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, A., and J. E. Thomas. “Measurement of smoothed Wigner phase space distributions for coherence tomography.” Proceedings of Spie  the International Society for Optical Engineering, vol. 3598, Jan. 1999, pp. 2–9.

Wax, A., and J. E. Thomas. “Measurement of smoothed Wigner phase-space distributions for small-angle scattering in a turbid medium.Journal of the Optical Society of America. A, Optics, Image Science, and Vision, vol. 15, no. 7, July 1998, pp. 1896–908. Epmc, doi:10.1364/josaa.15.001896. Full Text

Wax, A., and J. E. Thomas. “Wigner phase space distributions and optical coherence in turbid media.” Conference Proceedings  Lasers and Electro Optics Society Annual Meeting Leos, vol. 11, Jan. 1997.

Wax, A., and J. E. Thomas. “Optical heterodyne imaging and Wigner phase space distributions.Optics Letters, vol. 21, no. 18, Sept. 1996, pp. 1427–29. Epmc, doi:10.1364/ol.21.001427. Full Text