Adam P Wax

Adam P. Wax

Professor of Biomedical Engineering

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.

Appointments and Affiliations

  • Professor of Biomedical Engineering
  • Faculty Network Member of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences
  • Member of the Duke Cancer Institute

Contact Information


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

Research Interests

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


Medical Imaging
Cancer diagnostics and therapy
Sensing and Sensor Systems

Awards, Honors, and Distinctions

  • Fellow. International Society for Optics and Photonics. 2010
  • Fellows. Optical Society of America. 2010

Courses Taught

  • BME 494: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)
  • BME 550: Modern Microscopy (GE, IM)
  • BME 590: Special Topics in Biomedical Engineering
  • BME 701S: BME Graduate Seminars
  • BME 702S: BME Graduate Seminars
  • BME 728S: Teaching Seminar for New Teaching Assistants
  • BME 729S: Teaching seminar for repeat teaching assistants
  • BME 789: Internship in Biomedical Engineering
  • BME 791: Graduate Independent Study
  • BME 899: Special Readings in Biomedical Engineering
  • MENG 550: Master of Engineering Internship/Project
  • MENG 551: Master of Engineering Internship/Project Assessment
  • PHYSICS 493: Research Independent Study

In the News

Representative Publications

  • Ho, D; Drake, TK; Smith-McCune, KK; Darragh, TM; Hwang, LY; Wax, A, Feasibility of clinical detection of cervical dysplasia using angle-resolved low coherence interferometry measurements of depth-resolved nuclear morphology., International Journal of Cancer, vol 140 no. 6 (2017), pp. 1447-1456 [10.1002/ijc.30539] [abs].
  • Chuchuen, O; Maher, JR; Simons, MG; Peters, JJ; Wax, AP; Katz, DF, Label-Free Measurements of Tenofovir Diffusion Coefficients in a Microbicide Gel Using Raman Spectroscopy., Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, vol 106 no. 2 (2017), pp. 639-644 [10.1016/j.xphs.2016.09.030] [abs].
  • Eldridge, WJ; Steelman, ZA; Loomis, B; Wax, A, Optical Phase Measurements of Disorder Strength Link Microstructure to Cell Stiffness., Biophysical Journal, vol 112 no. 4 (2017), pp. 692-702 [10.1016/j.bpj.2016.12.016] [abs].
  • Zhao, Y; Maher, JR; Ibrahim, MM; Chien, JS; Levinson, H; Wax, A, Deep imaging of absorption and scattering features by multispectral multiple scattering low coherence interferometry., Biomedical Optics Express, vol 7 no. 10 (2016), pp. 3916-3926 [10.1364/boe.7.003916] [abs].
  • Wax, A; Chu, K, Found in translation: Biophotonics from lab to clinic, Optics & Photonics News, vol 27 no. 9 (2016), pp. 34-41 [abs].