Ph.D., Biomedical Engineering
Duke University

M.S., Biomedical Engineering
University of Wisconsin

B.S., Physics
Washington State University

Contact Information

FEL 307
VU Mailbox: PMB 351631, Nashville, TN 37235-1631 USA

Melissa Skala

Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering
Assistant Professor of Cancer Biology

Biomedical Engineering

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Research Focus

Development of optical imaging, optical spectroscopy and nanotechnology for cancer diagnosis and therapy.

Current Projects

Optical technologies are attractive for diagnosing cancer and for monitoring cancer therapy because these techniques are low cost, portable, fast and provide a wealth of information on tissue structure and function. Dr. Skala’s research focuses on the development of optical imaging tools that monitor biological markers such as cellular metabolic rate, molecular expression, blood oxygenation and blood flow in vivo. These tools are applied to pre-clinical models for the design and development of effective therapeutic strategies, and in clinical studies to provide early detection and individualized treatment to cancer patients. Specific technologies under development include optical coherence tomography to monitor blood flow and microvessel morphology, multiphoton and fluorescence lifetime microscopy to image cellular metabolism, photothermal microscopy with nanoparticle contrast agents for molecular imaging, and optical spectroscopy to quantify tissue blood content and oxygenation.

Graduate student and Postdoctoral openings

Projects in the lab include optical design and development, basic cancer research and nanotechnology, and thus candidates with an interest in multi-disciplinary research are encouraged to apply. Graduate student and postdoctoral openings are available, and if interested, please contact Dr. Skala at Please attach a curriculum vita and a brief description of research interests to all inquiries.


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