Yuanzhao is interested in developing theories to predict collective behavior in complex systems. This ranges from the synchronous flashing of fireflies without a leader to neurons unleashing avalanches of firing activities while processing information. During his PhD at Northwestern University, he focused on the theory of synchronization and showed how disorder, in the form of random oscillator heterogeneity, can restore synchrony.
As a Schmidt Science Fellow working in the Strogatz Group at Cornell University, Yuanzhao aims to combine dynamic modelling and experimental data to study the benefits of cell heterogeneity on the circadian clock, which is regulated by the rhythmic and synchronized activity of thousands of neurons in the brain. He hopes this work could lead to new ideas to treat sleep disorders.
Yuanzhao grew up in China and obtained his first degree in mathematics from Zhejiang University. He marvels both the elegance of mathematics and the richness of nature. Motivated by the desire to build bridges between the two, he uses techniques from dynamical systems, graph theory, and statistical mechanics in his work to uncover the simplicity behind complex emergent phenomena. The resulting insights could help us harness the potential of our increasingly interconnected world.