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Yi Xiao

Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, FIU

Phone: 305-348-4536


Fax: 305-348-3772


Yi Xiao is an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Florida International University (FIU). She was a postdoctoral fellow in both The Hebrew University of Jerusalem with Professor Itamar Willner from 2001 and 2004 and in the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) with Professors Alan Heeger and Kevin Plaxco from 2004 to 2007. In 2007, she was appointed as a research professor and worked with Professor Tom Soh in the Department of Materials and Department of Mechanical Engineering at UCSB. In 2011, she joined the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at FIU as a tenure-track assistant professor. In 2017, she was tenured as an associate professor. Professor Xiao has authored three book chapters, granted 5 patents, and published 68 peer-reviewed scientific papers in the fields of analytical and bio-analytical chemistry, materials science, and biotechnology. Since joining FIU, she has given 45 presentations at various national and international meetings and conferences. To date, her work has received more than 8200 citations with an H-index of 42. The interests of Prof. Xiao’s research group include engineering intelligent aptamers, developing innovative sensor-platforms with ultra-high sensitivity and specificity, and designing new SELEX technologies for isolating novel and functionalized aptamers for small-molecule targets. She has been working towards creating portable, commercially-available devices for applications such as environmental monitoring, drug screening, food safety, and diagnostics. She has mentored 7 postdocs, 7 PhD, and 1 MS students in Chemistry research. Her research group has received three patents from technologies developed at FIU and also received ~ $ 1 million in research funding from the NIJ and NIH. Prof. Xiao is a fellow of the American Chemical Society (ACS), Materials Research Society (MRS), American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG). Prof. Xiao has served on several departmental committees. She was also a session chair for the 2017 ACS FAME, a poster judge for the 2016 and 2017 ACS FAME, and a judge for the 2015 FIU  GSAW. She has also been heavily involved in the research community as a reviewer for numerous peer-reviewed journals in the fields of chemistry, biomaterials and nanotechnologies, as well as a proposal reviewer for the Army Research Office.

General Research Areas

  • Use of biotechnologies to generate new biomaterials that combine with nanomaterials to develop amplified, robust and disposable biosensors for specific in vitro or in vivo sensing at point-of-care.
  • Nanomaterial-Based Biosensors
  • DNA-Based Biosensors
  • In vitro Directed Evolution

CARFS Funded Projects

  • Colorimetric aptamer-based assay for the specific, rapid and on-site detection of (-)-trans-∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in breath condensate: The on-site detection of alcohol and drug exposure is of high importance for workplace drug testing and driving under the influence programs. The detection of compounds in the breath offers noninvasive sample collection for on-site drug testing. Currently, the on-site breath sampling method for substance abuse is the breathalyzer, used for the detection of alcohol. THC is the major psychoactive component of cannabis and serves as a biomarker for cannabis exposure in the breath. Although sampling techniques have been developed for the collection of THC in the breath, they are often processed in a lab using various chromatography and MS techniques, making the method unsuitable for on-site screening of cannabis abuse. To achieve the on-site identification of cannabis use in the breath, we will develop an aptamer-based colorimetric assay which can be directly applied to breath condensate and enable rapid detection using the naked-eye. Aptamers are single-stranded oligonucleotides capable of specifically binding to a target of interest. We propose to isolate a high-affinity DNA aptamer for THC via systematic enrichment of ligands by exponential enrichment (SELEX). The isolated THC aptamer will be split into two fragments and engineered into a highly target responsive cooperative-binding split aptamer (CBSA). A color readout will be achieved by modification of DNAzyme sequence on the CBSA. Specifically, binding of THC to CBSA will activate the DNAzyme to catalyze a colorimetric reaction, generating a color change from colorless to dark green and allowing for naked-eye detection in less than 15 minutes.