A method for conducting a broad range of biochemical analyses or manipulations on a series of nano- to subnanoliter reaction volumes and an apparatus for carrying out the same are disclosed. The invention is implemented on a fluidic microchip to provide high serial throughput. In particular, the disclosed device is a microfabricated channel device that can manipulate nanoliter or subnanoliter reaction volumes in a controlled manner to produce results at rates of 1 to 10 Hz per channel. The reaction volumes are manipulated in serial fashion analogous to a digital shift register. The invention has application to such problems as screening molecular or cellular targets using single beads from split-synthesis combinatorial libraries, screening single cells for RNA or protein expression, genetic diagnostic screening at the single cell level, or performing single cell signal transduction studies.