Xiaohan Yang

Senior Staff Scientist

Dr. Xiaohan Yang is a Senior Research and Development Staff Member in the Plant Systems Biology Group in the Biosciences Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). His education covers a wide range of subjects including Forest Science (B.S.; Huazhong Agricultural University, China), Ornamental Botany (M.S.; Huazhong Agricultural University, China) and Horticulture/Plant Molecular Biology/Plant Breeding (Ph.D.; Cornell University, Ithaca, NY). He has five years of postdoc training in the areas of molecular genetics and plant genomics at Cornell University, University of Tennessee and ORNL.

Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) is a biological innovation that allows plants to thrive in water-limited environments such as arid deserts and areas with a pronounced seasonal drought. The water-use efficiency of CAM plants is much higher than that of C3 and C4 plants. Transferring CAM machinery into existing crops holds tremendous potential for sustainable production of food and biomass on semi-arid, marginal, or degraded agricultural lands. Dr. Yang leads a research team at ORNL to engineer CAM using Synthetic Biology approach for the purpose of improving water-use efficiency of bioenergy feedstocks. Dr. Yang’s team develops new tools for synthetic biology research, such as high-throughput assembly of various DNA parts into genetic circuits, precise temporal control of plant gene expression using optogenetics approaches, and in-planta stacking of a large number of genes into a single genomic locus. Also, Dr. Yang has extensive experience in plant genomics research. He leads the effort to sequence the genomes of two important CAM models (Agave and Kalanchoe) and performs studies on the plant small proteins and non-coding RNAs involved in the interactions with microbes.


2018 The R&D 100 Award (TNT Cloning System)
2008 Distinguished Achievement Award for Post-Graduate Research in Environmental Science (In recognition of outstanding early career productivity, ability to collaborate effectively in a team setting, and ability to integrate bioinformatics and molecular biology to gain novel insights into evolutionary genomics).
2000 Liu Memorial Award in recognition of his excellent progress and high potential for a successful academic career.


Tuskan GA, Yang X, De Paoli HC. “TNT Cloning System”. (US Patent No.: 10,017,770 B2; Date of patent: July 10, 2018)
Chen J-G, Gunter LE, Jawdy SS, Yang X, Tuskan GA, Bryan AC, “Modulating laccase enzyme to regulate cell wall biosynthesis and recalcitrance in plants”. US Patent App. 15/647,819, 2018.
Chen J-G, Jawdy S, Yang X, Tuskan GA, Yang Y, Gunter LE. “PtDUF266 gene regulating cell wall biosynthesis and recalcitrance in Populus”. US Patent App. 15/687,818, 2018