Qiyan Mao

Institut de Biologie du Développement de Marseille & Aix Marseille Université (UMR7288)

qiyan . mao [at] univ-amu.fr

Short Bio

I am a Chinese national. After obtaining my bachelor’s degree from Peking University, I went to the University of Chicago to study classic embryology with Dr. Robert Ho. I was fascinated by how the vertebrate limb skeleton self-organize to generate a complex shape. Wishing to find out how cells interact to drive morphogenesis, I joined Dr. Thomas Lecuit’s group at the IBDM as a postdoc fellow, where I uncovered how cell surface receptors encode mechanical interfaces between distinct fate groups. Now I am a postdoc researcher in Dr. Frank Schnorrer’s group at the IBDM in collaboration with Dr. Olivier Pourquié’s group at Harvard University. Using human iPSC-derived muscle progenitors, I take a synthetic approach to understand cell interactions during muscle morphogenesis in vitro. I dream of reconstructing the musculoskeletal system with the minimal sufficient cell interactions.


2013Ph.D. in Developmental Biology, University of Chicago, United States
2006B.S. in Biological Sciences (magna cum laude), Peking University, China

Research Experience

2019.1-presentPostdoctoral researcher
Aix Marseille Université & Institut de Biologie du Développement de Marseille
Advisor: Frank Schnorrer, PhD
Research subject: mechanical self-organisation in human iPSC-derived myofibers
2018.5-2018.122nd Career Break for maternity leave
2015.10-2016.21st Career Break for maternity leave
2014.3-2018.4Postdoctoral fellow
CNRS & Institut de Biologie du Développement de Marseille
Advisor: Thomas Lecuit, PhD
Research subject: cell surface signaling and cytoskeleton polarity
2008.9 – 2013.8PhD Thesis
Committee on Developmental Biology, University of Chicago
Advisor: Robert K. Ho, PhD
Thesis: Spatial Dynamics and Regulation of the Zebrafish Limb Morphogenetic Field.
ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (2013) ISBN 9781303423185.

Teaching Experience

2008Lecturer for undergrad level course
Developmental Biology Practical Course, University of Chicago
2007Teaching assistant for graduate level course
Genetic Analysis of Model Organisms, University of Chicago


Qiyan Mao†, Achyuth Acharya, Alejandra Rodriguez-delaRosa, Fabio Marchiano, Benoit Dehapiot, Ziad Al Tanoury, Jyoti Rao, Margarete Diaz-Cuadros, Arian Mansur, Erica Wagner, Claire Chardes, Vandana A Gupta, Pierre-Francois Lenne, Bianca H Habermann, Olivier Pourquie† and Frank Schnorrer†. Tension-driven multi-scale self-organisation in human iPSC-derived muscle fibers. bioRxiv (2021) doi: 10.1101/2021.10.24.465614
co-corresponding author

Erin B. Anderson, Qiyan Mao, Robert K. Ho. Tbx5a and Tbx5b paralogues act in combination to control separate vectors of migration in the fin field of zebrafish. Developmental Biology (2021), accepted

Jules Lavalou*, Qiyan Mao*,†, Stefan Harmansa, Stephen Kerridge, Annemarie C. Lellouch, Jean-Marc Philippe, Stephane Audebert, Luc Camoin, Thomas Lecuit. Formation of polarized contractile interfaces by self-organized Toll-8/Cirl GPCR asymmetry. Developmental Cell (2021) doi.org/10.1016/j.devcel.2021.03.030.
* co-first author
co-corresponding author
This article is featured in: doi.org/10.1016/j.devcel.2021.05.013

Qiyan Mao, Jules Lavalou and Thomas Lecuit.Fat2 and Lar Dance a Pas de Deux during Collective Cell Migration.Developmental Cell. (2017), 40(5):425-426. doi: 10.1016/j.devcel.2017.02.025.

Qiyan Mao and Thomas Lecuit. Evo–Devo: Universal Toll Pass for the Extension Highway?Current Biology (2016), 26 (14): R680-R683. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.05.063

Qiyan Mao and Thomas Lecuit.Mechanochemical interplay drives polarization in cellular and developmental systems.Current Topics in Developmental Biology (2016) 116:633-57. doi: 10.1016/bs.ctdb.2015.11.039

Qiyan Mao, Haley K. Stinnett and Robert K. Ho.Asymmetric cell convergence-driven zebrafish fin bud initiation and pre-pattern requires Tbx5a control of a mesenchymal Fgf signal.Development (2015) 142: 4329-4339; doi: 10.1242/dev.124750

Qiyan Mao, Stephen L. Johnson, and Robert K. Ho.How to make a new appendage: Invasive dermal skeleton contributes to a novel fin in a zebrafish mutant.Developmental Biology (2009) 331(2):460. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2009.05.278

Hongzheng Dai, Ying Chen, Sidi Chen, Qiyan Mao, David Kennedy, Patrick Landback, Adam Eyre-Walker, Wei Du, and Manyuan Long. The evolution of courtship behaviors through the origination of a new gene in Drosophila
PNAS (2008) 105(21): 7478–7483. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0800693105.

Oral Presentations

  • 2021    Marseille Medical Genetics Seminar, Faculté de Médecine, Aix-Marseille Université, France
  • 2021    Shaping Life 2 Meeting, Société Française de Biologie du Développement, France
  • 2019    17th French Society for Myology Annual Meeting, Marseille, France
  • 2012    12th International conference on limb development and regeneration, Montreal, Canada
  • 2012    Midwest Society for Developmental Biology 50th conference, Cincinnati, USA
  • 2012    EMBO workshop: Mesoscopic origins of cell behaviors during tissue morphogenesis, Corsica, France


  • 2019                Society for Muscle Biology Annual Meeting, Costa Rica
  • 2016                Shaping Life Meeting, Société Française de Biologie du Développement, France
  • 2012                Jacque Monod Conference: evolution and emergence of developmental patterns, France
  • 2012                Gordon Research Conference: Photosensory Receptors & Signal Transduction, USA
  • 2011                Society for Developmental Biology 70th annual meeting, USA
  • 2011                Gordon Research Conference: Cell Contact & Adhesion, USA
  • 2010                9th International Conference on Zebrafish Development and Genetics, USA
  • 2009                Society for Developmental Biology 68th annual meeting, USA

Honors and Awards

  • 2019                Best Oral Presentation, 17th French Society for Myology Annual Meeting
  • 2016                Best Poster, Shaping Life Meeting, Société Française de Biologie du Développement 
  • 2014                Best PhD Thesis in the general field of Developmental Biology, University of Chicago
  • 2012                1st Place Oral Presentation, Midwest Society for Developmental Biology 50th conference
  • 2012                Outstanding Student Talk, 12th International Conference on Limb Development and Regeneration
  • 2012                Doolittle-Harrison Fellowship, University of Chicago
  • 2011-2013       Chicago Biomedical Consortium Scholarship
  • 2011                Woman’s Board Travel Award, University of Chicago
  • 2011                Finalist, Best Student Poster Competition, Society for Developmental Biology 70th Conference
  • 2006                Excellent Graduate Award, Peking University
  • 2003-2006       Presidential Scholarship for Undergraduate Research, Peking University
  • 2003-2006       Baosteel Education Foundation Scholarship