Robert W. Carr, Jr., Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering
Ramanujam obtained her Ph.D. degree at the University of Texas at Austin. She progressed through the ranks as an academic researcher; the first five years as a research scientist and postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, the next five as an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the following five as an associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Duke University. In 2011 she was promoted to full professor. Ramanujam is internationally recognized for her contributions in innovation, education and entrepreneurship and received numerous awards most notably, the IEEE Biomedical Engineering Award Technical Field Award and the Social Impact Abie award . She is a Fulbright scholar, a member of the National Academy of Inventors, and a fellow of international professional societies in her field. She has also been invited for speaking engagements at the United Nations, as a TEDx speaker, and been invited to give plenary talks on her work all over the world.
Ramanujam addresses pressing challenges in women’s cancers, specifically, cervical and breast cancer. Ramanujam creates technologies that transform complex diagnostic instruments and therapies into accessible, affordable, and appropriate solutions. Several of these products are now being used in several countries in the U.S., Latin America, and Africa. She has developed a network of partners including academic institutions and hospitals, non-governmental organizations, ministries of health, and commercial partners to implement these technologies in diverse healthcare settings globally.
She has used her expertise in imaging and human-centered design to develop the Pocket colposcope which is on the WHO list of devices for cervical cancer imaging. A sister device, the Callascope is a self-use speculum-free imaging device, which allows women to screen themselves privately without the need for an intrusive pelvic exam. She has developed a translational microscope called the CapCell Scope to identify biomarkers of metabolism that reflect tumor behavior, including growth, proliferation, and treatment resistance, aimed at informing drug selection for breast cancer treatment. She has developed an ultra-low-cost injectable liquid ablation therapy that disrupts tumors locally as well as elicits an anti-tumor immune response to address an important gap – the lack of access to surgery to the world’s most vulnerable populations.
Ramanujam has also created several global initiatives that strive to achieve enduring impact in health and education. Her innovations have a common wellspring - they are all connected and come from a place of wanting to create and make something that doesn’t exist.
The most prominent is a consortium called Women Inspired Strategies for Health (WISH) to improve cervical cancer prevention in low-resource settings globally. She is working with partners worldwide to ensure that technologies and strategies for addressing cervical cancer are adopted by cancer control programs in geographically and economically diverse healthcare settings. These partnerships have resulted in see-and-treat cancer control strategies in the least resourced settings that are in clinical deserts. WISH has been recognized by the MacArthur Foundation as one of the top 100 most transformative and impactful solutions, a testament to its significance in redesigning the health system.
Ramanujam has launched an arts and storytelling initiative, The Invisible Organ to raise awareness of sexual and reproductive health inequities. An educational documentary with a similar name was created and has been screened at conferences and by multiple artists and students across the U.S. This film was officially selected for the Women at the Center Film Festival at the International Papillomavirus Conference in 2020. She also co-led the curation of an art exhibit to bring together a collection of visual arts, medical photography, sculptures, and installations, both a physical exhibit and a digital moving gallery to express the stigma and shame associated with female anatomy.
She has also created a global education program that intersects design thinking, STEM concepts, and the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals to promote social justice awareness: Ignite. The participatory learning curricula have been implemented in more than four countries with broad-ranging impact. For example, students living around the contaminated Lake Atitlan, in Guatemala learned how to design engineering solutions for clean water. Similarly,for personal use during frequent power outages.
Appointments and Affiliations
- Robert W. Carr, Jr., Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering
- Professor of Biomedical Engineering
- Director of Center for Global Women's Health Technologies
- Professor of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology
- Affiliate of the Duke Initiative for Science & Society
- Core Faculty Member, Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy
- Member of the Duke Cancer Institute
- Office Location: 367 Gross Hall, 140 Science Drive, Durham, NC 27708
- Office Phone: (919) 660-5307
- B.S. University of Texas, Austin, 1989
- M.S. University of Texas, Austin, 1992
- Ph.D. University of Texas, Austin, 1995
Research InterestsInnovating on optical strategies to peer into the biological landscape of thick tissues. Technologies being developed in her lab leverage principles of optical spectroscopy, optical sectioning microscopy, and molecular imaging. Her research group is developing and applying these optically based tools for three problems in cancer: cancer screening in resource-limited settings, intra-operative margin assessment to detect residual disease during cancer surgery, and visualizing tumor hypoxia and metabolism in the context of cancer therapy and drug discovery. Prof. Ramanujam is leading a multi-disciplinary effort to translate these technologies to clinical applications in the breast, and cervix.
- BME 230L: Global Women's Health Technologies
- BME 290L: Intermediate Topics with Lab (GE)
- BME 494: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)
- EGR 393: Research Projects in Engineering
- GLHLTH 230L: Global Women's Health Technologies
- GLHLTH 391: Independent Study in Global Health
- ISS 397: Bass Connections Information, Society & Culture Research Team
- ISS 398: Bass Connections Information, Society & Culture Research Team
- ISS 795: Bass Connections Information, Society & Culture Research Team
- ISS 796: Bass Connections Information, Society & Culture Research Team
- PHARM 493: Research Independent Study
- PHARM 494: Research Independent Study
In the News
- Duke Faculty Reexamine Their Roles as Scholars and Mentors in an Uncertain Time…
- Advancing Health Equity: Women’s Health Technologies (May 1, 2020 | Duke Mobile…
- The Human Dimension (Apr 30, 2020 | Diversity In Action Magazine)
- Necessity Is the Mother of Invention (Apr 10, 2020 | Thrive Global)
- Research Integrity Interviews Series: “If you treat people with integrity, you …
- UICC and WISH Project in the top 100 proposals selected by the MacArthur Founda…
- A Plan to Close the Cervical Cancer Inequity Gap Scores in Top 100 in MacArthur…
- Women's Health: It's Personal for Nimmi Ramanujam (Jan 28, 2020 | School of Med…
- USAID Announces $15.5 Million in Thirteen New Grants to Programs under the Deve…
- Prevent Cancer Foundation® awards $300,000 in global grants (Dec 1, 2019)
- How Tech Can Lead to Social Innovation: An Interview With Dr. Nimmi Ramanujam (…
- The Gynecological Exam is Finally Getting a Makeover (Sep 16, 2019 | Medium)
- Meet Dr. Nimmi Ramanujam, Social Impact Abie Award Winner (Aug 27, 2019 | Anita…
- Announcing the 2019 Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge Winners. (May 20, 201…
- Ramanujam Receives Fulbright Global Scholar Award (Apr 22, 2019 | Pratt School …
- A Breakthrough in Cervical Cancer Treatment Inspires a Ruby Art Exhibit (Feb 27…
- Safe, Convenient, Affordable: How a Pocket Device Is Changing Women's Health (F…
- The Road to Biomedical Engineering Went Through Brahms (Oct 9, 2018 | Duke Arts)
- Three Engineers Named to National Academy of Inventors (Dec 13, 2017)
- Duke Team's Portable Screening Device Takes Aim at Preventable Cervical Cancer …
- Researchers Aim to Make Cervical Cancer Screening Accessible to All (Dec 19, 20…
- Showing Washington the Future of Global Women’s Health (Nov 22, 2016 | Pratt Sc…
- New Collaborative Seed Grant Program Gives Eight Awards (Mar 16, 2016)
- Duke Announces 2015 Distinguished Professors (May 1, 2015)
- DukeEngage Adds California-Based Programs Targeting Homeless and At-Risk Youth …
- Lab of Entrepreneurial Engineers (Sep 19, 2014)
- Global Research, Domestic Benefits (Jan 13, 2014)
- Duke Launches Global Womens Health Technologies Center (Oct 23, 2013)
- Ramanujam Promoted to SPIE Fellow (Jun 7, 2013)
- Rickard, Ashlyn G., Yvonne M. Mowery, Alex Bassil, Douglas C. Rouse, Nerissa T. Williams, Theresa Charity, Rafaela Belloni, et al. “Evaluating Tumor Hypoxia Radiosensitization Via Electron Paramagnetic Resonance Oxygen Imaging (EPROI).” Mol Imaging Biol, September 18, 2023. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11307-023-01855-0.
- Quang, Tri T., Jeffrey Yang, Andrew S. Mikhail, Bradford J. Wood, Nimmi Ramanujam, and Jenna L. Mueller. “Locoregional Thermal and Chemical Tumor Ablation: Review of Clinical Applications and Potential Opportunities for Use in Low- and Middle-Income Countries.” JCO Global Oncology 9 (August 2023): e2300155. https://doi.org/10.1200/go.23.00155.
- Natarajan, J., M. Krieger, N. Ramanujam, S. Vashist, and N. Bhatla. “Feasibility and Outcome of Training Field Workers to Use the Transvaginal Colposcope for Point of Care Diagnosis and Management of Precancerous Cervical Lesions.” Indian Journal of Gynecologic Oncology 21, no. 1 (March 1, 2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40944-022-00681-6.
- Wang, Roujia, Riley J. Deutsch, Enakshi D. Sunassee, Brian T. Crouch, and Nirmala Ramanujam. “Adaptive Design of Fluorescence Imaging Systems for Custom Resolution, Fields of View, and Geometries.” BME Frontiers 4 (January 2023): 0005. https://doi.org/10.34133/bmef.0005.
- Natarajan, Jayashree, Sandeep Mathur, Sreenivas Vishnubhatla, Sunesh Kumar, Shachi Vashist, Nimmi Ramanujam, Seema Singhal, Jyoti Meena, Pranay Tanwar, and Neerja Bhatla. “Can portable Colposcopes Replace Standard-of-care Colposcopes? A Crossover Trial of Two Portable Colposcopes with a Standard-of-Care Video Colposcope.” Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention : APJCP 23, no. 12 (December 2022): 4013–21. https://doi.org/10.31557/apjcp.2022.23.12.4013.