Headshot photo of Xiaolin Nan, Ph.D.

Xiaolin Nan, Ph.D.

  • Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, School of Medicine
  • Member, CEDAR, OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, School of Medicine
  • Biomedical Engineering Graduate Program, School of Medicine
  • Program in Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, School of Medicine


My research tackles cancer by revealing how biological molecules function at the smallest scales, from single molecules (nanometers) to multicellular structures (millimeters). Researchers in the Nan Lab develop tools for obtaining quantitative and high-resolution images of tumor cells and tissues, to help advance cancer biology and biomarker detection.

I joined the OHSU Department of Biomedical Engineering as an assistant professor in June 2012. I am an associate member of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute and a member of the Cancer Early Detection Advanced Research Center.

Early in my career as a chemical engineer, my graduate studies focused on wet-chemistry approaches to fabricating aligned single wall carbon nanotubes and the biophysical analysis of dynamic processes in living cells using high time resolution, spatial precision and chemical selectivity strategies.

Later, as a postdoctoral fellow, I developed a new approach for single-molecule counting and localization based on photoactivated localization microscopy (PALM), a super-resolution microscopy technique. I used this approach to investigate the oncogenic processes involving the Ras small GTPases and the Raf kinase, where I discovered that Ras-GTP dimers activate Raf to drive oncogenesis by causing Raf to form dimers. This was a breakthrough in our basic understanding of Ras biology with potential impact on treatment that targets mutant Ras in human cancers.

Education and training

    • B.S., 1998, Peking University
    • M.S., 2001, Peking University
    • Ph.D., 2007, Harvard University
  • Fellowship

    • Post-Doctoral Fellow, University of California and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA, 2012

Areas of interest

  • Systems Biology
  • Cancer Biology
  • Ras and receptor tyrosine kinase biology
  • Single-molecule imaging and spectroscopy
  • Super-resolution microscopy

Honors and awards

  • Hildegard Lamfrom Research Scholar, 2019, OHSU Knight Cancer Institute
  • Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Investigator, 2013, Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation



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