Department of Medicine
Faculty Profiles by Division

Department of Medicine

Faculty Profiles

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photo Yang Liu, PhD


Professor of Medicine

Associate Professor of Bioengineering

Director, Biomedical Optical Imaging Laboratory

Member, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Insitute (UPCI)

Core faculty member, Department of Biomedical Informatics


Phone: 412-623-3751

Office: Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition
5117 Centre Ave Hillman Cancer Center 2.32
Pittsburgh, PA 15232
Phone: 412-623-3751
Fax: 412-623-7828
Education and Training
PhD, Northwestern University, 2006
MS, University of Chicago, 2001
BS, Nankai University, 1999
Postdoctoral Scientist, Johnson & Johnson, 2007
Research Interest
The laboratory of Dr. Yang Liu, and Associate Professor of Bioengineering focuses on developing imaging technologies and biosensors to improve early cancer detection and risk stratification. Current clinical practice relies on a one-shoe-fits-all-approach, which screens the entire at-risk population to identify a small percentage of truly high-risk patients, as with colonoscopy and mammography. Frequent, invasive surveillance of patients at risk for developing cancer carries financial, physical, and emotional burdens and can do more harm than good to the patients.

Our multi-disciplinary team integrates optics, physics, engineering, bioinformatics, chemistry, biology and clinical medicine, and develops imaging technologies to address this highly unmet clinical need. Our current projects include: (1) Development of high-throughput, low-cost super-resolution fluorescence microscopy (e.g., STORM) system for nanoscale imaging of chromatin organization; (2) Understanding the disruption of nanoscale chromatin organization in cancer initiation and progression; (3) Clinical translation of nanoscale nuclear architecture mapping to predict risk for progression to malignancy in various pre-malignant conditions such as adenomatous polyps, inflammatory bowel disease, prostate lesions and Barrett’s esophagus; (4) development of single-molecule imaging systems for biomarker detection; (5) development of light-sheet imaging system for 3D volumetric imaging.

Our technical expertise includes optical instrument development, high-speed image reconstruction algorithm development, image processing methods, single-molecule localization microscopy, quantitative phase imaging, optical coherence microscopy and light-sheet microscopy.
Educational Interest
Our laboratory provides an unique multi-disciplinary environment, ideally suited for engineering graduate students, medical students, residents and fellows who are interested in technology development (physics, electrical engineering, bioinformatics) and clinical translation of imaging technology for precision medicine.
For my complete bibliography, Click Here.
Selected Publications:
Xu, J., Ma, H.Q., Ma, H.B., Jiang, W., Duan, M., Mela, C.A., ..., Hainer, S.J., Liu, Y. Super-resolution imaging reveals the evolution of higher-order chromatin folding in early carcinogenesis. Nature Communications. 2020; 11: 1899.
Ma, H., Xu, J., Liu, Y. WindSTORM: Robust online image processing for high-throughput nanoscopy. Science Advances. 2019; 5(4): eaaw0683.
Uttam, S., Hashash, J.G., LaFace, J., Binion, D., Regueiro, M., Hartman, D.J., Brand, R.E., Liu, Y. Three-dimensional nanoscale nuclear architecture mapping of rectal biopsies detects colorectal neoplasia in patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Cancer Prevention Research. 2019; 12(8): 527-538.
Nmezi, B., Xu, J., Fu, R., Armiger, T., Bey, G., Schneider, J., Ma, H., Tu, Y., Chen, N., Young, S., Dahl, K., Liu, Y., Padiath, Q. A concentric model predicts district roles for the A and B type lamins in the spatial organization and stability of the nuclear lamina. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2019; 116 (10): 4307-4315.
Xu, J., Ma, H., Jin, J., Uttam, S., Fu, R., Huang, Y., Liu, Y. Super-resolution imaging of higher-order chromatin structures at different epigenomic states in single mammalian cells. Cell Reports. 2018; 24(4): 873-882.
Ma H, Fu R, Xu J, Liu Y. A simple and cost-effective setup for super-resolution localization microscopy. Scientific Reports. 2017; 7: 1542.
Pham, H.V., Pantanowitz, L., Liu, Y. Quantitative phase imaging to improve the diagnostic accuracy of urine cytology. Cancer cytopathology. 2016; doi:10.1002/cncy.21734.
Uttam, S, Pham, H.V., LaFace, J., Leibowitz, B., Yu, J., Brand, R.E., Hartman, D.J., Liu, Y. Early Prediction of Cancer Progression by Depth-Resolved Nanoscale Mapping of Nuclear Architecture from Unstained Tissue Specimens. Cancer Research. 2015; 75: 4718-27.
Uttam, S., Liu, Y. Fourier phase in Fourier-domain optical coherence tomography. Journal of the Optical Society of America. A, Optics, image science, and vision. 2015; 32: 2286-306.
Sponsored Research/Activities
Title: Three Dimensional Nanoscale Nuclear Architecture Mapping Based Taxonomy of Precursor Lesions for Predicting Colorectal Cancer Risk
Role: Principal Investigator
Funding Agency: National Cancer Institute
Grant Number: R01 CA232593
Start Year: 2019
End Year: 2024
Title: High-Throughput Super-Resolution Imaging of Chromatin Structures at Different Epigenetic States
Role: Principal Investigator
Funding Agency: National Cancer Institute
Grant Number: R33 CA225494
Start Year: 2018
End Year: 2021
Title: Characterization of dynamic nanoscale chromatin reorganization during induced cell reprogramming
Role: Principal Investigator
Funding Agency: Charles E. Kaufman Foundation
Start Year: 2018
End Year: 2020
Title: Lamin B2 regulates nuclear remodeling in cardiomyocyte terminal differentiation
Role: Co-Investigator
Funding Agency: National Heart, Lung, & Blood Institute
Grant Number: R01 HL151415
Start Year: 2020
End Year: 2024
Notable Achievements
Pitt Innovator Award, 2014, 2016
Fast Tracker Award, Pittsburgh Business Times, 2014
Edmund Optics Higher Education Award, 2013
Wallace H. Coulter Phase I&II Translational Research Award, Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, 2010, 2012
Melanoma SPORE Career Development Award, 2009
Reviewer and panelist, National Science Foundation, Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Imaging Technologies, 2009-Present
Reviewers for National Institute of Health EBIT, IMAT, CMT, ISD, BDMA, Shared Instrument Grant study sections, 2015-Present
Hillman Fellow for Innovative Cancer Research, 2019
Standing member, Instrumentation and Systems Development Study Section, National Institutes of Health (NIH), 2020-2024