Adam P. Wax

Professor of Biomedical Engineering

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.

Appointments and Affiliations

  • Professor of Biomedical Engineering
  • Professor of Physics
  • Member of the Duke Cancer Institute
  • Faculty Network Member of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences
  • Bass Fellow

Contact Information

Education

  • B.S. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 1993
  • M.A. Duke University, 1996
  • Ph.D. Duke University, 1999

Research Interests

Optical spectroscopy for early cancer detection, novel microscopy and interferometry techniques.

Awards, Honors, and Distinctions

  • Fellow. American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. 2014
  • Fellow. International Society for Optics and Photonics. 2010
  • Fellow. Optical Society of America. 2010
  • Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program. National Science Foundation. 2004

Courses Taught

  • PHYSICS 621: Advanced Optics
  • PHYSICS 493: Research Independent Study
  • MOLCAN 551L: Biomedical Optical Spectroscopy and Tissue Optics (GE, IM)
  • MENG 552: Master of Engineering Supplemental Internship
  • MENG 551: Master of Engineering Internship/Project Assessment
  • MENG 550: Master of Engineering Internship/Project
  • GLHLTH 796T: Bass Connections Global Health Research Team
  • GLHLTH 795T: Bass Connections Global Health Research Team
  • GLHLTH 396T: Bass Connections Global Health Research Team
  • GLHLTH 395T: Bass Connections Global Health Research Team
  • EGR 491: Projects in Engineering
  • EGR 393: Research Projects in Engineering
  • ECE 541: Advanced Optics
  • BME 791: Graduate Independent Study
  • BME 552: Advanced Optics
  • BME 551L: Biomedical Optical Spectroscopy and Tissue Optics (GE, IM)
  • BME 550: Modern Microscopy (GE, IM)
  • BME 494: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)
  • BME 493: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)
  • BME 436L: Biophotonic Instrumentation (DR)

In the News

Representative Publications

  • Jelly, Evan T., Zachary A. Steelman, Haoran Zhang, Kengyeh K. Chu, Cary C. Cotton, Swathi Eluri, Nicholas J. Shaheen, and Adam Wax. “Next-generation endoscopic probe for detection of esophageal dysplasia using combined OCT and angle-resolved low-coherence interferometry.” Biomedical Optics Express 15, no. 3 (March 2024): 1943–58. https://doi.org/10.1364/boe.515469.
  • Wax, A. “Senior Editor Retirement: Farewell to Ben Dingel, Welcome Szymon Gładysz.” Optical Engineering 62, no. 9 (September 1, 2023). https://doi.org/10.1117/1.OE.62.9.090102.
  • Chen, Cindy X., George T. Funkenbusch, and Adam Wax. “Biophysical Profiling of Sickle Cell Disease Using Holographic Cytometry and Deep Learning.” International Journal of Molecular Sciences 24, no. 15 (July 2023): 11885. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms241511885.
  • Rancu, Albert, Cindy X. Chen, Hillel Price, and Adam Wax. “Multiscale optical phase fluctuations link disorder strength and fractal dimension of cell structure.” Biophysical Journal 122, no. 7 (April 2023): 1390–99. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpj.2023.03.005.
  • Wax, A. “Senior Editor Retirement: Farewell to Khan Iftekharuddin, Welcome Daniel LeMaster.” Optical Engineering 62, no. 4 (April 1, 2023): 40101. https://doi.org/10.1117/1.OE.62.4.040101.

Affiliated Research