Adam P. Wax

Adam P. Wax

Professor of Biomedical Engineering

Professor of Physics (Secondary)

Faculty Network Member of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences

Member of the Duke Cancer Institute

Bass Fellow

Office Location: 
2571 CIEMAS, Durham, NC 27708
Front Office Address: 
Box 90281, Durham, NC 27708-0281
(919) 660-5143


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.

Education & Training

  • Ph.D., Duke University 1999

  • M.A., Duke University 1996

  • B.S., Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute 1993

Wax, Adam, et al. “Fourier-domain low-coherence interferometry for light-scattering spectroscopy.Optics Letters, vol. 28, no. 14, July 2003, pp. 1230–32. Epmc, doi:10.1364/ol.28.001230. Full Text

Müller, M. G., et al. “A reflectance spectrofluorimeter for real-time spectral diagnosis of disease.” Review of Scientific Instruments, vol. 73, no. 11, Nov. 2002, p. 3933. Scopus, doi:10.1063/1.1511795. Full Text

Wax, Adam, et al. “Determination of particle size by using the angular distribution of backscattered light as measured with low-coherence interferometry.Journal of the Optical Society of America. A, Optics, Image Science, and Vision, vol. 19, no. 4, Apr. 2002, pp. 737–44. Epmc, doi:10.1364/josaa.19.000737. Full Text

Wax, Adam, et al. “Cellular organization and substructure measured using angle-resolved low-coherence interferometry.Biophysical Journal, vol. 82, no. 4, Apr. 2002, pp. 2256–64. Epmc, doi:10.1016/s0006-3495(02)75571-9. Full Text

Yang, C., et al. “2π ambiguity-free optical distance measurement with subnanometer precision with a novel phase-crossing low-coherence interferometer.” Optics Letters, vol. 27, no. 2, Jan. 2002, pp. 77–79. Scopus, doi:10.1364/OL.27.000077. Full Text

Backman, V., et al. “Imaging and measurement of cell structure and organization with submicron accuracy using light scattering spectroscopy.” Proceedings of Spie the International Society for Optical Engineering, vol. 4613, Jan. 2002, pp. 101–10. Scopus, doi:10.1117/12.465234. Full Text

Yang, C., et al. “The study of cell dynamics with a novel phase referenced low coherence interferometer with sub-wavelength and sub-hertz sensitivity.” Proceedings of Spie  the International Society for Optical Engineering, vol. 4619, Jan. 2002, pp. 202–09. Scopus, doi:10.1117/12.470484. Full Text

Backman, V., et al. “Measuring cellular structure at submicrometer scale with light scattering spectroscopy.” Ieee Journal on Selected Topics in Quantum Electronics, vol. 7, no. 6, Nov. 2001, pp. 887–93. Scopus, doi:10.1109/2944.983289. Full Text