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This invention pertains to a surface ligand; preparation of the ligand; colloidal nanoparticle, such as quantum dot bearing one or more of the ligand; and a bioconjugate characterized by a nanoparticle bearing one or more of the ligand conjugated to a biomolecule. The ligand is characterized by the presence of a first module containing atoms that can attach to an inorganic surface; a second module that imparts water-solubility to the ligand and to the inorganic surface that may be attached to the ligand; and a third module that contains a functional group that can, directly or indirectly, conjugate to a biomolecule. Order of the modules can be different and other modules and groups can be on the ligand. Preparation of the ligand includes the steps of reacting a compound having atoms that can attach to an inorganic surface with a water-solubilizing compound that imparts the property of water-solubility to the ligand and the inorganic surface to which it may be attached and purification thereof. Colloidal nanoparticle is characterized by an inorganic surface having attached to it one or more of the ligands. The colloidal bioconjugate is characterized by an inorganic surface having attached thereto one or more of the ligand wherein at least some of the ligand have a biomolecule conjugated thereto.