Tuan Vo-Dinh


R. Eugene and Susie E. Goodson Professor of Biomedical Engineering

Dr. Tuan Vo-Dinh is R. Eugene and Susie E. Goodson Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Professor of Chemistry, and Director of The Fitzpatrick Institute for Photonics.

Dr. Vo-Dinh’s research activities and interests involve biophotonics, nanophotonics, plasmonics, laser-excited luminescence spectroscopy, room temperature phosphorimetry, synchronous luminescence spectroscopy, surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy, field environmental instrumentation, fiberoptics sensors, nanosensors, biosensors and biochips for the protection of the environment and the improvement of human health.

Dr. Vo-Dinh’s research activities and interests include the development of advanced technologies and methods in biophotonics, nanophotonics, biosensors, biochips, plasmonics, multi-modality bioimaging, and theranostics (diagnostics and therapy) of diseases such as cancer and infectious diseases.


We have pioneered the development of a new generation of gene probes using surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) detection with ‘Molecular Sentinels’ and Plasmonic Coupling Interference (PCI) molecular probes for multiplex and label-free detection of nucleic acid biomarkers (DNA, mRNA, microRNA) in early detection of cancer. The ability to simultaneously detect multiple oligonucleotide sequences is critical for many medical applications such as early diagnosis, high-throughput screening and systems biology research.


In genomic and precision medicine, nucleic acid-based molecular diagnosis is of paramount importance with many advantages such as high specificity, high sensitivity, serotyping capability, and mutation detection. Using SERS-based plasmonic nanobiosensors and nanochips, we are developing novel nucleic acid detection methods that can be integrated into lab-on-a-chip systems for point-of-care diagnosis  (e.g., breast, GI cancer) and global health applications (e.g., detection of malaria in South East Asia and Africa).


In multi-modality bioimaging, we are developing a novel multifunctional gold nanostar (GNS) probe for use in multi-modality bioimaging in pre-operative scans with PET, MRI and CT, intraoperative margin delineation with optical imaging, SERS and two-photon luminescence (TPL). The GNS can be used also for cancer treatment with plasmonics enhanced photothermal therapy (PTT), thus providing an excellent platform for seamless diagnostics and therapy (i.e., theranostics). Preclinical studies have shown its great potential for cancer diagnostics and therapeutics for future clinical translation.


Various nanobiosensors are being developed for monitoring intracellular parameters (e.g., pH) and biomolecular processes (e.g., apoptosis, caspases), opening the possibility for fundamental molecular biological research as well as biomedical applications (e.g., drug discovery) at the single cell level in a systems biology approach.

Appointments and Affiliations

  • R. Eugene and Susie E. Goodson Professor of Biomedical Engineering
  • Professor of Biomedical Engineering
  • Director of the Fitzpatrick Institute for Photonics
  • Professor in the Department of Chemistry
  • Faculty Network Member of The Energy Initiative
  • Member of the Duke Cancer Institute

Contact Information:


  • Ph.D. Swiss Federal Institute of Technology-ETH Zurich (Switzerland), 1975
  • B.S. Swiss Federal Institute of Technology-EPFL Lausanne (Switzerland), 1971

Awards, Honors, and Distinctions:

  • ANYL-Award in Spectrochemical Analysis. American Chemical Society. 2011
  • Award on Spectrochemical Analysis. American Chemical Society, Division of Analytical Chemistry. 2011
  • Fellows. American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. 2004
  • Director’s Award for Outstanding Accomplishments in Science and Technology. UT-Battelle. 2003
  • Distinguished Inventors Award. Battelle Memorial Institute. 2003
  • Distinguished Scientist of the Year Award. Oak Ridge National Laboratory. 2003
  • Fellow. International Society for Optics and Photonics. 2000
  • RD-100 Award for Most Technologically Significant Advance in R&D (Multifunctional Biochip). R&D Magazine. 1999
  • Lockheed Martin Commercialization Award. Lockheed Martin Corporation. 1998
  • AMSE Award, American Museum of Science and Technology (BiOptics Technology). American Museum of Science and Technology. 1997
  • BER-50 Award for Exceptional Service for a Health Citizenry. US Department of Energy. 1997
  • Inventor of the Year Award. Tennessee Inventors Association. 1996
  • RD-100 Award for Most Technologically Significant Advance in R&D (SERS Gene Probe). R&D Magazine. 1996
  • Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer (SERODS Technology). Federal Laboratory Consortium. 1995
  • RD-100 Award for Most Technologically Significant Product of the Year (PCB Spot Test). R&D Magazine. 1994
  • Inventors International Hall of Fame Award. Inventors Clubs of America. 1992
  • RD-100 Award for Most Technologically Significant Product of the Year (SERODS Technology). R&D Magazine. 1992
  • Scientist of the Year. Oak Ridge National Laboratory. 1992
  • Thomas Jefferson Award. Martin Marietta Corporation. 1992
  • Languedoc-Rousillon Medal. University of Perpignan (France). 1989
  • Gold Medal Spectroscopy Award. Society for Applied Spectroscopy. 1988
  • RD-100 Award for Most Significant Technological Advance in R&D (Fluoroimmunosensor). R&D Magazine. 1987
  • Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer. Federal Laboratory Consortium. 1986
  • RD 100 Award for Most Significant Technological Advance in Research & Dev (PNA Dosimeter). R&D Magazine. 1981

Courses Taught:

  • BME 493: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)
  • BME 494: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)
  • BME 555: Advances in Photonics (GE, IM)
  • BME 567: Biosensors (GE, IM, MC)
  • BME 791: Graduate Independent Study
  • BME 792: Continuation of Graduate Independent Study
  • CHEM 393: Research Independent Study
  • CHEM 394: Research Independent Study
  • CHEM 601: Biosensors
  • CHEM 630: Advances in Photonics (GE, IM)

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