Dr. Zhu received a Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry from Fudan University and obtained his Ph.D. in neuroscience from UT Southwestern Medical Center in 2000. He was a tenure-track Assistant Professor from 2003 to 2010, and an Associate Professor with tenure from 2010 to 2013 in the Departments of Internal Medicine and Cell & Developmental Biology at the University of Michigan Medical School. In 2013, Dr. Zhu joined Children’s National Hospital in Washington D.C. While there he was the Gilbert Family Endowed Professor in Neurofibromatosis Research and served as Scientific Director of the Gilbert Family Neurofibromatosis Institute. Dr. Zhu was also a Professor with tenure in the Department of Pediatrics at the George Washington University School of Medicine. From 2013 to 2018, he served as an Associate Director of Research in the Center for Cancer and Immunology Research at Children’s National Hospital.

Dr. Zhu’s research findings in cancer research, particularly in the fields of brain tumors and neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1), have been published in highly selective journals, such as Science, Cell, Nature Reviews Cancer, Cancer Cell, Nature Genetics, eLife, Cell Reports, Nature Communications, and Developmental Cell. His work has yielded major functional, molecular, and mechanistic insights into the mechanisms by which alterations in the NF1 tumor suppressor gene (TSG) as well as other TSGs (e.g., p53) contribute to developmental alterations in the brain. Dr. Zhu’s work has contributed to the understanding of the development and clinical behaviors of tumors arising in individuals with the NF1 condition as well as in a range of common cancer types where NF1 gene alterations arise somatically and consequently abnormally activate RAS-mediated ERK/MAPK signaling during cancer development. His recent work has led to a Department of Defense-sponsored clinical trial for NF1-associated malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors.

Dr. Zhu received academic and research awards, including the Biological Sciences Scholar Program (BSSP) scholar from the University of Michigan, the General Motors Cancer Research Scholar, the Paul Daniel Bogart Leadership Chair of Research from the Brain Tumor Society, the American Cancer Society Research Scholar, and the Gilbert Family Endowed Professorship. He co-chaired the annual Children’s Tumor Foundation’s NF conference in 2014, was elected to a fellow by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 2019. Recently, Dr. Zhu was selected for the inaugural Outstanding Scientist Award from the George Washington University Cancer Center in 2021, and named a Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) Scholar in Cancer Research for Established Investigators by the CPRIT in 2023.





Research Interest

  • Neural stem cell regulation and nervous system tumors
  • Neurofibromatosis type 1 and tumor suppressor gene (TSG) syndromes
  • NF1-associated autism
  • Pediatric and adult brain tumors


Featured Publications LegendFeatured Publications

Honors & Awards

  • CPRIT Scholar in Cancer Research for Established Investigator
    Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (2024)
  • Inaugural Outstanding Scientist Award
    George Washington University Cancer Center (2021)
  • Elected Fellow
    American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) (2019)
  • Gilbert Family Endowed Chair in Neurofibromatosis Research
    Gilbert Family Neurofibromatosis Institute, Children's National Hospital (2013-2024)
  • American Cancer Society Research Scholar
    American Cancer Society (2006-2009)
  • Paul Daniel Bogart Leadership Chair of Research
    Brain Tumor Society (2006-2007)
  • General Motors Cancer Research Scholars Program Scholar
    General Motors Cancer Research Program (2004-2006)
  • Biological Sciences Scholars Program (BSSP) Scholar
    University of Michigan Medical School (2003)

Professional Associations/Affiliations

  • American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) (2014)
  • American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) (1999)
  • Society for Neuroscience (2005)