Jianliang Xiao received a B.Eng. in chemical engineering at the Northwest University in Xian in 1982. This was followed by an M.Eng in catalytic engineering with Profs WU Chi and WANG Junyu at the Research Institute of Petroleum Processing in Beijing and a Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Alberta under Prof Martin Cowie. After a two-year postdoctoral appointment with Prof Richard Puddephatt (FRS, Canada & UK), he joined the ERATO Molecular Catalyst Project as a Researcher, learning homogeneous catalysis under Prof Noyori (Noble Laureate 2001). In 1996, he took up a Principal Scientist position at the Leverhulme Centre for Innovative Catalysis in the University of Liverpool. He was appointed to a Lectureship in the Chemistry Department in 1999; this was followed by promotion to Reader and then Professor of Catalysis in early 2005.
Thanks to his students and collaborators, his work has been recognized by the UK Prize for Process Chemistry Research (2008), Excelling at Innovation Award (University of Liverpool 2015), and the RSC Tilden Prize 2020.