Nimmi Ramanujam

Nimmi Ramanujam

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

Ramanujam obtained her Ph.D. degree at the University of Texas at Austin. She progressed through the ranks as an academic researcher; the first five years as a research scientist and postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, the next five as an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the following five as an associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Duke University. In 2011 she was promoted to full professor.  Ramanujam is internationally recognized for her contributions in innovation, education and entrepreneurship and received numerous awards most notably, the IEEE  Biomedical Engineering Award Technical Field Award and the Social Impact Abie award . She is a Fulbright scholar, a member of the National Academy of Inventors, and a fellow of international professional societies in her field. She has also been invited for speaking engagements at the United Nations, as a TEDx speaker, and been invited to give plenary talks on her work all over the world.  

Ramanujam addresses pressing challenges in women’s cancers, specifically, cervical and breast cancer. Ramanujam creates technologies that transform complex diagnostic instruments and therapies into accessible, affordable, and appropriate solutions.  Several of these products are now being used in several countries in the U.S., Latin America, and Africa. She has developed a network of partners including academic institutions and hospitals, non-governmental organizations, ministries of health, and commercial partners to implement these technologies in diverse healthcare settings globally.

She has used her expertise in imaging and human-centered design to develop the Pocket colposcope which is on the WHO list of devices for cervical cancer imaging. A sister device, the Callascope is a self-use speculum-free imaging device, which allows women to screen themselves privately without the need for an intrusive pelvic exam. She has developed a translational microscope called the CapCell Scope to identify biomarkers of metabolism that reflect tumor behavior, including growth, proliferation, and treatment resistance, aimed at informing drug selection for breast cancer treatment. She has developed an ultra-low-cost injectable liquid ablation therapy that disrupts tumors locally as well as elicits an anti-tumor immune response to address an important gap – the lack of access to surgery to the world’s most vulnerable populations. 

Ramanujam has also created several global initiatives that strive to achieve enduring impact in health and education. Her innovations have a common wellspring - they are all connected and come from a place of wanting to create and make something that doesn’t exist.

The most prominent is a consortium called Women Inspired Strategies for Health (WISH) to improve cervical cancer prevention in low-resource settings globally.  She is working with partners worldwide to ensure that technologies and strategies for addressing cervical cancer are adopted by cancer control programs in geographically and economically diverse healthcare settings. These partnerships have resulted in see-and-treat cancer control strategies in the least resourced settings that are in clinical deserts. WISH has been recognized by the MacArthur Foundation as one of the top 100 most transformative and impactful solutions, a testament to its significance in redesigning the health system.

Ramanujam has launched an arts and storytelling initiative, The Invisible Organ to raise awareness of sexual and reproductive health inequities. An educational documentary with a similar name was created and has been screened at conferences and by multiple artists and students across the U.S. This film was officially selected for the Women at the Center Film Festival at the International Papillomavirus Conference in 2020. She also co-led the curation of an art exhibit to bring together a collection of visual arts, medical photography, sculptures, and installations, both a physical exhibit and a digital moving gallery to express the stigma and shame associated with female anatomy.

She has also created a global education program that intersects design thinking, STEM concepts, and the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals to promote social justice awareness: Ignite. The participatory learning curricula have been implemented in more than four countries with broad-ranging impact. For example, students living around the contaminated Lake Atitlan, in Guatemala learned how to design engineering solutions for clean water. Similarly,for personal use during frequent power outages.

Appointments and Affiliations

  • Robert W. Carr, Jr., Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering
  • Professor of Biomedical Engineering
  • Director of Center for Global Women's Health Technologies
  • Professor of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology
  • Research Professor of Global Health
  • Core Faculty Member, Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy
  • Affiliate of the Duke Initiative for Science & Society
  • Member of the Duke Cancer Institute

Contact Information


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

Research Interests

Biomedical engineering, biophotonics, women's cancers, global health, engineering design


Awards, Honors, and Distinctions

  • IEEE Biomedical Engineering Award. IEEE. 2023
  • Associate Editor. Inaugural Editorial Board of IEEE OJEMB. 2020
  • Women In Molecular Imaging Network (WIMIN) Leadership Committee. WIMIN. 2020
  • The WomC Global Impact Award. Duke University Women’s Center. 2020
  • Michael S. Feld Biophotonics . OSA. 2020
  • Women in Molecular Imaging Network Outstanding Leadership in Molecular Imaging Award. World Molecular Imaging Society. 2019
  • Social Impact Abie Award. . 2019
  • Biophotonics Technology Innovator Award. International Society for Optics and Photonics. 2019
  • Program co-leader for Radiation Oncology and Imaging Program. Duke Cancer Institute. 2019
  • Associate Editor. Scientific Reports. 2019
  • CUGH Emerging Leader in Global Health Innovation Faculty Award. Consortium of Universities for Global Health. 2018
  • Fellow (NAI). National Academy of Inventors. 2017
  • Fellow. International Society for Optics and Photonics. 2013
  • Fellow. American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. 2012
  • Fellow. Optical Society of America. 2010

Courses Taught

  • PHARM 494: Research Independent Study
  • PHARM 493: Research Independent Study
  • ISS 796T: Bass Connections Information, Society & Culture Research Team
  • ISS 796: Bass Connections Information, Society & Culture Research Team
  • ISS 795: Bass Connections Information, Society & Culture Research Team
  • ISS 398: Bass Connections Information, Society & Culture Research Team
  • ISS 397: Bass Connections Information, Society & Culture Research Team
  • ISS 396T: Bass Connections Information, Society & Culture Research Team
  • GLHLTH 230L: Global Women's Health Technologies
  • EGR 393: Research Projects in Engineering
  • BME 290L: Intermediate Topics with Lab (GE)
  • BME 290: Intermediate Topics (GE)
  • BME 230L: Global Women's Health Technologies

In the News

Representative Publications

  • Rickard, AG; Mowery, YM; Bassil, A; Rouse, DC; Williams, NT; Charity, T; Belloni, R; Crouch, B; Ramanujam, N; Stevenson, D; Castillo, R; Blocker, S; Epel, B; Kotecha, M; Palmer, GM, Evaluating Tumor Hypoxia Radiosensitization Via Electron Paramagnetic Resonance Oxygen Imaging (EPROI)., Mol Imaging Biol, vol 26 no. 3 (2024), pp. 435-447 [10.1007/s11307-023-01855-0] [abs].
  • Wang, R; Ekem, L; Gallagher, J; Factor, RE; Hall, A; Ramanujam, N, A color-based tumor segmentation method for clinical ex vivo breast tissue assessment utilizing a multi-contrast brightfield imaging strategy., J Biophotonics, vol 17 no. 5 (2024) [10.1002/jbio.202300241] [abs].
  • Adhikari, G; Sarojasamhita, VP; Powell, VR; Farooqui, A; Budzinski, M; Garvey, DT; Yang, J; Katz, D; Crouch, B; Ramanujam, N; Mueller, JL, Impact of Injection-Based Delivery Parameters on Local Distribution Volume of Ethyl-Cellulose Ethanol Gel in Tissue and Tissue Mimicking Phantoms., IEEE transactions on bio-medical engineering, vol 71 no. 5 (2024), pp. 1488-1498 [10.1109/tbme.2023.3340613] [abs].
  • Sunassee, ED; Jardim-Perassi, BV; Madonna, MC; Ordway, B; Ramanujam, N, Metabolic Imaging as a Tool to Characterize Chemoresistance and Guide Therapy in Triple-Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC)., Molecular cancer research : MCR, vol 21 no. 10 (2023), pp. 995-1009 [10.1158/1541-7786.mcr-22-1004] [abs].
  • Quang, TT; Yang, J; Kaluzienski, ML; Parrish, A; Farooqui, A; Katz, D; Crouch, B; Ramanujam, N; Mueller, JL, In Vivo Evaluation of Safety and Efficacy of Ethyl Cellulose-Ethanol Tissue Ablation in a Swine Cervix Model., Bioengineering (Basel, Switzerland), vol 10 no. 11 (2023) [10.3390/bioengineering10111246] [abs].