Fitzpatrick Institute for Photonics Fitzpatrick Institute for Photonics
Pratt School of Engineering
Duke University

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Nimmi Ramanujam, Robert W. Carr, Jr., Professor of Biomedical Engineering

Nimmi Ramanujam

Ramanujam's research interests include optical spectroscopy, optical sectioning microscopy and molecular imaging. Her research group is developing and applying these optically based tools for the non-invasive characterization of the molecular, biochemical and structural properties of human tissues with the intent of improving cancer care.

Dr. Ramanujam’s interests in the field of biophotonics are centered on research and technology development for applications to cancer. She is developing novel quantitative optical sensing and imaging tools for translational applications in cancer research. She has been leading a multi-disciplinary effort to translate these technologies into pre-clinical models and cancer patients in the areas of breast, head and neck and cervical cancers. Another important aspect of her work in this area is the design and development of cost-effective and portable illumination and detection strategies with applications to global health. In addition to her academic efforts, she has spun out a company, Zenalux to commercialize several of the technologies developed in her lab.

Dr. Ramanujam has received several awards for her work in cancer research and technology development. She received the TR100 Young Innovator Award from MIT in 2003, a $2.5M DOD Era of Hope Scholar award in 2004, the Global Indus Technovator award from MIT in 2005 and a $3M Era of Hope Research Scholar award in 2009. Dr. Ramanujam was recently elected as fellow of OSA and she has been invited to be a member of the DOD’s breast cancer research program (BCRP) integration panel (IP) that sets the vision of the BCRP program and plans the dissemination of over $100 M of funds for breast cancer research annually. She is a co-editor for the latest edition of the Handbook of Biomedical Optics (publisher Taylor and Francis). In 2011, she received the Stansell Family Distinguished Research Award from the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University.

Dr. Ramanujam earned her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Texas, Austin in 1995 and then trained as an NIH postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania from 1996-2000. Prior to her tenure at Duke, she was an assistant professor in the Dept. Biomedical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison from 2000-2005.

Contact Info:
Office Location:  367 Gross Hall
Office Phone:  (919) 660-5307
Email Address: send me a message
Web Page:

Teaching (Fall 2019):

  • BME 290.01, INTERMEDIATE TOPICS Synopsis
    Teer 114, F 01:40 PM-04:10 PM

PhDUniversity of Texas, Austin1995

Medical Imaging
Cancer diagnostics and therapy
Medical Instrumentation
Medical Diagnostics
Research Interests:

Innovating 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.

Representative Publications   (More Publications)

  1. Chang VTC, Cartwright PS, Bean SM, Palmer GM, Bentley RC, Ramanujam N., Quantitative physiology of the precancerous cervix in vivo via optical spectroscopy, Neoplasia, vol. 11 no. 4 (2009), pp. 325-332
  2. J. Q. Brown and L. G. Wilke and J. Geradts and S. A. Kennedy and G. M. Palmer and N. Ramanujam, Quantitative Optical Spectroscopy: A Robust Tool for Direct Measurement of Breast Cancer Vascular Oxygenation and Total Hemoglobin Content In vivo, Cancer Research, vol. 69 no. 7 (April, 2009), pp. 2919 -- 2926, ISSN 0008-5472  [abs]
  3. K. Vishwanath and D. Klein and K. Chang and T. Schroeder and M. W. Dewhirst and N. Ramanujam, Quantitative optical spectroscopy can identify long-term local tumor control in irradiated murine head and neck xenografts, Journal Of Biomedical Optics, vol. 14 no. 5 (September, 2009), ISSN 1083-3668  [abs]
  4. L. G. Wilke and J. Q. Brown and T. M. Bydlon and S. A. Kennedy and L. M. Richards and M. K. Junker and J. Gallagher and W. T. Barry and J. Geradts and N. Ramanujam, Rapid noninvasive optical imaging of tissue composition in breast tumor margins, American Journal Of Surgery, vol. 198 no. 4 (October, 2009), pp. 566 -- 574, ISSN 0002-9610  [abs]
  5. J.H. Ostrander, C.M. McMahon, S. Lem, S.R. Millon, V.L. Seewaldt, N. Ramanujam, The Optical Redox Ratio Differentiates Breast Cancer Cell Lines Based on Receptor Status, Cancer Research, vol. 70 no. 11 (2010), pp. 4759-4766
  6. Millon SR, Ostrander JH, Brown JQ, Rajeha AM, Seewaldt VL, Ramanujam N, Uptake of 2-NBDG as a method to monitor therapy response in breast cancer cell lines, Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, vol. 126 no. 1 (2011), pp. 55-62
Selected Grant Support

  • Smart Optical Sensor for Detection of Cervical Cancer In the Developing World, National Institutes of Health, 1R21CA162747-01.      
  • A Novel Optical Spectral Imaging System for Rapid Imaging of Breast Tumor Margins, National Institutes of Health, 1R01-EB011574-01.      
  • Harnessing the power of light to see and treat breast cancer, United States Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, W81XWH-09-1-0410.      
  • Biosensor Biocompatibility, National Institutes of Health, 2R01-DK-54932.      
  • Fast Spectral Imaging Device for Tumor Margin Mapping, National Institutes of Health, 2R42CA128160-02.      
  • Can Optical Spectroscopy Predict Early Treatment Response in Solid Tumors, National Cancer Institute, 5K99CA140783-02.      
  • A smart fiber optic sensor for in vivo tissue optical spectroscopy, National Institutes of Health, 1R03EB012210-01.      
  • A Fluorescence Histology System for In Vivo Breast Tumor Margin Assessment, National Institutes of Health, 1R21CA159936-01.      
  • Use of Diffuse Reflectance Spectroscopy to Assess Tumor Biomarkers that predict outcomes in Head and Neck Cancer Therapy, Duke University.      
  • Is high glucose uptake at target for early detection and prevention of triple-negative breast cancer?, Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.      
Selected Patents

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