Nimmi Ramanujam

Image of Nimmi Ramanujam

Robert W. Carr, Jr., Professor of Biomedical Engineering

Since coming to Duke University in 2005, Prof. Ramanujam has established the Tissue Optical Spectroscopy laboratory. Prof. Ramanujam's group is innovating on optical strategies to peer into the biological landscape of thick tissues. Technologies being developed in her lab leverage principles of optical spectroscopy, optical sectioning microscopy, and molecular imaging. Her research group is developing and applying these optically based tools for three problems in cancer: cancer screening in resource-limited settings, intra-operative margin assessment to detect residual disease during cancer surgery, and visualizing tumor hypoxia and metabolism in the context of cancer therapy and drug discovery. Prof. Ramanujam is leading a multi-disciplinary effort to translate these technologies to clinical applications in the breast, and cervix. In addition to her academic efforts, Prof. Ramanujam has spun out a company, Zenalux, to commercialize several of the technologies developed in her lab.  

In October of 2013, Dr. Nimmi Ramanujam founded the Global Women’s Health Technologies Center. The Global Women’s Health Technologies Center reflects a partnership between the Pratt School of Engineering and the Duke Global Health Institute and is led by Center Director Nimmi Ramanujam, professor of biomedical engineering and global health. The center’s mission is to increase research, training and education in women’s diseases, with a focus on breast cancer, cervical cancer, and maternal-fetal health; and to increase retention of women and underrepresented minorities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) educational disciplines locally and globally.

Prof. Ramanujam has received several awards for her work in cancer research and technology development for women's health. She received the TR100 Young Innovator Award from MIT in 2003, a $2.5M DOD Era of Hope Scholar award in 2004, the Global Indus Technovator award from MIT in 2005 and a $3M Era of Hope Research Scholar award in 2009 and an NIH BRP grant in 2011. In 2011, she received the Stansell Family Distinguished Research Award from the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University. Dr. Ramanujam is a fellow of OSA, SPIE and AIMBE.  

She is member of the NIH BMIT-A study section and chair elect of the DOD’s breast cancer research program (BCRP) integration panel (IP) that sets the vision of the BCRP program and plans the dissemination of over $100 M of funds for breast cancer research annually. She is co-editor  of the Handbook of Biomedical Optics (publisher Taylor and Francis).  

Dr. Ramanujam earned her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Texas, Austin in 1995 and then trained as an NIH postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania from 1996-2000. Prior to her tenure at Duke, she was an assistant professor in the Dept. Biomedical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison from 2000-2005.

Appointments and Affiliations
  • Robert W. Carr, Jr., Professor of Biomedical Engineering
  • Professor of Biomedical Engineering
  • Research Professor of Global Health
  • Professor of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology
  • Member of the Duke Cancer Institute
  • Director for the Center for Global Women's Health Technologies
Contact Information:

  • Ph.D. University of Texas at Austin, 1995
  • M.S. University of Texas at Austin, 1992
  • B.S. University of Texas at Austin, 1989


Medical Imaging
Cancer diagnostics and therapy
Medical Instrumentation
Medical Diagnostics

Awards, Honors, and Distinctions:

  • Chair, CDMRP Integration Panel for the BCRP program, 2014
  • Chair Elect, CDMRP Integration Panel for the BCRP program, 2013
  • Fellow, Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers, 2013
  • Member, NIH BMIT-A Study section, July, 2012- 2016
  • Conference organizing committee member, OSA BIOMED, 2012
  • Fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), 2012
  • Member, BME External Advisory Board, University of Texas, Austin, 2012
  • AIMBE Fellow, December, 2011
  • Advisory Board Member, Dept. Biomedical Engineering, University of Texas, Austin, 2011 - 2014
  • Stansell Distinguished Research Award, Pratt School of Engineering, Duke University, 2011
  • Fellow, Optical Society of America, 2009
  • Member, DOD Breast Cancer Research Program Integration Panel, 2009-present
  • Invited Speaker, Gordon Conference on Lasers in Medicine and Biology, December, 2008
  • Plenary Speaker, DOE Era of Hope Breast Cancer Conference, December, 2008
  • Global Indus Technovators Awards, Indian Business Club at MIT, 2005
  • Technology achievement award, MIT Alumni Association of Wisconsin, 2005
  • Vilas Associate award, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 2005
  • Era of Hope Scholar Award, DOD Breast Cancer Research Program, 2004
  • Invited speaker, Gordon Conference on Lasers in Medicine and Biology, 2004
  • TR100 Young Innovator Award, Selected as one of the top 100 young innovators in technology in the world by MIT's Technology Review Magazine, 2003
  • Whitaker travel award to participate in the ASEE Conference, 2002
  • Fellow, American Society of Laser Medicine and Surgery, December, 2001
  • Whitaker Foundation investigator, 2001
  • Invited participant in NSF’s “Engineering Education Scholars Workshop”, 1996
  • National Research Service Award, National Institutes of Health, 1996
  • One of three finalists in the American Association for Medical Instrumentation Young Investigator Competition, 1996
  • Scholarship, Association for Women in Science Educational Foundation, November, 1995
  • Award for Best Scientific Paper, American Association of Cancer Research, 1995
  • Scholarship, American Society for Laser Medicine & Surgery, 1995
  • Scholarship, International Society for Optical Engineering, November, 1994
  • Professional Development Award, University of Texas, Austin, 1994 - 1995
  • Award for Best Scientific Paper, American Society for Laser Medicine & Surgery, 1994-95

Selected Patents:

Courses Taught:
  • BME 244L9: Quantitative Physiology
  • BME 244L9: Quantitative Physiology with Biostatistical Applications
  • BME 244L: Quantitative Physiology
  • BME 244L: Quantitative Physiology with Biostatistical Applications
  • BME 290: Intermediate Topics (GE)
  • BME 290L: Intermediate Topics with Lab (GE)
  • BME 394: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)
  • BME 493: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)
  • BME 494: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)
  • BME 551L: Biomedical Optical Spectroscopy and Tissue Optics (GE,IM)
  • ECE 290: Special Topics in Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • GLHLTH 390: Special Topics in Global Health Studies

Representative Publications: (More Publications)
    • Hu, F; Vishwanath, K; Wolfgang Beumer, H; Puscas, L; Afshari, HR; Esclamado, RM; Scher, R; Fisher, S; Lo, J; Mulvey, C; Ramanujam, N; Lee, WT, Assessment of the sensitivity and specificity of tissue-specific-based and anatomical-based optical biomarkers for rapid detection of human head and neck squamous cell carcinoma., Oral Oncology, vol 50 no. 9 (2014), pp. 848-856 [10.1016/j.oraloncology.2014.06.015] [abs].
    • Yu, B; Shah, A; Wang, B; Rajaram, N; Wang, Q; Ramanujam, N; Palmer, GM; Dewhirst, MW, Measuring tumor cycling hypoxia and angiogenesis using a side-firing fiber optic probe., Journal of biophotonics, vol 7 no. 7 (2014), pp. 552-564 [10.1002/jbio.201200187] [abs].
    • Bydlon, TM; Nachabé, R; Ramanujam, N; Sterenborg, HJCM; Hendriks, BHW, Chromophore based analyses of steady-state diffuse reflectance spectroscopy: Current status and perspectives for clinical adoption, Journal of Biophotonics (2014) [abs].
    • Frees, A; Rajaram, N; McCachren, S; Vaz, A; Dewhirst, M; Ramanujam, N, Optical monitoring of glucose demand and vascular delivery in a preclinical murine model, Proceedings of SPIE, vol 8947 (2014) [abs].
    • Barrott, JJ; Hughes, PF; Osada, T; Yang, XY; Hartman, ZC; Loiselle, DR; Spector, NL; Neckers, L; Rajaram, N; Hu, F; Ramanujam, N; Vaidyanathan, G; Zalutsky, MR; Lyerly, HK; Haystead, TA, Optical and radioiodinated tethered Hsp90 inhibitors reveal selective internalization of ectopic Hsp90 in malignant breast tumor cells., Chemistry and Biology, vol 20 no. 9 (2013), pp. 1187-1197 [10.1016/j.chembiol.2013.08.004] [abs].