Nirmala Ramanujam: The 2020 SPIE Biophotonics Technology Innovator Award
The Robert W. Carr Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Duke University, Nirmala Ramanujam, is also the director and founder of the university's Center for Global Women's Health Technologies. She has developed multiple highly impactful innovations to address the needs of global women's health including the Point-of-Care Tampon (POCkeT) Colposcope which she and her research team designed to increase access to cervical cancer screening and diagnostics in low- and middle-income areas, a liquid scalpel based on low-cost ablative techniques to effectively and immediately treat pre-invasive lesions, and AI algorithms that enable on-site decision-making.
A Fellow of the American Society of Laser Medicine and Surgery, the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering, the Optical Society of America, and SPIE, Ramanujam was profiled in the 2012 SPIE Women in Optics planner. "I use the wonderful properties of light we see around us every day to peer into the biological landscape of tissue," she told SPIE at that time. "I am specifically interested in developing light-based technologies to look at the shifting biological landscape in cancer."
"Nimmi has been a tenacious driver of in vivo optical spectroscopy for disease diagnosis and therapeutic guidance, particularly in cancer," notes Brian C. Wilson, a senior scientist at Toronto's Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, and a professor of medical biophysics at the University of Toronto. "She has also demonstrated an unusual ability to move concepts and technologies from bench to bedside, as well as developing optical technologies for global health. In addition, she is an active champion of biophotonics education, particularly as a way to attract more girls into science and technology as career options. She is an exceptional role model in this important mission."