrophil recruitment. Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2006 Oct;291(4):L677-82.
Eschrich S, Yang IV, Bloom G, Kwong KY, Boulware D, Cantor A, Coppola D, Kruhøffer M, Aaltonen L, Orntoft TF, Quackenbush J, Yeatman TJ. Molecular staging for survival prediction of colorectal cancer patients. J Clin Oncol. 2005 May 20;23(15):3526-35.
Bloom G, Yang IV, Boulware D, Kwong KY, Coppola D, Eschrich S, Quackenbush J, Yeatman TJ. Multi-platform, multi-site, microarray-based human tumor classification. Am J Pathol. 2004 Jan;164(1):9-16.
Chen T, Yang IV, Irby R, Shain KH, Wang HG, Quackenbush J, Coppola D, Yeatman TJ. Regulation of caspase expression and apoptosis by adenomatous polyposis coli. Cancer Res. 2003 Aug 1;63(15):4368-74.
The FANTOM Consortium and the RIKEN Genome Exploration Research Group Phase I and II Team. Analysis of the mouse transcriptome based on functional annotation of 60,770 full-length cDNAs. Nature. 2002 Dec 5;420(6915):563-73.
Yang IV, Chen E, Hasseman JP, Liang W, Frank BC, Wang S, Sharov V, Saeed AI, White J, Li J, Lee NH, Yeatman TJ, Quackenbush J. Within the fold: assessing differential expression measures and reproducibility of microarray assays. Genome Biol. 2002 Oct 24;3(11):research0062.
I always knew that I would have a career in some sort of science or engineering. Both my father and grandfather were engineers and I wanted to be just like them; but I also admired my great aunt who was a physicist (and whose textbook I used in high school physics classes!). But then I took AP chemistry and loved it, so I decided to major in chemistry in college.
My mother is truly my hero. She is incredibly persistent and energetic—nothing stops her! She is always so positive and amazes me with how much she knows and still learns every day, and how open she is to new things and experiences. She worked as a high-profile journalist and reporter while I was growing up, but always found plenty of time for our family. She went through a very difficult car accident and then the war in Sarajevo only a few years later. She then moved to a new country when she was almost 50, but learned two languages in no time and loves living in Montreal.
I love science and research, but my greatest joy at work would be the people I work with. We have an incredible group of individuals who all have their own strengths and face different challenges, but each one of them contributes so much to our research efforts.
Not having enough time to do all the work I need and would like to do and finding a balance between work and personal life are two challenges I face every day.
At Starbucks or Panera. With a cup of coffee and no one at my office door, I can get so much done in so little time, whether it is just thinking, writing, or analyzing data.
I would have loved to have been there for the first landing on the moon, and I keep hoping for another super-exciting moment in astronomy in my lifetime. I am fascinated by all things outer space, and so are my two little boys!
I don’t think I am exciting enough to have anyone play me. But if I must choose, I would say Sandra Bullock.
The Dave Matthews Band, Barenaked Ladies, U2.
I would certainly play with my two little boys a lot more. I would also do more hiking and biking, and read more books.