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

Selected Grants

Improving Medical Outcomes Through Needle-Based Optical Sensing awarded by North Carolina Biotechnology Center (Principal Investigator). 2015 to 2017

Novel Determination of Microbicide PK in Women's Reproductive Health awarded by National Institutes of Health (Co Investigator). 2012 to 2017

EAGER: Cell phone enabled spectroscopy awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2014 to 2016

Coherent light scattering for early detection of retinal disease awarded by National Institutes of Health (Principal Investigator). 2013 to 2016

Inhibition of Reflux-Induced Esophageal Adenocarcinoma by Proanthocyanidins awarded by Medical College of Wisconsin (Principal Investigator). 2013 to 2016

Increased Depth Penetration in Coherence Imaging Using Multiply Scattered Light awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2011 to 2014

MRI: Development of a Hybrid Quantitative Phase Microscope for Live Cell Imaging awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2010 to 2014

Cross-disciplinary Training in Medical Physics awarded by National Institutes of Health (Mentor). 2007 to 2013

I-Corps: InCh holographic microscope for cell diagnostics awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2012


Zhang, Haoran, et al. “Angular range, sampling and noise considerations for inverse light scattering analysis of nuclear morphology.Journal of Biophotonics, vol. 12, no. 2, Feb. 2019, p. e201800258. Epmc, doi:10.1002/jbio.201800258. Full Text

Park, Han Sang, et al. “Quantitative phase imaging of erythrocytes under microfluidic constriction in a high refractive index medium reveals water content changes.Microsyst Nanoeng, vol. 5, 2019, p. 63. Pubmed, doi:10.1038/s41378-019-0113-y. Full Text Open Access Copy

Eldridge, Will J., et al. “Molecular and biophysical analysis of apoptosis using a combined quantitative phase imaging and fluorescence resonance energy transfer microscope.Journal of Biophotonics, vol. 11, no. 12, Dec. 2018, p. e201800126. Epmc, doi:10.1002/jbio.201800126. Full Text

Park, Han Sang, et al. “Invited Article: Digital refocusing in quantitative phase imaging for flowing red blood cells.Apl Photonics, vol. 3, no. 11, Nov. 2018. Epmc, doi:10.1063/1.5043536. Full Text

Wax, A. “Oct promising as clear point-of-care solution.” Biophotonics International, vol. 25, no. 6, Sept. 2018, pp. 30–33.

Zhou, Y., et al. “Spectroscopic OCT: Towards an effective tool for distinguishing authentic and artificial Chinese freshwater pearls.” Optical Materials Express, vol. 8, no. 3, Mar. 2018, pp. 622–28. Scopus, doi:10.1364/OME.8.000622. Full Text

Kim, Sanghoon, et al. “Design and implementation of a low-cost, portable OCT system.Biomedical Optics Express, vol. 9, no. 3, Mar. 2018, pp. 1232–43. Epmc, doi:10.1364/boe.9.001232. Full Text

Zhao, Yang, et al. “Real-time speckle reduction in optical coherence tomography using the dual window method.Biomedical Optics Express, vol. 9, no. 2, Feb. 2018, pp. 616–22. Epmc, doi:10.1364/boe.9.000616. Full Text

Muñoz, Alexandra, et al. “Cellular shear stiffness reflects progression of arsenic-induced transformation during G1.Carcinogenesis, vol. 39, no. 2, Feb. 2018, pp. 109–17. Epmc, doi:10.1093/carcin/bgx116. Full Text


Wax, A. “Nanoscale phase imaging of live cells.” Optics Infobase Conference Papers, vol. Part F66-FiO 2017, 2017. Scopus, doi:10.1364/FIO.2017.FW6D.1. Full Text

Zhao, Y., et al. “In vivo rat skin flap viability assessment using dual axis spectroscopic optical coherence tomography.” Optics Infobase Conference Papers, vol. Part F62-BODA 2017, 2017. Scopus, doi:10.1364/BODA.2017.BoM4A.4. Full Text

Zhao, Y., et al. “Toward the assessment of blood oxygenation using multispectral multiple scattering low coherence interferometry.” Optics Infobase Conference Papers, 2016. Scopus, doi:10.1364/TRANSLATIONAL.2016.JM3A.24. Full Text

Kim, S., et al. “Guidance of angle-resolved low coherence interferometry using co-located optical coherence tomography on rat esophageal tissue.” Optics Infobase Conference Papers, 2016. Scopus, doi:10.1364/TRANSLATIONAL.2016.JTu3A.16. Full Text

Wax, A. “Molecular contrast in interferometric imaging.” Conference on Lasers and Electro Optics Europe  Technical Digest, vol. 2015-August, 2015.

Zhao, Y., et al. “In vivo burn severity assessment in a mouse model using spectroscopic optical coherence tomography.” Bio Optics: Design and Application, Boda 2015, 2015. Scopus, doi:10.1364/boda.2015.bm4a.3. Full Text

Maher, J. R., et al. “Combined raman spectroscopy and optical coherence tomography for measuring analytes in targeted tissues.” Optical Molecular Probes, Imaging and Drug Delivery, Omp 2015, 2015. Scopus, doi:10.1364/omp.2015.om3d.3. Full Text

Eldridge, W. J., et al. “Detecting mechanically induced displacements in human cell cultures using quantitative phase imaging.” Novel Techniques in Microscopy, Ntm 2015, 2015. Scopus, doi:10.1364/ntm.2015.nw3c.5. Full Text