Bai graduated from the department of chemistry at Peking University in 1978 and received his Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from CAS and the Institute of Chemistry in 1981 and 1985 respectively. During the period from 1985 to 1987 he was at the California Institute of Technology in the U.S. for advanced study, conducting research work in the field of physical chemistry as a research associate. After his return home in 1987, he continued his research at CAS Institute of Chemistry. From 1991 to 1992 he was a visiting professor at Tohoku University in Japan.
His research areas involve the structure and properties of polymer catalysts, X-ray crystallography of organic compounds, molecular mechanics and EXAFS research on electro-conducting polymers. In the mid-1980s, he shifted his research orientation to the field of scanning tunneling microscopy, molecular nanostructures, self-assembly, novel nanomaterials, molecular nanodevices and single molecule detection.
Bai has a long list of scientific publications and has authored 12 monographs and several book chapters in the refereed field. He has won more than twenty prestigious awards and prizes for his academic achievements. He was elected a member of CAS and fellow of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS) in 1997. He is also a foreign associate of the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS), a foreign member of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), an honorary fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, an honorary fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences (IAS), and an honorary doctor or professor of several international universities.
He is a recipient of the UNESCO first medal “for contributions to the development of nanoscience and nanotechnology” (shared with Professor Nobel Laureate Zhores Ivanovich Alferov), the International Medal awarded by the Society of Chemical Industry (London-based), and the TWAS 2002 Medal Lecture in Chemical Sciences.
Bai also serves as the chief scientist for the National Steering Committee for Nanoscience and Technology and was the founding director of the China National Center for Nanoscience and Technology. He is also the vice president of TWAS, president of the Federation of Asian Chemical Societies, and honorary president of the Chinese Society of Micro-Nano Technology (CSMNT).