Postdoctoral Associate

phone (617) 253 7866

Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
E25-637, 45 Carleton Street
Cambridge, MA 02139

Xiaolei Liu


2014-present Postdoctoral Associate, MIT
2011-2014 Postdoctoral Researcher, MARUM, University of Bremen
2007-2011 PhD., organic geochemistry, MARUM, University of Bremen
2004-2007 MSc., palaeontology and stratigraphy, Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, Chinese Academy of Sciences
1999-2003 B.S., ecology and environmental microbiology, Shandong University


Under the general topic of origins of life my research interest is to understand the divergence of Archaea from the other two life domains. Apart from gene-based differences, it has been known that Archaea synthesize 2,3-alkyl-sn-glycerol ether lipids but Bacteria and Eukaryota produce only 1,2-alkyl-sn-glycerol ethers. Glycerol ether lipids are widespread in various modern environments and also commonly occur as molecular fossils in geological records. But, most of them are still detected as orphan lipids without identified source organism. To analyze the stereochemistry of these orphan glycerol ethers in both present and ancient samples will provide important clues of their biological source and the evolution of three life domains.

Select Publications

Google scholar citations

Liu, X.-L., Summons, R.E., Hinrichs, K.-U. (2012) Extending the known range of glycerol ether lipids in the environment: structural assignments based on MS/MS fragmentation patterns. Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry 26, 2295–2302.
Liu, X.-L., Lipp, J.S., Simpson, J.H., Lin, Y.-S. Summons, R.E., Hinrichs, K.-U. (2012) Mono- and dihydroxyl Glycerol Dibiphytanyl Glycerol Tetraethers in marine sediments: identification of both core and intact polar lipid forms. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 89, 102-115.
Liu, X.-L., Lipp, J. S. and Hinrichs, K. -U. (2011) Distribution of intact and core GDGTs in marine sediments. Organic Geochemistry 42, 368-375.