Xiaoliang Sunney Xie received a B.S. from Peking University in 1984, and a Ph.D. from the University of California at San Diego in 1990, followed by a short postdoctoral experience at the University of Chicago. In 1992, Xie joined Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, where he later became a Chief Scientist. In 1999, he was appointed Professor of Chemistry at Harvard University. He is now the Mallinckrodt Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard.
Xie has made major contributions to the emergence of the field of single-molecule biophysical chemistry and its application to biology. He was among the first to conduct fluorescence studies of single molecules at room temperature in the early 1990s. His early work focused on single-molecule enzymology and protein conformational dynamics. Since 2006, his group pioneered studies of gene expression and regulation in living bacterial cells at the single molecule level, allowing quantitative descriptions of the central dogma of molecular biology. Xie’s team originated coherent Raman scattering microscopy, a highly sensitive imaging technique for living cells and organisms, which does not rely on fluorophores, but on vibrational contrast with molecular selectivity. Recently, his group has developed methods to sequence genomes and transcriptomes of single cells.
His honors include the 2009 E.O. Lawrence Award in Chemistry, the 2008 Leibinger Innovation Prize, the 2004 NIH Director's Pioneer Award, and the 2003 Sackler Prize in the Physical Sciences. Xie became a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2008 and a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 2012.