Conan Zhao Joins ScienceMatters Hall of Fame

The biophysicist/pianist in Sam Brown’s lab wins Episode 3 quiz

Conan Zhao is the winner of ScienceMatters Episode 3 quiz.

ScienceMatters Episode 3 features M.G. Finn, chair of the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Finn described his efforts to create a vaccine against the dreadful parasitic disease leishmaniasis.

The quiz question was: What sugar molecule mentioned in Episode 3 is the main reason surgeons can’t transplant organs from animals into humans?

The answer is alpha gal.

Zhao is a research assistant in the lab of Sam Brown. Brown is an associate professor in the School of Biological Sciences and a member of Georgia Tech's Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience. He hails from Richmond, Virginia. He hopes to continue studies in medical informatics or biophysics.

“I was writing some code for a Machine Learning project while listening to the podcast,” Zhao says. “I like listening to something while I work. Most often it's the Joe Rogan podcast, Radiolabs, or new music, but last week it happened to be the ScienceMatters podcast, mainly because someone in the office next to me won last week's quiz!”

According to Zhao’s LinkedIn page: “I am a biophysicist in the Brown Lab at Georgia Tech. My work focuses on modeling bacterial dynamics and using big data analyses to understand the microbiome component of our health.”

Zhao aspires to be a computational biophysicist. In the lab of Sam Brown, that means “I make math models for microbiome dynamics and try to apply published microbiome mining algorithms to our data,” he says. “Our lab has collaborations with Emory to study the lung microbiomes of patients with cystic fibrosis to better understand disease progression and potentially suggest patient-specific antibiotic therapies.”

On his LinkedIn profile, Zhao adds: “I'm interested in optimizing clinical care, allowing physicians to spend less time in front of a computer screen and more time with their patients.

“I'm also a classically trained pianist (although I'm now exploring more hip hop, r&b, and jazz styles). If your lab group happens to have a band attached, I'll probably be in touch."

Zhao now joins the ScienceMatter Hall of Fame of winners of the weekly quiz. Previous winners are Vineeth Aljapur and Pedro Marquez Zacarias.
Science Matters Hall of Fame
Aljapur identified Waymo as the Google technology for self-driving cars mentioned in Episode 1. He is a first-year student in Georgia Tech’s Bioinformatics Interdisciplinary Graduate Program.

Marquez Zacarias identified wood rats as the small four-legged animals mentioned in Episode 2 help Jenny McGuire collect bones from Natural Trap Cave. He is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Georgia Tech Quantitative Biosciences Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program.

Next up on ScienceMatters is "A Healthy Microbiome for the Georgia Aquarium," starring Nastassia Patin. She is a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Frank Stewart, an associate professor in the School of Biological Sciences and a member of the Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience.

Join ScienceMatters Hall of Fame. Enter to win a prize by answering the question: What is the name of the Georgia Aquarium sea turtle mentioned in Episode 4?

Submit responses by 11 AM on Monday, Sept. 17, at