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
  • Bass Fellow

Contact Information


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

Research Interests

Optical spectroscopy for early cancer detection, novel microscopy and interferometry techniques.

Awards, Honors, and Distinctions

  • Fellow. American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. 2014
  • Fellow. International Society for Optics and Photonics. 2010
  • Fellow. Optical Society of America. 2010
  • Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program. National Science Foundation. 2004

Courses Taught

  • BME 436L: Biophotonic Instrumentation (DR)
  • BME 493: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)
  • BME 494: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)
  • BME 550: Modern Microscopy (GE, IM)
  • BME 551L: Biomedical Optical Spectroscopy and Tissue Optics (GE, IM)
  • BME 552: Advanced Optics
  • BME 791: Graduate Independent Study
  • ECE 541: Advanced Optics
  • EGR 393: Research Projects in Engineering
  • EGR 491: Projects in Engineering
  • GLHLTH 395T: Bass Connections Global Health Research Team
  • GLHLTH 396T: Bass Connections Global Health Research Team
  • GLHLTH 795T: Bass Connections Global Health Research Team
  • GLHLTH 796T: Bass Connections Global Health Research Team
  • MENG 550: Master of Engineering Internship/Project
  • MENG 551: Master of Engineering Internship/Project Assessment
  • MENG 552: Master of Engineering Supplemental Internship
  • MOLCAN 551L: Biomedical Optical Spectroscopy and Tissue Optics (GE, IM)
  • PHYSICS 621: Advanced Optics

In the News

Representative Publications

  • Rancu, A; Chen, CX; Price, H; Wax, A, Multiscale optical phase fluctuations link disorder strength and fractal dimension of cell structure., Biophysical Journal (2023) [10.1016/j.bpj.2023.03.005] [abs].
  • Chu, KK; Zhao, Y; Jelly, ET; Steelman, ZA; Crose, M; Cox, B; Ofori-Marfoh, Y; Moussa, L; Cirri, H; Watts, A; Shaheen, N; Wax, A, Esophageal OCT Imaging Using a Paddle Probe Externally Attached to Endoscope., Digestive Diseases and Sciences, vol 67 no. 10 (2022), pp. 4805-4812 [10.1007/s10620-021-07372-w] [abs].
  • Highland, T; Parker, SM; Price, H; Reynolds, M; He, S; Hoffman, BD; Wax, A, Combined Quantitative Phase Microscopy and Förster Resonance Energy Transfer Imaging for Analyzing Endothelial Cell Shear Stress Response, Optics Infobase Conference Papers (2022) [abs].
  • Rancu, A; Chen, CX; Parker, S; Wax, A, Analysis of Disorder Strength Across Quantitative Phase Imaging Systems, Optics Infobase Conference Papers (2022) [abs].
  • Thakoor, KA; Carter, A; Song, G; Wax, A; Moussa, O; Chen, RWS; Hendon, C; Sajda, P, Enhancing Portable OCT Image Quality via GANs for AI-Based Eye Disease Detection, Lecture Notes in Computer Science (Including Subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics), vol 13573 LNCS (2022), pp. 155-167 [10.1007/978-3-031-18523-6_15] [abs].