His research has three foci: (1) harmful algal blooms (HABs), (2) microbiomics, and (3) molecular systems biology. The HAB research aims to identify the functional genomic repertoire that drive bloom formation, and the interaction between functional repertoire and eutrophic conditions through multi-omics integration. Microbiomics aims to the understand the interactions among different group of microbial taxa in microbiomes of aquatic and soil environments, and the underlies genomic functional mechanisms. His current work centers on cyanobacterial bloom microbiomes and human gut microbiome (for example, gut microbiome transplantation and cancer microbiome). Molecular systems biology focuses on the structural decomposition and metabolic networks and development of integration of multi-omics data; this work will reveal how cellular life operates on a systems scale and provide the essential computational tools for analyzing multi-omics data.
He has authored over 40 research articles, book chapters, and reviews, and has had work published in the journal Briefings in Bioinformatics. One database of the common ecophysiology of cyanobacterial blooms has been developed for use in the water-bloom research community (http://18.104.22.168/CGDatabase).
Cao has a B.Sc. in biochemistry from Yantai University and a Ph.D. in cell and molecular biology from Fordham University. Before joining Duke Kunshan, he was an assistant research professor at Arizona State University and completed training in bioinformatics at Northern Illinois University and computational systems biology at the University of Georgia.
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