Faculty Directory
Vadim Backman

Sachs Family Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Medicine


2170 Campus Drive
Silverman Hall 3627
Evanston, IL 60208-2850

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Backman Laboratory


Center for Physical Genomics and Engineering


Biomedical Engineering


PhD Program in Applied Physics

PhD Program in Interdisciplinary Biological Sciences

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Ph.D. Medical Engineering and Medical Physics, Harvard University - MIT, Cambridge, MA

M.S. Physics, MIT, Cambridge, MA

M.S. Physics, St. Petersburg Polytechnic Institute, St. Petersburg, Russia

B.S. Physics (Hons), St. Petersburg Polytechnic Institute, St. Petersburg, Russia


Dr. Vadim Backman is the Sachs Family Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Medicine at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Professor of Medicine (Hematology/Oncology) and Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, Associate Director of Research Technology and Infrastructure and Program Leader in Cancer and Physical Sciences at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Director of the Center for Physical Genomics and Engineering.  He received his Ph.D. in Medical Engineering from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

Dr. Backman’s research at the convergence of physical and biological sciences focuses on elucidating the function of the human genome and its dysregulation in disease, enabled by the development of new nanoscale imaging and computational technologies that lead to novel methods for regulation of global patterns of gene expression and their clinical translation for disease diagnostics and therapeutics. His research spans from basic science to technology development to multi-center clinical trials. Dr. Backman has received numerous awards including the Cozzarelli Prize from the National Academy of Sciences and was selected as one of the top 100 young innovators in the world by MIT Technology Review Magazine. He has chaired multiple scientific conferences such as OSA Biomed and SPIE Biomedical Applications of Light Scattering. He has published more than 230 papers in peer-reviewed journals including Nature, Nature Medicine, Science Advances, PNAS, and Physical Review Letters and holds over 20 patents.  Dr. Backman has a track record of managing large-scale multi-investigator projects including an NCI Bioengineering Research Partnership (BRP) and Early Detection Research Network (EDRN). He is the co-founder of three biotech companies.

Research Interests

Physical genomics, chromatin engineering, superresolution optical nanoscopy, genome nanoimaging, visible optical coherence tomography, new technologies for cancer diagnosis and therapeutics, cancer biomarkers

Significant Recognition

  • Cozzarelli Prize, National Academy of Sciences (2017).
  • Fellow, Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (2016, 2013).
  • Liz and Eric Lefkofsky Scholar (2015).
  • Dorothy Ann and Clarence L. Ver Steeg Distinguished Research Fellow (2015).
  • Fellow, American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) (2009).
  • Selected as one of the Top 100 Young Innovators in the World by MIT's Technology Review Magazine (2004).
  • NSF CAREER Award (2003).

Courses Taught

  • BME 302: Quantitative Systems Physiology
  • BME 429: Advanced Physical and Applied Optics

Selected Publications

A. Daneshkhah, S. Prabhala, P. Viswanathan, H. Subramanian, J. Lin, A.S. Chang, A. Bharat, H.K. Roy, and V. Backman, "Early detection of lung cancer using artificial intelligence-enhanced optical nanosensing of chromatin alterations in field carcinogenesis" Sci Rep 13, 13702. doi: 10.1038/s41598-023-40550-6 (2023)

X. Wang, V. Agrawal, C.L. Dunton, Y. Liu, R.K.A. Virk, P.A. Patel, L. Carter, E.M. Pujadas, Y. Li, S. Jain, H. Wang, N. Ni, N. Rivera-Bolanos, J. Frederick E. Roth, R. Bleher, C. Duan, P. Ntziachristos, T.C. He, R.R. Reid, B. Jiang, H. Subramanian, V. Backman, and G.A. Ameer, “Biophysical reprogramming of chromatin via contact guidance-induced nuclear constriction accelerates bone regeneration”, Nature Biomedical Engineering, 7(11) doi: 10.1038/s41551-023-01053-x (2023)

Li, A. Eshein, R.K.A. Virk, A. Eid, W. Wu, J. Frederick, D. VanDerway, S. Gladstein, K. Huang, N.M. Anthony, G.M. Bauer, X. Zhou, V. Agrawal, E. Pujadas, G. Esteve, J.E. Chandler, R. Bleher, J. de Pablo, I. Szleifer, V. Dravid, L.M. Almassalha, V. Backman, “Nanoscale Chromatin Imaging and Analysis (nano-CHIA) platform bridges 4-D chromatin organization with molecular function”, Science Advances 7, eabe4310 (2021).

Huang, K., Y. Li, A.R. Shim, V. Agrawal, R.K.A. Virk, V. Agrawal, A. Eshein, R.J. Nap, L.M. Almassalha, V. Backman and I. Szleifer.. “Physical and data structure of 3D genome”, Science Advances, 6(2), doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aay4055. (2020)

Virk, R.K.A., W. Wu, L. M. Almassalha, G. M. Wodarcyk, Y. Li, D. VanDerway, J. Frederick, D. Zhang, A. Eshein, H. K. Roy, I. Szleifer, and V. Backman. “Disordered chromatin packing regulates phenotypic plasticity”, Science Advances 6(2) doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aax6232 (2020)

Winkelmann, J.A., G. Spicer, A. Eid, L.M. Almassalha, T.Q. Nguyen, V. Backman. "Spectral contrast optical coherence tomography angiography enables single-scan vessel imaging”, Light: Science and Applications, 8(7) doi: 10.1038/s41377-018-0117-7 (2019)

Almassalha, L., G.M. Bauer, W. Wu, L. Cherkezyan, D. Zhang, A. Kendra, S. Gladstein, J.E. Chandler, D. VanDerway, B. Seagle, A. Ugolkov, D.D. Billadeau, T.V. O’Halloran, A.P. Mazar, H.K. Roy, I. Szleifer, S. Shahabi, and V. Backman. “Macrogenomic Engineering via Modulation of the Scaling of Chromatin Packing Density”, Nature Biomedical Engineering, DOI: 10.1038/s41551-017-0153-2. (2017)

Almassalha, L., B. Dong, Y. Stypula-Cyrus, B.E. Urban, T.Q. Nguyen, C. Sun, H.F. Zhang, and V. Backman. 2016. “Super-resolution Intrinsic Fluorescence Imaging of Chromatin Using Native, Unmodified Nucleic Acids for Contrast”, PNAS, 113(35), 9716-9721. (2016)