Rebecca Richards-Kortum

Dr. Rebecca Richards-Kortum, Ph.D.

Stanley C. Moore Professor of Bioengineering

Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Founder of Beyond Traditional Borders

Director of Rice 360°: Institute for Global Health Technology

Optical Spectroscopy and Imaging Laboratory

Ph.D., Medical Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1990)

M.S., Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1987)

B.S., Physics and Mathematics, University of Nebraska – Lincoln (1985)


“Engineering the Future of Health Care: Low-Cost, High Performance Technologies for Global Health”


Medical technologies have revolutionized healthcare in every setting in which they are available.  Unfortunately, technologies are often not available where they are needed most.  The lives of nearly 4 million African women, newborns, and children could be saved if already well-known interventions reached 90% of families.  While the demand for appropriate health technologies is enormous, traditional market incentives have failed to inspire effective solutions.  The “modern development enterprise” requires a new model of technology development if it is to succeed.   This talk will describe a framework to develop the next generation health care delivery system for use in low-resource settings. Case studies illustrating the innovation, evaluation and scale-up of high-performance, low-cost technologies will be presented with a focus on: maternal and neonatal health.

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Lecture will be webcast live here:


For two decades, Rebecca Richards-Kortum has focused on translating research that integrates advances in nanotechnology and molecular imaging with microfabrication technologies to develop optical imaging systems that are inexpensive, portable, and provide point-of-care diagnosis. This basic and translational research is highly collaborative and has led to new technologies to improve the early detection of cancers and other diseases, especially in impoverished settings.

Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) use micro-scale technology to design low-cost, reusable platforms for point-of-care (POC) diagnostics. When used with contrast agents, these rugged and portable optical imaging systems detect molecular signatures of pre-cancer, assess tumor margins, and monitor a patient’s response to therapy. Current systems are being tested and applied through multidisciplinary collaborations with clinicians and researchers at Rice, the UT M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, UT Health Science Center-Houston, UT at Austin, the University of Arizona, and the British Columbia Cancer Agency. Over the past few years, Richards-Kortum and collaborators have translated these technologies from North America to both low- and medium-resource developing countries (Botswana, India, Taiwan, Mexico, and Brazil).

Richards-Kortum’s research has led to the development of 26 patents and more than 210 refereed research papers. Her teaching programs, research and collaborations have been supported by generous grants from the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Defense, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Whitaker Foundation, and the Virginia and L.E. Simmons Family Foundation.

Richards-Kortum is a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (2000), and the recipient of the Presidential Young Investigator (1991) and Presidential Faculty Fellow (1992) awards from the National Science Foundation; and the Becton Dickinson Career Achievement Award from the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (1992). She has been named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Professor (2002); received the Sharon Keillor Award for Women in Engineering Education (2004) and Chester F. Carlson Award (2007) from the American Society for Engineering Education. She served on the inaugural National Advisory Council for Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering for the National Institutes of Health (2002-2007), was elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Biomedical Engineering Society (2008); and received the Vice President Recognition Award by IEEE (2008). In 2008, she was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering, and is a committee member of the National Academies Committee on Conceptual Framework for New Science Education Standards (2010-2012). Recently, she was named the Pritzker Distinguished Scientist and Lecturer of the Biomedical Engineering Society 2010 Annual Meeting, and was given the Celebrating Women in Science Award by BioHouston, Inc. (2011).

When: Friday 4/20/12 4:00 PM

Where: 1005 GBSF