Yi had a First-Class Hons BSc degree in Chemistry and a MSc degree in Organic Chemistry after completing her Master's thesis on the synthesis of transition state analogue inhibitors of phosphoserine phosphatase and phosphopeptides in the group of Professor Yufen Zhao at Xiamen University, China. In 2008, she was awarded the Overseas Research Studentship by British Council to pursue a PhD under the supervision of Professors Jon Waltho and Mike Blackburn at the University of Sheffield, UK. During this period, she expanded the usage of metal fluoride complexes as mimics of the phosphoryl group in various key enzymes in cellular signal transduction in NMR and crystallography. She stayed in the same lab as a postdoc for two years, working on the strain catalysis of DNA repairing enzyme UNG using multi-dimensional NMR. In 2014, she joined the group of Prof. Gideon Davies, FRS, FMedSci in York Structural Biology Laboratory (YSBL), University of York, working on various carbohydrate processing enzymes, including glycosyl hydrolases in sulfo-glycolytic pathways, and using activity based-probes to trap glucuronidases in action. In May 2017, she became a group leader in Chemical Biology at Cardiff University, allowing her to start her independent research group. Since August 2021, she was appointed as a Wellcome Trust Sir Henry Dale Fellow at Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, Univesity of Manchester.
Her research focuses on tackling antibiotic resistance and bacterial persistence by studying mechanisms of enzymes and pathways in bacteria and humans. Her research covers a wide range of techniques, including organic synthesis, chemical biology, molecular biology, bioinformatics, protein NMR and crystallography.