Professor Liu's research has focused on cross-cultural exchange in recent history; the movement of words, theories, and artifacts across national boundaries; and the evolution of writing, textuality, and technology.
She was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship (1997–1998) and was a fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin (2004–2005). Among her many activities in 2009-2010, Professor Liu founded a new Tsinghua-Columbia Center for Translingual and Transcultural Studies (CTTS)at Tsinghua University in Beijing to promote international collaboration and interdisciplinary research. At Columbia, she organized an international conference on "New Media and Global Transformation" in fall 2009. With Professor Dorothy Ko and Professor Rebecca Karl, she helped organize a workshop on "Translated Feminisms: China and Elsewhere" and created a seminar on the same subject co-taught among Columbia University, Barnard College and NYU in spring 2010.
Professor Liu received her PhD from Harvard (1990). Before joining Columbia in 2006, she was the Helmut F. Stern Professor in Chinese Studies at the University of Michigan (2002–2006) and the Catherine and William L. Magistretti Distinguished Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of California–Berkeley