Liang GAO, Ph.D.

School of Life Sciences

Principle Investigator, School of Life Sciences, Westlake University.




Liang GAO, Ph.D.

School of Life Sciences

Principle Investigator, School of Life Sciences, Westlake University.




“We appreciate the privilege granted to us in the Westlake University to develop advanced tools and technologies to facilitate fundamental life science researches and to reveal the beauty of nature. Our mission is to honor the support with our best research efforts.”


Liang  GAO received his B.S. and M.S. degree from the Tsinghua University in 2000 and  2003. He received his Ph.D. degree with Dr. R. Graham Cooks from the Purdue  University in 2009. He did his postdoctoral research with Dr. Eric Betzig in the  Janelia Research Campus of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute from 2010 to  2013. He was an assistant professor in the State University of New York at Stony  Brook from 2014 to 2016 and a lead research scientist in the Intelligent Imaging  Innovations, Inc. from 2017 to 2018 before he joined the Westlake University as  an associate professor in 2019.



Research Interests 

Our current research is focused on  the development of novel fluorescence imaging techniques and quantitative image  analysis methods, in order to image  biological processes at high spatial and temporal resolution and understand  biological behaviors and structures quantitatively. We are specifically  interested in the following research directions at this  moment.

1. Quantitative understanding of cell  behaviors in multicellular environments using c. elegans embryos, zebrafish embryos and  mouse embryos as animal models.

2. High resolution, high throughput 3D  imaging and interpretation of tissue structures.

3. High throughput, quantitative  analysis of large size biomedical 3D images.


Research Highlights  

Commercial Microscopes use our  technology

· Nuohai Life Science, LS18 light  sheet microscope.

· Intelligent Imaging Innovations,  Inc., Cleared Tiling Lightsheet microscope.




Nature Methods, “Tunable light sheet  microscopy”, 2016, 6

An  editor review about the tiling light sheet selective plane illumination  microscopy (TLS-SPIM, patented) developed in my lab at the Stony Brook  University. It is an effective light sheet microscopy technique enables low  invasive 3D fluorescence imaging of multicellular specimens at high spatial and  temporal resolution. The technique is under commercialization by multiple  companies.



Nature Methods, “Bessel beams beyond  the limit”, 2013, 10

An  editor review on the Bessel beam structured illumination microscopy technique I  developed with Dr. Eric Betzig in the Janelia Research Campus of HHMI during my  postdoctoral research. It is the first light sheet microscopy technique that  allows high speed, live 3D fluorescence imaging beyond the diffraction  limit.

Nature Methods, “Imaging life with  thin sheets of light”, 2012, 9(1).

Nature, “Seeing cells with sheets of  light”, 2011, 471, 268.

Nature Biotechnology, “Bessel beams  for light relief”, 2011, 29(4).

BBC News, “Light sheets image life  in 3D”, 03/07/2011.

HHMI News, “New microscope produces  dazzling 3D movies of live cells”, March 04, 2011.

Editor  reviews and news reports on the Bessel beam plane illumination microscopy  technique I worked on with Dr. Planchon Thomas and Dr. Eric Betzig in the  Janelia Research Campus of HHMI during my postdoctoral research. It is the first  light sheet microscopy technique that allows low invasive, high speed 3D  fluorescence imaging of biological processes at submicron isotropic 3D spatial  resolution.



DPAI used in the ExoMars rover  “ROSALIND FRANKLIN”

Our  invention, the discontinuous atmospheric pressure interface (DAPI), was used in  the Mars Organic Molecule Analyzer (MOMA) of the latest ExoMars rover, “ROSALIND  FRANKLIN”, to introduce ions from the Mars atmosphere to the mass analyzer  vacuum chamber. The rover will be sent to the Mars in July 2020. (


Chemical & Engineering News /  Science & Technology / Concentrates, “Interface boosts MS performance”, May  19, 2008, 86(20), 39-40.

A news  report about a discontinuous atmospheric pressure interface (DAPI, patented) I  invented in the Purdue University during my Ph.D. study. It allows efficient ion  introduction from atmospheric pressure environments to high vacuum environments  with very limited pumping capacities.


Representative Publications 

1. Li, X.L., Zhang, D.D.,  Wang, C.H., Li, X.Z., Lai, M.J., Weng, Y., Feng, R.L., Zhang, X.Y.S., Chen,  Y.L., Wang, D.Y., Nie, R., Yang, X., Chen, Y.Y., Chen, B.C., Feng, Y., Zhou, B.,  Cai, S., * Jia, J.M.,* Gao, L.,* (2019) “A versatile tiling light sheet  microscope for cleared tissue imaging”, BioRxiv. doi: (*Co Corresponding Author)

2. Fu, Q., Martin, B.,  Matus, D., Gao, L. (2016) “Imaging  multicellular specimens with real-time optimized tiling light sheet selective  plane illumination microscopy”, Nature Communications,  7:11088.

3. Gao, L.,* Shao, L., Chen, B.C.,  Betzig, E. (2014) “3D Live Fluorescence Imaging of Cellular Dynamics Using  Bessel Beam Plane Illumination Microscopy”, Nature  Protocols, 9, 1083-1011.  (*Corresponding Author, Cover article)

4. Gao, L., Shao, L., Higgins,  D.C., Poulton, J.S., Peifer, M., Davidson, M.D., Wu, X., Goldstein, B., and  Betzig, E. (2012) “Noninvasive imaging of 3D dynamics in thickly fluorescent  specimens beyond the diffraction limit”, Cell, 6, 1370-1385.  

5. Planchon, T.A.,*  Gao,  L.,*  Milkie, D.E., Davidson, M.W., Galbraith, J.A., Galbraith, C.G., Betzig, E.  (2011) “Rapid three-dimensional isotropic imaging of living cells using Bessel  beam plane illumination”, Nature  Methods, 8, 417-423. (*Equal  Contribution, Cover article)

6. Gao, L., Cooks, R.G., Ouyang,  Z. (2008) “Breaking the pumping speed barrier in mass spectrometry:  Discontinuous Atmospheric Pressure Interface”, Analytical  Chemistry, 80,  4026-4032.



1. Gao,  L. (2019) “Method  and apparatus for tiling light sheet selective plane illumination microscopy  with real time optimized light sheet”, US Patent granted  (US10222600B2)

2. Gao, L. and Chen, B.-C. “A method to tile  lattice light sheets in lattice light sheet microscopes” China Patent granted (Patent  Number:201910666767.0)

3. Ouyang, Z., Gao, L. Cooks, R.G., (2007)  “Discontinuous Atmospheric Pressure Interface”, US Patent granted (US 8304718  B2)


We  have research positions at different levels. We welcome inquiries from anyone in  the biological and physical sciences interested in predoctoral, postdoctoral and  research scientist positions involving the development of new bioimaging, image  analysis technologies and their applications. Creativity, dedication, and the  ability to work collaboratively in a multidisciplinary research group are  expected for all applicants. Experience in optical technology and cell biology,  developmental biology and neurobiology is desired but not essential. Please  email Dr. Liang Gao at for  the detailed information.



1. Wang, D.Y., Jin, Y.X., Feng, R.L.,  Chen, Y.L., Gao,  L.,* (2019)  “Tiling light sheet selective plane illumination microscopy using discontinuous  light sheets”, Optics Express, 27(23), 34472-34483.


2. Li, X.L., Zhang, D.D., Wang, C.H.,  Li, X.Z., Lai, M.J., Weng, Y., Feng, R.L., Zhang, X.Y.S., Chen, Y.L., Wang,  D.Y., Nie, R., Yang, X., Chen, Y.Y., Chen, B.C., Feng, Y., Zhou, B., Cai, S., *  Jia, J.M.,* Gao,  L.,* (2019) “A  versatile tiling light sheet microscope for cleared tissue imaging”,  BioRxiv. doi: (*Co Corresponding Author)

3. Tsai, Y.C., Tang, W.C., Low,  C.S.L., Liu, Y.T., Wu, J.S., Lee, P.Y., Chen, Q.L., Lin, Y.L., Kanchanawong, P.,  Gao,  L.,* Chen, B.C.*  (2019) “Rapid high resolution 3D imaging of expanded biological specimens with  latticelight sheet microscopy”, Methods, in press. (*Co Corresponding  Author)

4. Gao, L.,* Tang, W.C., Tsai, Y.C., Chen,  B.C.* (2019) “Lattice light sheet microscopy using tiling lattice light sheets”,  Optics  Express, 27(2),  1497-1506. (*Co Corresponding Author)

5. Jing, D., Zhang, S., Luo, W., Gao,  X., Men, Y., Ma, C., Liu, X., Yi, Y., Bugde, A., Zhou, B.O., Zhao, Y., Yuan, Q.,  Feng, J.Q., Gao,  L., Ge, W.P.,  Zhao, H. (2018) “Whole body tissue clearing and imaging with the PEG Associated  Solvent System (PEGASOS)”, Cell Research, 28, 803-818.

6. Fu, Q., Martin, B., Matus, D.,  Gao,  L., (2016)  “Imaging multicellular specimens with real-time optimized tiling light sheet  selective plane illumination microscopy”, Nature Communications,  7:11088.

7. Gao, L., (2015) “Extend the field of view  of selective plane illumination microscopy by tiling the excitation light  sheet”, Optics  Express, 23(5),  6102-6111.

8. Gao, L., (2015) “Optimization of the  excitation light sheet in selective plane illumination microscopy”,  Biomedical Optics  Express, 6(3),  881-890.

9. Gao, L.,* Shao, L., Chen, B.C., Betzig,  E. (2014) “3D Live Fluorescence Imaging of Cellular Dynamics Using Bessel Beam  Plane Illumination Microscopy”, Nature Protocols, 9, 1083-1011. (*Corresponding  Author, Cover article)

10. Wang, D., Meza, D. Wang, Y.  Gao, L., Liu, J.T.C. (2014)  “Sheet-scanned dual axis confocal (SS-DAC) microscopy using Richardson-Lucy  deconvolution”, Optics Letters, 39, 5431-5434 

11. Gao, L., Shao, L., Higgins, D.C.,  Poulton, J.S., Peifer, M., Davidson, M.D., Wu, X., Goldstein, B., and Betzig, E.  (2012) “Noninvasive imaging of 3D dynamics in thickly fluorescent specimens  beyond the diffraction limit”, Cell, 6, 1370-1385.

12. Planchon, T.A.,* Gao, L.,* Milkie, D.E., Davidson, M.W.,  Galbraith, J.A., Galbraith, C.G., Betzig, E. (2011) “Rapid three-dimensional  isotropic imaging of living cells using Bessel beam plane illumination”,  Nature  Methods, 8,  417-423. (*Equal Contribution, Cover article)

13. Majoul, I., Gao, L., Eric Betzig, Onichtchouk, D.,  Butkevich, E., Kozlov, Y., Bukauskas, F., Bennett, M.V.L., Lippincott-Schwartz,  J., Duden, R. (2013) “Fast structural responses of gap junction membrane domains  to AB5 toxins”, Proceedings of  the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 110(44), E4125-33.

14. Roh-Johnson, M., Shemer, G.,  Higgins, C.D., McClellan, J.H., Werts, A.D., TuLu, U.S., Gao, L., Betzig, E., Kiehart, D.P.,  Goldstein, B. (2012) “Triggering  a cell shape changes by exploiting  pre-existing actomyosin constractions”, Science, 335, 1232-1235.

15. Legant, W.L., Choi, C.K., Miller,  J.S., Shao, L., Gao, L., Betzig, E., Chen, C.S. (2012)  “Multidimensional traction force microscopy reveals rotational moments about  focal adhesions”, Proceedings of the National  Academy of Sciences of the USA, 110(3), 881-886.

16. Thievessen, I., Fakhri, N.,  Steinwachs, J., Kraus, V., Mclsaac, R.S., Gao, L., Chen, B.C., Baird, M.A.,  Davidson, M.W., Betzig, E., Oldenbourg, R., Waterman, C.M., Fabry, B. (2015)  “Vinculin is required for cell polarization, migration, and extracellular matrix  remodeling in 3D collagen”, FASEB Journal, 14-268235.

17. Ritter, A.T., Asano, Y.,  Stinchcombe, J.C., Dieckmann, N.M.G., Chen, B.C., Gawden-Bone, C., van  Engelenburg, S., Legant, W., Gao, L., Davidson, M.W., Betzig, E.,  Lippincott-Schwartz, J., Griffitys, G.M. (2015) “Actin depletion initiates  events leading to granule secretion at the immunological synapse”,  Immunity, 42(5), 864-876.

18. Gao, L., Li, G., Cooks, R.G. (2010)  “Axial CID and high pressure resonance CID in a miniature ion trap mass  spectrometer using a discontinuous atmospheric pressure interface”,  Journal of The  American Society for Mass Spectrometry, 21, 209-214.

19. Gao, L., Li, G., Cyriac, J., Nie, Z.,  Cooks, R.G. (2010) “Imaging of surface charge and the mechanism of desorption  electrospray ionization mass spectrometry”, Journal of Physical Chemistry  C, 114,  5331-5337.

20. Gao, L., Li, G., Nie, Z., Duncan, J.,  Ouyang, Z., Cooks, R.G. (2009) “Characterization of a discontinuous atmospheric  pressure interface. Multiple ion introduction pulses for improved performance”,  International  Journal of Mass Spectrometry, 283, 30-34.

21. Gao, L., Sugiarto, A., Harper, J.D.,  Cooks, R.G., Ouyang, Z. (2008) “Design and characterization of a multisource  hand-held mass spectrometer”, Analytical  Chemistry, 80,  7196-7205. (Accelerated Article, Cover article)

22. Gao, L., Cooks, R.G., Ouyang, Z. (2008)  “Breaking the pumping speed barrier in mass spectrometry: Discontinuous  Atmospheric Pressure Interface”, Analytical  Chemistry, 80,  4026-4032.

23. Gao, L., Song, Q., Noll, R.J., Duncan,  J., Cooks, R.G., Ouyang, Z. (2007) “Glow discharge electron impact ionization  source for miniature mass spectrometers”, Journal of Mass  Spectrometry, 42,  675-680.

24. Gao, L., Song, Q., Patterson, G.E.,  Cooks, R.G., Ouyang, Z., (2006) “Handheld rectilinear ion trap mass  spectrometer”, Analytical  Chemistry, 78,  5994-6002. (Accelerated Article)

25. Cyriac, J., Wleklinski, M., Li,  G., Gao,  L., Cooks, R.G.  (2012) “In situ Raman spectroscopy of surfaces by ion soft landing”,  Analyst, 137, 1363-1369.

26. Li, G., Cyriac, J.,  Gao,  L., Cooks, R.G.  (2011) “Molecular ion yield enhancement in static secondary ion mass  spectrometry by soft landing of protonated water clusters”, Surface and Interface  Analysis, 43,  498-501.

27. Clare, A.T., Gao, L., Brkić, B., Paul R. Chalker,  Taylor, S. (2010) “Linear ion trap fabricated using rapid manufacturing  technology”, Journal of The American Society  for Mass Spectrometry, 21, 317-322.

28. Song, Q., Xu, W., Smith, S.A.,  Gao,  L., Chappell,  W.J., Cooks, R.G., Ouyang, Z. (2010) “Ion trap mass analysis at high pressure:  an experimental characterization”, Journal of Mass  Spectrometry, 45,  26-34.

29. Huang, G., Gao, L., Duncan, J., Harper, J.D.,  Sanders, N.L., Ouyang, Z., Cooks, R.G. (2010) “Direct detection of benzene,  toluene, and ethylbenzene at trace levels in ambient air by atmospheric pressure  chemical ionization Using a handheld mass spectrometer”, Journal of The American Society  for Mass Spectrometry, 21, 132-135.

30. Nie, Z., Guangtao Li, Goodwin, M.,  Gao,  L., Cyriac, J.,  Cooks, R.G. (2009) “In situ SIMS Analysis and Reactions of Surfaces Prepared by  Soft-Landing of Mass-selected Cations and Anions using an Ion Trap Mass  Spectrometer”, Journal of American Society for  Mass Spectrometry, 20, 949-956.

31. Song, Q., Smith, S.A.,  Gao,  L., Xu, W.,  Volny, M., Ouyang, Z., Cooks, R.G. (2009) “Mass Selection of Ions from Beams  Using Waveform Isolation”, Analytical  Chemistry, 81,  1833-1840.

32. Keil, A., Hernandez-Soto, H.,  Noll, R.J., Fico, M., Gao, L., Ouyang, Z., Cooks, R.G. (2008)  “Monitoring of toxic compounds in air using a handheld rectilinear mass  spectrometer”, Analytical  Chemistry, 80,  734-741.

33. Keil, A., Talaty, N., Janfelt, C.,  Noll, R.J., Gao,  L., Ouyang, Z.,  Cooks, R.G. (2007) “Ambient mass spectrometry with a handheld mass spectrometer  at high pressure”, Analytical Chemistry, 42, 675-680.

34. Ouyang, Z., Gao, L., Fico, M., Chappell, W.J., Noll,  R.J., Cooks, R.G. (2007) “Quadrupole ion traps and trap arrays: geometry,  material, scale, performance”, European Journal of Mass Spectrometry, 13, 13-18.