Tuan Vo-Dinh

Tuan Vo-Dinh
R. Eugene and Susie E. Goodson Professor of Biomedical Engineering
Third Year Mentor - Biomedical Engineering and Surgery Study Program (BES)
Campus mail: 2589 CIEMAS, Durham, NC 27708
Phone: (919) 660-5598

Dr. Tuan Vo-Dinh is R. Eugene and Susie E. Goodson Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Professor of Chemistry, and Director of The Fitzpatrick Institute for Photonics.

Dr. Vo-Dinh’s research activities and interests involve biophotonics, nanophotonics, plasmonics, laser-excited luminescence spectroscopy, room temperature phosphorimetry, synchronous luminescence spectroscopy, surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy, field environmental instrumentation, fiberoptics sensors, nanosensors, biosensors and biochips for the protection of the environment and the improvement of human health.

Dr. Vo-Dinh’s research activities and interests include the development of advanced technologies and methods in biophotonics, nanophotonics, biosensors, biochips, plasmonics, multi-modality bioimaging, and theranostics (diagnostics and therapy) of diseases such as cancer and infectious diseases.


We have pioneered the development of a new generation of gene probes using surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) detection with ‘Molecular Sentinels’ and Plasmonic Coupling Interference (PCI) molecular probes for multiplex and label-free detection of nucleic acid biomarkers (DNA, mRNA, microRNA) in early detection of cancer. The ability to simultaneously detect multiple oligonucleotide sequences is critical for many medical applications such as early diagnosis, high-throughput screening and systems biology research.


In genomic and precision medicine, nucleic acid-based molecular diagnosis is of paramount importance with many advantages such as high specificity, high sensitivity, serotyping capability, and mutation detection. Using SERS-based plasmonic nanobiosensors and nanochips, we are developing novel nucleic acid detection methods that can be integrated into lab-on-a-chip systems for point-of-care diagnosis  (e.g., breast, GI cancer) and global health applications (e.g., detection of malaria in South East Asia and Africa).


In multi-modality bioimaging, we are developing a novel multifunctional gold nanostar (GNS) probe for use in multi-modality bioimaging in pre-operative scans with PET, MRI and CT, intraoperative margin delineation with optical imaging, SERS and two-photon luminescence (TPL). The GNS can be used also for cancer treatment with plasmonics enhanced photothermal therapy (PTT), thus providing an excellent platform for seamless diagnostics and therapy (i.e., theranostics). Preclinical studies have shown its great potential for cancer diagnostics and therapeutics for future clinical translation.


Various nanobiosensors are being developed for monitoring intracellular parameters (e.g., pH) and biomolecular processes (e.g., apoptosis, caspases), opening the possibility for fundamental molecular biological research as well as biomedical applications (e.g., drug discovery) at the single cell level in a systems biology approach.

Education and Training

  • Swiss Federal Institute of Technology-EPFL Lausanne (Switzerland), B.S. 1971
  • Swiss Federal Institute of Technology-ETH Zurich (Switzerland), Ph.D. 1975

Selected Grants and Awards


A fiber-optic cyclodextrin-based sensor.

This paper describes the development of a fiber-optic cyclodextrin-based (FCD) sensor. The device uses laser excitation and fluorescence detection with beta-cyclodextrin as the reagent phase, immobilized at the tip of an optical fiber.