Alumni Spotlight: Huaijun Zhou
Huaijun Zhou carries an impressive resume in academia, with multiple graduate degrees and countless awards for his research. He is currently a professor in animal science at the University of California-Davis, where he teaches and conducts research. Zhou received his bachelor’s degree in animal science and master's in animal breeding and genetics from Yangzhou University in China. He then attended Iowa State, where he received his M.S. in bioinformatics and computational biology and his Ph.D. in immunogenetics and molecular genetics. He spent seven years in the Department of Animal Science, as a visiting scientist, graduate student, and postdoctoral research associate.
Recently, Zhou was the recipient of the National Academy of Sciences Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences for his research, where he focuses on the farm animal genome and genetic enhancement of poultry health and production efficiencies in farm animals. This supports the improvement of global food security. He works specifically on challenges facing smallholder farmers in Africa, like climate and infectious diseases.
When asked what the award means to him, Zhou said, “It is a very high honor for me, especially as the first animal scientist to receive this award. It shows how animal scientists can use advanced technology to mitigate challenges like poverty, hunger, and malnutrition.”
Huaijun is also the current program director of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Genomics to Improve Poultry (gip.ucdavis.edu). This program collaborates with scientists in Ghana, Tanzania, and ILRI to try to improve resiliency to infectious diseases in poultry there. This is the 10th year of the program, and Iowa State faculty members Sue Lamont, Zhou’s Ph.D. mentor, and Jack Dekkers are also a part of the program.
Zhou said Iowa State well-prepared him in many ways for his achievements today. Very few universities offered graduate degrees in bioinformatics and computational biology in early 2000, and he was able to be on the cutting edge of research in genetics, genomics, and bioinformatics.
Huaijun’s advice to current students: “Never underestimate your potential and open your mind. I came to Iowa State, I was barely able to speak English and had a very hard time understanding English. I never thought one day I would become a faculty member in the United States and win such a prestigious award from National Academy of Sciences.”