Hongjie Li, PhD

Principal Investigator

Hongjie got his bachelor’s degree from University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) in 2010. He did PhD with Dr. Henri Jasper at University of Rochester, New York, and then Buck Institute for Research on Aging, California. Hongjie used Drosophila fruit fly as a model organism to study gut stem cells and aging. Hongjie got his postdoctoral training with Dr. Liqun Luo at Stanford University, where he combined single-cell RNA-seq with genetic tools to study neural wiring during brain development.

Currently, Hongjie is an assistant professor and CPRIT Scholar at Huffington Center on Aging & Department of Molecular and Human Genetics at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM). He developed several single-cell/nucleus sequencing platforms in Drosophila (2017 Cell; 2020 Current Biology; 2021a eLife; 2021b eLife), and has been leading the Fly Cell Atlas project (2022 Science). His lab recently established the Aging Fly Cell Atlas for studying whole organism aging at cellular resolution (2023 Science in press). His current research focuses on applying single-cell sequencing technologies to understand aging, with the ultimate goal of improving human healthy lifespan. 

His achievements have been recognized by receiving several awards, including the Stanford Neuroscience Institute Interdisciplinary Award, NIH K99/R00 Award, Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) Award, Impetus longevity research Award, Ted Nash Long Life Foundation Award, and Welch Foundation Award. [Google Scholar][BCM profile]

Yanyan Qi

Laboratory Director

Yanyan obtained her medical degree of Clinical Medicine from Xinxiang Medical University (equivalent to US MD degree, certified) in China in 2011 and did one-year residency in Hospital. From 2012 to 2016, she worked in Dr. Henri Jasper lab as a Research Assistant at the Buck Institute, Novato CA. Later, she worked as a Life science research professional in Dr. Howard Chang lab at Stanford University, and then as a Senior Research Associate at PACT Pharma in South San Francisco. Before coming to Baylor College of Medicine, she worked with Dr. Ansu Satpathy as LSRP3 at Stanford University. Currently in Li lab, Yanyan is the Laboratory Director. Outside the lab, Yanyan loves cooking, and has recorded every single meal in an Excel table for the last several years. 

Yanyan has extensive experience on FACS, scRNAseq, scATACseq, TCR-seq, ChIRP-MS and proteomics. Her work has contributed to 36 papers, including Science (3x, 2016, 2020, 2021), Cell (4x, 2019, 2021, 2021, 2022), Nature Medicine (2x, 2018, 2019), Immunity (2x, 2021, 2022) Nature Immunology, Nature Methods, Nature Biotechnology, eLife, and PNAS with 4,000 citations.  [Google Scholar]

Niccole Auld

Graduate Student

Niccole graduated from the University of West Florida with her bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences in 2019. She then joined the cancer and cell biology program at BCM, where she now works in Dr. Li’s lab (from 2021 March). Her research focuses on identifying factors contributing to age-related intestinal tumors using Drosophila intestinal stem cell (ISC) as a model.

In her spare time, she enjoys painting, taking care of her ever-expanding houseplant collection, and playing with her two cats named Ellie and Salem. 

Tzu-Chiao Lu

Postdoctoral fellow

Tzu-Chiao is a molecular and computational biologist. He got his bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from National Chung Cheng University and his PhD in Biology in National Defense Medical Center at Taiwan. He did his postdoc research with Ao-Lin Allen Hsu at National Yang-Ming University, Taipei, where he investigated aging mechanisms and performed scRNAseq profiling in worms. He joined Hongjie’s lab in July 2021 and his research focuses on single cell multi-omics data analysis to understand aging mechanisms and to identify longevity genes in Drosophila.

Madeline Burns

Postdoctoral fellow

Alzheimer’s Association Research Fellowship (AARF).
Center for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases (CAND) Scholar.

Madeline graduated from Texas A&M University with a bachelor’s degree in Biology and a minor in Journalism Studies in 2012. She worked in industry before joining Dr. Julia Saltz’s lab at Rice University, where she completed her PhD work in 2021. Madeline’s PhD work focused on the ecological and evolutionary factors contributing to variation in cognition, both within and between species, as well as the influence of cognitive bias in cognitive performance.

Madeline joined the Li Lab in August 2021 as a postdoctoral associate in the Huffington Center on Aging at Baylor College of Medicine. Her research focuses on investigating how the brain ages, using a combination of multi-omics and behavioral approaches in the Drosophila fruit fly model system. Outside the lab, Madeline enjoys biking and exercising, trying new recipes, and spending time with friends and family.

Tyler Jackson

Graduate Student

Tyler received his bachelor’s in biology with an emphasis on genetics and biotechnology from the University of Iowa in 2019. He then participated in a 1 year postbaccalaureate program elucidating mechanisms of DNA repair and recombination in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Tyler joined the Li lab at Baylor College of Medicine in February 2022. His primary interest in the Li lab is understanding the heterogeneity of intestinal stem cells in response to tumor initiating factors and how this heterogeneity varies with age. 

Weightlifting is an integral hobby of his, with the occasional run here and there. Tyler also likes to spend time with friends outside of lab.

Ye-Jin Park

Graduate Student

Ye-Jin got her bachelor’s and master’s degree from Seoul National University, Korea.
She is from the DDMT program at BCM.
She is co-mentored with Drs. Hongjie Li and Hugo Bellen.
She has a cat.
She has a dog.
She loves Jeep.
She wants to cure all the rare diseases.

Chung-Yi Liang

Research scholar

Chung-Yi is a visiting scholar in Hongjie’s lab. She got her PhD degree in National Taiwan University and her PhD works is focused on transcriptional regulation in yeast. Then she joined Allen Ao-Lin Hsu’s lab to study aging using C. elegans. In 2022, she started to have the collaboration between Hongjie and Allen labs. She is lucky and happy to explore more about a fantastic animal model—fruit fly in aging field with the powerful snRNA-seq tools! In her free time, she enjoys cooking and foods!

Erin Harrison

lab technician

joining in June 2023.
Erin Harrison is an undergraduate at Rice University majoring in neuroscience. She started working in Li lab from May 2022 and is investigating the molecular mechanism involved in brain aging. Outside of the lab, she enjoys rock climbing and hiking, especially with friends and family.

Kristen Hall

Undergraduate student

Kristen is a junior at Rice University studying Neuroscience and Medical Humanities on a pre-medical track. She started in the Li Lab in June 2022, where she is investigating the genetic expression of cancerous intestinal stem cells. Outside of the lab, Kristen serves as an EMT-Basic with Rice University EMS and spends time teaching neuroscience at underserved Houston schools. She also enjoys snow skiing, reading, and visiting her family’s lake cabin in Oklahoma.

Adel Iqbal

Undergraduate student

Adel is an undergraduate at Rice University double majoring in Neuroscience and Political Science. Prior to studying in Houston, he spent 15 years in Saudi Arabia. Adel joined the Li Lab in June 2022 and is involved in a project seeking to understand the mechanistic effects of glial cell-surface protein regulation on brain aging in Drosophila. In his free time, Adel enjoys discussing global affairs, swatting feral lab flies, and spending time with friends!

Lili Nikolova

Undergraduate student

Lili is a sophomore at Rice University studying Mathematical Economic Analysis and Data Science. She started working in Li Lab in September 2022 and is involved in analyzing broad screen Drosophila life span data in the hopes of understanding which genes are critical to normal brain aging. In her free time, Lili loves to swim, rock climb, travel, bake, and spend time with family and friends.

Lindsey Ran

Undergraduate student

Lindsey Ran is a sophomore at Rice University majoring in Neuroscience. She joined the Li Lab in September 2022. Outside of lab, she plays violin for residents in local hospitals and nursing homes and writes for the university newspaper. She also enjoys reading and scrapbooking in her free time.

Sarah Eleraky

Undergraduate student

Sarah is a sophomore at Rice University majoring in Biosciences and Women, Gender, and Sexuality. She started working in the Li Lab in August 2022 where she is studying mechanisms underlying intestinal stem cell aging in Drosophila. In her free time, Sarah loves to cook, read, and spend time out in nature.


Niccole Auld, from the Cancer & Cell Biology program. 2021 March – 2021 May
Jinghan Zhao, from the Neuroscience program. 2021 August – 2021 October
Ye-Jin Park, from the Development, Disease Models & Therapeutics (DDMT) program. 2021 October – 2021 December
Tyler Jackson, from the Cancer & Cell Biology program. 2022 January – 2022 March
Harim Delgado-Seo, from the Neuroscience program. 2022 March – 2022 May
Jiaye Chen, from the QCB program. 2022 August – 2022 October
Joseph Zoeller, from the QCB program. 2022 August – 2022 October
Yang Zhang, from the QCB program. 2022 October -2022 December

2021 December (holiday party)

2022 August (lab meeting)

2022 December (holiday party; 18 images)

2023 April (Tzu-Chiao AFCA paper)


David Vacek

Omar Moussa Pasha


2020-2021; undergraduate

2021-2022; undergraduate (Rice U.)


Undergraduate, Stanford University

Saint Louis University School of Medicine

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