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 V. Backman. “Progress in Biomedical Optics and Imaging - Proceedings of SPIE: Introduction.” Progress in Biomedical Optics and Imaging  Proceedings of Spie, vol. 6446, Aug. 2007.

Graf, Robert N., and Adam Wax. “Temporal coherence and time-frequency distributions in spectroscopic optical coherence tomography.Journal of the Optical Society of America. A, Optics, Image Science, and Vision, vol. 24, no. 8, Aug. 2007, pp. 2186–95. Epmc, doi:10.1364/josaa.24.002186. Full Text

Keener, Justin D., et al. “Application of Mie theory to determine the structure of spheroidal scatterers in biological materials.Optics Letters, vol. 32, no. 10, May 2007, pp. 1326–28. Epmc, doi:10.1364/ol.32.001326. Full Text

Pyhtila, John W., and Adam Wax. “Polarization effects on scatterer sizing accuracy analyzed with frequency-domain angle-resolved low-coherence interferometry.Applied Optics, vol. 46, no. 10, Apr. 2007, pp. 1735–41. Epmc, doi:10.1364/ao.46.001735. Full Text

Curry, Adam, et al. “Analysis of total uncertainty in spectral peak measurements for plasmonic nanoparticle-based biosensors.Applied Optics, vol. 46, no. 10, Apr. 2007, pp. 1931–39. Epmc, doi:10.1364/ao.46.001931. Full Text

Pyhtila, John W., et al. “In situ detection of nuclear atypia in Barrett's esophagus by using angle-resolved low-coherence interferometry.Gastrointest Endosc, vol. 65, no. 3, Mar. 2007, pp. 487–91. Pubmed, doi:10.1016/j.gie.2006.10.016. Full Text

Chalut, Kevin J., et al. “Quantitative phase microscopy with asynchronous digital holography.Optics Express, vol. 15, no. 6, Mar. 2007, pp. 3047–52. Epmc, doi:10.1364/oe.15.003047. Full Text

Chalut, Kevin J., et al. “In situ assessment of intraepithelial neoplasia in hamster trachea epithelium using angle-resolved low-coherence interferometry.Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention : A Publication of the American Association for Cancer Research, Cosponsored by the American Society of Preventive Oncology, vol. 16, no. 2, Feb. 2007, pp. 223–27. Epmc, doi:10.1158/1055-9965.epi-06-0418. Full Text

Wax, A., and M. Crow. “Molecular imaging and microspectroscopy of live cells using immunotargeted nanoparticles.” Optics Infobase Conference Papers, Jan. 2007.

Crow, M., et al. “Molecular imaging of EGFR expression in live cancer cells using immunotargeted nanoparticles.” Optics Infobase Conference Papers, 2007.