Faculty Profile

Wei Zhao

Wei Zhao, PhD

  • Assistant Professor, Epidemiology
  • Research Assistant Professor, Institute for Social Research

Dr. Zhao is an interdisciplinary researcher with training in genetic epidemiology, statistics, psychology, and neuroscience. Her research aims to understand the genetic architecture of complex human diseases and traits. She applies cutting-edge high-dimensional statistical models and methods to investigate the relationship between multi-omics (genomics, epigenomics, transcriptomics), social/environmental factors, and complex traits in multi-ancestry populations. She has studied a variety of health outcomes and behaviors with a recent focus on cognition, dementia, and mental health-related traits.

  • PhD, Psychology (Biopsychology and Neuroscience), University of Michigan, 2008
  • MA, Statistics, University of Michigan, 2006
  • BS, Psychology, Peking University, 2003

Research Interests

Genetic Epidemiology, Epigenomics, Social Genomics, Aging, Cognition, Dementia, Mental Health, Children's Health

Research Projects

Dr. Zhao is a co-investigator of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), which is the longest running longitudinal household survey in the world. She leads the genomic data dissemination and analytical efforts in PSID. Currently, she utilizes the genomic data and social/family environment measures collected from two-generation families to understand the effects of genetic factors, either by themselves or through gene-environment correlations or interactions, on behavioral/health outcomes in children and adolescents.

As a co-investigator of the Longitudinal Aging Study in India – Diagnostic Assessment of Dementia (LASI-DAD), Dr. Zhao co-leads multiple analytical projects that aim to understand the genetic architecture of cognition and dementia in South Asians.

Dr. Zhao participates in several projects that leverage multi-omics (genome, epigenome and transcriptome) data collected in multiple studies, including the Genetic Epidemiology Network of Arteriopathy (GENOA) study, the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA), and the Michigan Longitudinal Study (MLS), to gain insight into the molecular pathways that mediate social environmental effects on health outcomes.

In collaboration with many national/international genomic consortia, Dr. Zhao contributes to genome/epigenome-wide association study (GWAS/EWAS) efforts to identify genetic/epigenetic risk factors for a variety of complex human diseases/traits.

  • Zhao W, Smith JA, Wang YZ, Chintalapati M, Ammous F, Yu M, Moorjani P, Ganna A, Gross A, Dey S, Benerjee J, Chatterjee P, Dey AB, Lee J, Kardia SLR. Polygenic risk scores for Alzheimer's disease and general cognitive function are associated with measures of cognition in older South Asians from LASI-DAD. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2023 Feb 14. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 36782352.
  • Chaar DL, Nguyen K, Wang YZ, Ratliff SM, Mosley TH, Kardia SLR, Smith JA, Zhao W. SNP-by-CpG Site Interactions in ABCA7 Are Associated with Cognition in Older African Americans. Genes (Basel). 2022 Nov 18; 13(11):2150. PMID: 36421824; PMCID: PMC9691156.
  • Li Z, Zhao W, Shang L, Mosley TH, Kardia SLR, Smith JA, Zhou X. METRO: Multi-ancestry transcriptome-wide association studies for powerful gene-trait association detection. Am J Hum Genet. 2022 May 5; 109(5):783-801. PMID: 35334221.
  • Zhao W, Smith JA, Bielak LF, Ruiz-Narvaez EA, Yu M, Hood MM, Peyser PA, Kardia SLR, Harlow SD. Associations between polygenic risk score for age at menoarche and menopause, reproductive timing, and serum hormone levels in multiple race/ethnic groups. Menopause. 2021 Apr 19; 28(7):819-828. PMID: 33878091.
  • Zhao W, Ammous F, Ratliff S, Liu J, Yu M, Mosley TH, Kardia SLR, Smith JA. Education and lifestyle factors are associated with DNA methylation clocks in older African American. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2019 Aug 28; 16 (17) PMID:31466396.


email: zhaowei@umich.edu 

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