Mingjie Dai

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Mingjie Dai is an Assistant Professor of Bioengineering, and a technology developer in DNA nanotechnology, super-resolution microscopy, and high-throughput sequencing. Prior to joining Rice, he was a Systems Biology Department Fellow at Harvard Medical School and a Technology Development Fellow at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard. He has developed DNA-PAINT based super-resolution fluorescence microscopy methods capable of observing and tagging single molecules with high sensitivity and spatial resolution, next-generation sequencing based methods for scalable and high-sensitivity viral diagnostics, and functional DNA nanostructures for high-throughput single molecule biophysical studies. The molecular tools and microscopy methods developed in his work have broad applications in basic biomedical research and clinical use, from understanding the underlying cause and progression of disease, to sensitive and scalable viral diagnostics.

Dai earned his B.A. and M.Sci. in Physics from the University of Cambridge, U.K. in 2010, and his Ph.D. in Biophysics from Harvard University in 2016. He has published more than 15 peer-reviewed publications in journals including Nature, Science, Nature Methods, Nature Chemistry, and Nature Nanotechnology. His technology development efforts also resulted in more than 5 patents or provisional applications.

His research is supported by a CPRIT First-Time, Tenure-Track Faculty grant (2022), and an NIH Pathway to Independence (K99/R00) award (2021). He was a Systems Biology Department Fellow at Harvard Medical School (2017), an HHMI International Student Research Fellow (2012), and a Gold Medalist and Einstein Centennial Prize winner at the International Physics Olympiad (2005).

Research Statement

Research in the Dai lab is focused around developing novel molecular and bioengineering technologies for understanding and interacting with biological systems, in particular building dynamic and functional nucleic acid-based circuits, sensitive detection and accurate profiling of the cellular proteome.

Current technology development includes methods for fast and highly multiplexed molecular imaging of proteins and RNA in the cellular and tissue context, using a combination of super-resolution microscopy and single-molecule optic methods; high-sensitivity detection (e.g. on single molecules) and accurate profiling of protein modifications, using a combination of microscopic and microfluidic techniques; scalable and high-sensitivity detection of RNA virus and transcripts in cellular and clinical samples with engineered dynamic DNA probes.

Research Areas

Molecular Bioengineering and Synthetic Biology, Single-Molecule Biophysics and Proteomics, DNA and RNA Nanotechnology, High-Throughput Sequencing


Systems Biology Department Fellow & Wyss Institute Technology Development Fellow, Harvard Medical School (2017-2022)

Ph.D., Biophysics, Harvard University (2016)

B.A. and M. Sci., Physics, University of Cambridge (2010)

Honors & Awards

2022: CPRIT Scholar in Cancer Research

2021: NIH Pathway to Independence (K99/R00) Awardee

2017: HMS Systems Biology Department Fellow

2012: HHMI International Student Research Fellow

2005: Gold Medalist and Einstein Centennial Prize winner, International Physics Olympiad


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