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Adam P. Wax

Professor of Biomedical Engineering
Biomedical Engineering
Box 90281, Durham, NC 27708-0281
2571 Ciemas, Durham, NC 27708


Dr. Wax's research interests include optical spectroscopy for early cancer detection, novel microscopy and interferometry techniques.

The study of intact, living cells with optical spectroscopy offers the opportunity to observe cellular structure, organization and dynamics in a way that is not possible with traditional methods. We have developed a set of novel spectroscopic techniques for measuring spatial, temporal and refractive structure on sub-hertz and sub-wavelength scales based on using low-coherence interferometry (LCI) to detect scattered light. We have applied these techniques in different types of cell biology experiments. In one experiment, LCI measurements of the angular pattern of backscattered light are used to determine non-invasively the structure of sub-cellular organelles in cell monolayers, and the components of epithelial tissue from freshly excised rat esophagus. This work has potential as a diagnostic method for early cancer detection. In another experiment, LCI phase measurements are used to examine volume changes of epithelial cells in a monolayer in response to environmental osmolarity changes. Although cell volume changes have been measured previously, this work demonstrates for the first time the volume of just a few cells (2 or 3) tracked continuously and in situ.

Current Appointments & Affiliations

Professor of Biomedical Engineering · 2013 - Present Biomedical Engineering, Pratt School of Engineering
Professor of Physics · 2023 - Present Physics, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
Faculty Network Member of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences · 2012 - Present Duke Institute for Brain Sciences, University Institutes and Centers
Member of the Duke Cancer Institute · 2017 - Present Duke Cancer Institute, Institutes and Centers
Bass Fellow · 2016 - Present Biomedical Engineering, Pratt School of Engineering

Education, Training & Certifications

Duke University · 1999 Ph.D.
Duke University · 1996 M.A.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute · 1993 B.S.