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
  • Professor of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology
  • Affiliate of the Duke Initiative for Science & Society
  • Member of the Duke Cancer Institute

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

Awards, Honors, and Distinctions:

  • Fellow. International Society for Optics and Photonics. 2013
  • Fellows. American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. 2012
  • Fellows. Optical Society of America. 2010

Courses Taught:

  • BME 230L: Global Women's Health Technologies
  • 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)
  • BME 899: Special Readings in Biomedical Engineering
  • EGR 393: Research Projects in Engineering
  • GLHLTH 230L: Global Women's Health Technologies
  • GLHLTH 390: Special Topics in Global Health Studies
  • GLHLTH 390L-1: Special Topics with Lab in Global Health Studies
  • GLHLTH 393: Research Independent Study in Global Health
  • GLHLTH 395: Connections in Global Health: Interdisciplinary Team Projects
  • GLHLTH 795: Connections in Global Health: Interdisciplinary Team Projects
  • MOLCAN 551L: Biomedical Optical Spectroscopy and Tissue Optics (GE, IM)
  • PHARM 493: Research Independent Study
  • PHARM 494: Research Independent Study

Representative Publications:

    • Hu, F; Martin, H; Martinez, A; Everitt, J; Erkanli, A; Lee, WT; Dewhirst, M; Ramanujam, N, Distinct Angiogenic Changes during Carcinogenesis Defined by Novel Label-Free Dark-Field Imaging in a Hamster Cheek Pouch Model., Cancer Research, vol 77 no. 24 (2017), pp. 7109-7119 [10.1158/0008-5472.can-17-1058] [abs].
    • Zhu, C; Martinez, AF; Martin, HL; Li, M; Crouch, BT; Carlson, DA; Haystead, TAJ; Ramanujam, N, Near-simultaneous intravital microscopy of glucose uptake and mitochondrial membrane potential, key endpoints that reflect major metabolic axes in cancer., Scientific Reports, vol 7 no. 1 (2017) [10.1038/s41598-017-14226-x] [abs].
    • Morhard, R; Nief, C; Barrero Castedo, C; Hu, F; Madonna, M; Mueller, JL; Dewhirst, MW; Katz, DF; Ramanujam, N, Development of enhanced ethanol ablation as an alternative to surgery in treatment of superficial solid tumors., Scientific Reports, vol 7 no. 1 (2017) [10.1038/s41598-017-09371-2] [abs].
    • Mueller, JL; Asma, E; Lam, CT; Krieger, MS; Gallagher, JE; Erkanli, A; Hariprasad, R; Malliga, JS; Muasher, LC; Mchome, B; Oneko, O; Taylor, P; Venegas, G; Wanyoro, A; Mehrotra, R; Schmitt, JW; Ramanujam, N, International Image Concordance Study to Compare a Point-of-Care Tampon Colposcope With a Standard-of-Care Colposcope., Journal of Lower Genital Tract Disease, vol 21 no. 2 (2017), pp. 112-119 [10.1097/lgt.0000000000000306] [abs].
    • Nichols, BS; Llopis, A; Palmer, GM; McCachren, SS; Senlik, O; Miller, D; Brooke, MA; Jokerst, NM; Geradts, J; Greenup, R; Ramanujam, N, Miniature spectral imaging device for wide-field quantitative functional imaging of the morphological landscape of breast tumor margins., Journal of Biomedical Optics, vol 22 no. 2 (2017) [10.1117/1.jbo.22.2.026007] [abs].