Staff Profiles

Shenqin Yao, Ph.D.

Senior Scientist

Shenqin Yao joined the Allen Institute for Brain Science in 2015 as a scientist in the research and development group.  Her role will focus on the development and optimization of novel molecular genetic tools, in an effort to understand the neural connectivity of the mouse brain. She received her Ph.D. in Molecular Biology and Genetics with Phillip Beachy at the Johns Hopkins University, where she identified novel signaling molecules that govern embryogenesis and adult tissue homeostasis via genome-wide screening in cultured cells. Prior to joining the Allen Institute, she received postdoctoral training and worked as a staff scientist with Catherine Dulac at Harvard University. There, she studied neural circuits underlying mouse social recognition using advanced molecular, genetic and behavioral approaches.


Research Interests

My research interest is to understand the molecular basis of neural circuitry that translates sensory inputs into behavioral outputs. At the Allen Institute, I will contribute to the development of viral vector tools that enable us to mark and trace the connectivities from molecularly defined populations of neurons. On the basis of anatomical dissection of circuit connectivity, I will also develop tools that will allow functional perturbation of distinct circuit components by combining genetic engineering with optogenetics and chemogenetics. Development and optimization of the above tools will facilitate the ongoing effort of the Allen Institute in characterizing different cell types in the brain and understanding the nature of the connections between cells of various types.  


  • Molecular genetics
  • Neuroanatomy
  • Viral vectors

Research Programs

  • Research & Development

Selected Publications

RecV recombinase system for in vivo targeted optogenomic modifications of single cells or cell populations

Nature Methods
March 23, 2020

Yao S, Yuan P, Ouellette B, Zhou T, Mortrud M, Balaram P, Chatterjee S, Wang Y, Daigle TL, Tasic B, Kuang X, Gong H, Luo Q, Zeng S, Curtright A, Dhaka A, Kahan A, Gradinaru V, Chrapkiewicz R, Schnitzer M, Zeng H, Cetin A

Connectional architecture of a mouse hypothalamic circuit node controlling social behavior

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
March 21, 2019

Lo L, Kim D, Yao S, Cetin A, Harris JA, Zeng H, Anderson DJ, Weissbourd B

Epigenetic landscape and AAV targeting of human neocortical cell classes

February 19, 2019

Mich JK, Hess EE, Graybuck LT, Somasundaram S, Miller JA, Ding Y, Shapovalova NV, Fong O, Yao S, Mortrud M, Chong P, Bertagnolli D, Goldy J, Casper T, Kroll M, Hodge RD, Bakken TE, Yao Z, Dee N, Cetin A, Smith KA, Gwinn RP, Cobbs C, Ko AL, Ojemann JG, Keene CD, Silbergeld DL, Gradinaru V, Sunkin SM, Zeng H, Lein ES, Tasic B, Ting JT, Levi BP

Nontoxic, double-deletion-mutant rabies viral vectors for retrograde targeting of projection neurons

Nature Neuroscience
March 5, 2018

Chatterjee S, Sullivan H, MacLennan BJ, Xu R, Hou Y, Lavin TK, Lea N, Michalski J, Babcock K, Dietrich S, Matthews GA, Beyeler A, Calhoon GG, Glober G, Whitesell J, Yao S, Cetin A, Harris J, Zeng H, Tye K, Reid RC, Wickersham IR