Huiyan Li

Headshot of Huiyan Li
Assistant Professor
School of Engineering
Phone number: 
(519) 824-4120 ext. 54699
THRN 1333
Seeking academic or industry partnerships in the area(s) of: 
Immunoassays, microfluidics, electrochemical sensors, cancer, lab-on-a-chip, exosomes.
Available positions for grads/undergrads/postdoctoral fellows: 


Prof. Li’s BioMed Innovation Laboratory is a Biosafety Level 2 lab with equipment for cell culture, wet chemistry, and for the micro/nano fabrication of microfluidic devices and lab-on-a-chip biosensors. Instrumentation includes upright microscope, UV exposure system for photolithography, working station and equipment for soft lithography, microplate reader, water purification system, autoclave, biosafety cabinet, fume hood, analytical balance, oven, ultrasonic cleaner, etc.


With the micro/nanofabrication equipment, we make miniaturized micro and nano-scale devices for biosensing applications, such as early diagnosis of cancer. Nanolithography down to 10 nm can be achieved. With the cell culture facilities, we use cells as a technology to investigate biomolecules and cell-secreted vesicles and their roles in health and diseases.

Education and Employment Background

Prof. Huiyan Li received her PhD in Biomedical Engineering from McGill University. She went on to join Dr. Hakho Lee’s Biomedical Engineering group as a research fellow at Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital. She joined the University of Guelph as an Assistant Professor in 2020.

Research Themes

Li’s research is focused on developing micro- and nano-technologies for the study of health and diseases, including cancer. Her work is multidisciplinary, integrating biosensing, micro/nanofabrication, bio-optics/electronics, and computational tools with biomedicine. Li aims to uncover the molecular complexity and heterogeneity of cancer progression. Her research will improve diagnostics, prognosis, and treatment of cancer, and contribute to personalized medicine. Her research focuses on the following major themes:

  1. Biochips for quantifying circulating biomarkers. The detection of circulating biomarkers enables non-invasive and personalized health and disease monitoring based on an individual’s baseline. Li is interested in proteins and extracellular vesicles (EVs). EVs are abundant and stable in biofluids, carrying similar molecular contents as their cells of origin, and therefore can be excellent surrogates for cancer cell detection. Li and her team develop highly sensitive and multiplexed biochips for the profiling of circulating protein and EV markers that can be used for personalized and early cancer diagnostics, prognostics and treatment monitoring.
  2. Protein detection in tissues and cells. Immunostaining of tissue slices and cells can reveal the distribution and localization of specific protein markers in tissues or individual cells. Li and her team develop lab-on-a-chip technologies for multiplexed protein quantification in tissues and cells, aiming to provide accurate, convenient-to-use and affordable solutions for biomedical applications.
  3. Assay development for laboratory and point-of-care testing. Once a potential biomarker (panel) has been validated, it is critical to develop laboratory and/or point-of-care tests for clinical translation. To meet the clinical needs and realize personalized health monitoring and disease management, Li leverages multidisciplinary research approaches in micro and nano-fabrication, microfluidics, bio-optics, electrochemistry, mass spectrometry, and computer engineering for the development of clinical tests.
  4. Hydrogel-based biochemical assays. Hydrogels are hydrophilic polymers that can hold a large amount of water while maintaining their 3D structures. Their biocompatibility, high water content, and availability at a reasonable cost makes them widely used in tissue engineering, drug delivery, and food industry. Li and her team develop high-throughput biochemical assays for cancer research. These technologies will enable the establishment of personalized cancer diagnostics and will accelerate individualized treatment, offering a helping hand to cancer patients.


  • Canadian Institute of Health Research, Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2018
  • Fonds de Recherche Nature et Technologies, Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2016
  • Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2015
  • NSERC, Collaborative Research and Training Experience Program, PhD Scholarship, 2011