Xiaoyan Bao

Hertz Fellow: Xiaoyan Bao

California Institute of Technology

Area of Study


Fellowship Years

2001 - 2007

Xiaoyan (Robert) Bao is a postdoc at Massachusetts General Hospital working with Vamsi Mootha to study the metabolic consequences of mitochondrial dysfunction in mammalian cells, and to explore avenues by which to correct those consequences. He was born in mainland China and had a peripatetic childhood coinciding with the early part of his father's academic career. Ironically, it was his own education that kept Robert in the same place for the longest time: four years at California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for his bachelor's degree, and another six years at Caltech as a Hertz Fellow for his PhD with Professor Stephen Quake, and his subsequent first postdoctoral appointment.

Robert is interested in using quantitative and physical tools to study and modify biological systems. While an undergraduate student, he was one of the first researchers to recognize that a single ion channel protein species can exhibit different ion selectivities, and that it can switch between these two selectivities in seconds. His graduate work focused first on knot dynamics in single DNA molecules -- spawning a small burst of activity on the part of knot theorists to model these dynamics -- and then on studying quantitative cell signaling using microfluidic devices, where he used variations between different cells to explore the responsiveness of different parts of the G protein-coupled calcium release system.


2007 - Lost in a Crowd: Observations of Single DNA Knots and Single Mammalian Cells