As biology turns increasingly into a data-rich science, the massive amount of data generated by high-throughput technologies present both new opportunities and serious challenges. As a bioinformatician, Dr. Ge Gao is interested in developing novel computational technologies to analyze, integrate and visualize high-throughput biological data effectively and efficiently, with applications to decipher and understand the function and evolution of gene regulatory systems. Drawing on his background in computational sciences, Dr. Gao specializes in large-scale data mining, using a combination of high-performance computing, machine learning, and data visualization.
Since 2011, when he was first recruited as a Principal Investigator (tenure-track) by Peking University, Dr. Gao has developed twelve online bioinformatic software tools and databases for efficient analyses of large-scale omics data. These tools and databases have had over 400 million hits from users worldwide, demonstrating their global significance and impact. Taking advantage of these powerful bioinformatics technical infrastructure, Dr. Gao has been studying the functionality and evolutionary dynamics of two important classes of regulators, transcription factors in plants and long noncoding RNAs in human and several other organisms, demonstrating that novel (i.e., evolutionarily young) regulators can play key roles in multiple biological processes by “re-wiring” existing regulatory circuits. His research has led to 15 peer-reviewed papers with him as (co-)corresponding or first author, of which several have been highlighted by the Essential Science Indicators (ESI), Faculty of 1000, InCoB’16 as well as journals. Meanwhile, as a bioinformatician working in the School of Life Sciences, Dr. Gao has always been passionate about establishing collaborations with biologists on projects of mutual interest. Such effective collaborations have resulted in another 12 peer-reviewed papers.
In addition to his role as a bioinformatics researcher, Dr. Gao has also been teaching at PKU. The explosion of biological data has created an unprecedented opportunity for modern life scientists. Training the next-generation of biologists to have the bioinformatics skill set became necessary and critical in any life science curriculum. Since his appointment at Peking University in 2011, Dr. Gao has been teaching three regular courses and three additional module classes every year. In 2013, Dr. Gao created the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) “Bioinformatics: Introduction and Methods” at Peking University, along with his colleague Dr. Liping Wei (Chinese and English version hosted by Coursera, also see the introductory Website for more details in Chinese). The MOOC was among the first seven MOOCs from mainland China, the second bioinformatics MOOC in the world, and the first Chinese-English bilingual bioinformatics MOOC. With 97,814 students from 145 countries/regions enrolled (as of December 2017), this MOOC was featured as one of the “Most Popular and Successful MOOCs at Peking University” (2014), and also awarded first-batch “National High-Quality MOOC” (2017). The success of this MOOC also won Dr. Gao the “Outstanding Teaching Award” (2014), the Vice President on Education for Asia-Pacific Bioinformatics network (APBioNET, 2016) and the First Prize of Peking University/Beijing “Teaching Achievement Award (2013~2017)”.
In the coming years, Dr. Gao’s future scientific pursuit will continue to bridge his profound interest in deciphering the “coded messages” in the human genome and his strengths in combining top-down, holistic thinking with advanced bioinformatics technology.