Rajesh C. Rao, M.D.

Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences and Pathology

Principal Investigator

Rajesh is a physician-scientist and vitreoretinal surgeon. He earned his undergraduate degree in Molecular Biology at University of Wisconsin-Madison, and his M.D. from Yale School of Medicine. He completed an internship at McGaw Medical Center of Northwestern University and ophthalmology residency at Harvard Medical School. Rajesh obtained additional 2-year training in vitreoretinal surgery, uveitis, and ocular oncology at Washington University School of Medicine and The Retina Institute, St. Louis. Endlessly curious, he loves to bridge seemingly disparate fields together, from the eye and epigenetics to histones and blindness. Outside work, you can find Rajesh piecing together instant pot recipes and enjoying the outdoors with his young family.

Qiang Li, M.D., Ph.D. 

Senior Scientist


Qiang received his bachelor degree for clinical medicine from Qingdao University School of Medicine and completed Ph.D.  training (immunology) under Dr. Weixin Cao in Shanghai Jiaotong University School of Medicine, both in China. As a cancer surgeon-scientist, Qiang is diligent, confident, and a leader who people go to figure out how to get things done. He fits perfectly in the culture of the Rao Lab: he is a infinitely curious, a voracious reader, quickly able to get down to the nuts and bolts of a new technique or idea, and quietly but rapidly adapt new technology to his project. His research interests focus on gene regulation and cell fate decisions in pluripotent stem cells.

Jing Xu, Ph.D. 

Research Lab Specialist Senior 


Jing received her PhD degree for molecular entomology from China Agricultural University and then she trained as a postdoc for molecular biology in School of Science and Technology, Kwansei Gakuin University of Japan for two years. As a research associate, she joined a team focusing on cell death signaling pathways at Wayne State University after her postdoc. Then she was enrolled in the University of Michigan as a research specialist focusing on epigenetic and epi-transcriptomic research which includes histone methyltransferase Mll1 in leukemia and m6A methyltransferase Mettl3 in retinal development. She is also the lab manager for the Rao lab. 

Brian Basinski, B.S.

Graduate Student (Molecular & Cellular Pathology)


Brian received his bachelor's degree in Biochemistry from Grand Valley State University. Before graduate school, Brian's research focus was in antibiotic resistance where he used x-ray crystallography and enzyme kinetics to design novel inhibitors for beta-lactamase enzymes. Now in the Rao Lab, Brian studies the rare congenital blinding disease North Carolina Macular Dystrophy (NCMD), which may be caused by PRDM13. Using mouse retinal organoids as a model, he studies the impact of Prdm13 on retinal development and transcription. In his free time, he likes to collect Pokémon cards and play Disc Golf. 

Yuanhao Huang, B.S.

Graduate Student (Bioinformatics)


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Charukesi Sivakumar, B.S. 

Graduate Student (Molecular and Cellular Pathology)


Charu earned her bachelor's degree in Biochemistry from University of Texas at Dallas. Prior to starting graduate studies, she studied fruit fly genetics at UT Dallas, trying to understand the mechanisms of “selfish” genes, as well as the hematopoietic stem cell niche environment in mice at UT Southwestern. Now in the Rao Lab, she studies a rare syndromic disease, Li-Ghorbani-Weisz-Hubshman Syndrome (LIGOWS), caused by point mutations in MOF/KAT8.  Through the use of our mouse retinal organoid model, she studies the impact of KAT8 on epigenetic regulation during early retinal development. In her free time, she likes to play Disc Golf and play the violin in the Life Sciences Orchestra. 

Ricky Han, B.S. 

Graduate Student (Bioinformatics)


Ricky earned his bachelor's degree in Applied Mathematics at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen, then gained valuable experience as a research assistant at both the Tsinghua-Berkeley Shenzhen Institute and the Shenzhen Research Institute of Big Data. Currently, he is advancing his studies as a Master's student in Bioinformatics at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, under the mentorship of Dr. Jie Liu and Dr. Rajesh Rao. His main research interests involve employing artificial intelligence tools like reinforcement learning, deep learning, and representation learning, to spearhead novel discoveries in Biological Sciences.

Tyler Carman, B.S.

Postbaccalaureate Student


Tyler recently graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.S. in Neuroscience and will be applying to MSTP programs in the next admissions cycle. Since starting in the Rao Lab in the summer of 2021, he has mainly helped with Brian’s project regarding PRDM13 functioning as a transcription factor. His main focus now is working on exploring direct protein-protein interactions with WDR5 that drive the repression of germ-line genes. Outside of lab, Tyler enjoys hanging out with friends, playing video games, and lifting/playing soccer.

Hana Pan

Undergraduate Research Assistant


Hana is currently a sophomore undergraduate student attending the University of Michigan. She is planning to major in biomolecular science and continue research in medical school. She is interested in investigating the role of PRDM13 as a transcription factor through identifying its gene targets and molecular function during retinal development. She hopes to have a better understanding of the molecular cloning process and gene editing. In her free time, she enjoys graphic design and listening to music.


Research Opportunities

We’re always looking for motivated, curious, and creative individuals from a variety of backgrounds to join the lab. The Rao Lab is a member of the  Molecular & Cellular Pathology  and Genetics and Genomics section of the The Program in Biomedical Sciences (PIBS) Ph.D. graduate training program at the University of Michigan, and is looking to recruit motivated and energetic graduate and medical scientist training program (MSTP) students. Graduate and MD/PhD students, and ophthalmology residents and fellows looking to join us should email to set up a time to chat. Post-doctoral candidates should include 3 letters of reference and a brief, 1 page statement summarizing their research interests and goals. If you're interested in joining our team, please send your CV to Rajesh. Contact us.