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Nicholas Durr, PhD

Nicholas Durr
Research Interests: Optics, microscopy, medical imaging, deep learning, computer vision, and medical device design
Research Interests

Research Interests

Nicholas Durr is an associate professor and co-director of the undergraduate Design Team program in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. He holds secondary appointments in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and in Ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute.

Durr’s Computational Biophotonics Lab aims to create impactful technologies that improve diagnostics, reduce costs and increase accessibility to high-quality healthcare. The lab creates new optical technologies to reveal actionable clinical information. Durr and his team are particularly interested in computational biophotonics—creating new ways in which structured light can be used in combination with intelligent algorithms to probe and interpret the interaction of light with biological issues. By shaping and monitoring the spatial, temporal, spectral and coherence properties of light as it interacts with tissues, they strive to extract physiological information that will improve diagnostics, guide treatments, monitor therapies and ultimately enable impactful new medical devices. Their work incorporates concepts from optical engineering, light-tissue interaction, computer vision, machine learning and biodesign.

Current projects include creating smart endoscopy technologies to improve colorectal cancer screening, researching microscopy techniques for non-invasive blood and uanalysis, inventing tools to increase eye care accessibility, and developing imaging systems that are optimized for computer-aided detection of disease.

Durr co-founded PlenOptika, Inc., a Boston-based company that commercializes technologies that improve eye care accessibility worldwide. As the CEO of PlenOptika, he co-developed QuickSee—an inexpensive, handheld device that accurately prescribes eyeglasses with the push of a button.

He has won numerous awards for his work, including the Johns Hopkins Capers and Marion McDonald Award for Excellence in Mentoring and Advising, the NIH Trailblazer Award, and a NIH Technology Accelerator Challenge prize. Durr collaborates extensively with industry and start-up companies, including PlenOptika, Leuko Labs, Kubanda, Olympus, Under Armour, Danaher, Boston Scientific and Google. He serves on the committee for the National Inventors Hall of Fame, the Collegiate Inventors Competition, is the faculty mentor for MedHacks, and is an active mentor in Hopkins FLI Network for first-generation, limited-income students. He served as guest editor for a Biomedical Optics Express feature issue on optical technologies to improve healthcare in low-resource settings and a peer reviewer for journals such as Nature BME, Nature Medicine, Nature Methods, IEEE Transactions in Medical Imaging, Gut, and PNAS.

Durr received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2003. He then earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in biomedical engineering from the University of Texas, Austin, in 2007 and 2010, respectively. After receiving his doctorate, Durr trained as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School, and then as an M+Visión Medical Imaging and Innovation Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He served as CEO of PlenOptika from 2013 to 2015. He joined the faculty of the Whiting School of Engineering in 2016.

Titles & Affiliations


  • Associate Professor, Biomedical Engineering
  • Co-Director, Undergraduate Design Team

Affiliated Centers & Institutes



  • PhD, Biomedical Engineering, University of Texas, Austin, 2010
  • MS, Biomedical Engineering, University of Texas, Austin, 2007
  • BS, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, University of California, Berkeley, 2003
Faculty News

Recent Highlights

  • August 16, 2022
    Nicholas Durr, assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, has received a technology development grant through the Louis B. Thalheimer Fund for Translational Research.
  • May 13, 2022
    Two faculty Biomedical Engineering faculty members will receive 2022 Johns Hopkins Catalyst Awards. Patrick Cahan and Nicholas Durr were among...
  • January 20, 2022
    Nicholas Durr, assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, is a recipient of the National Science Foundation’s Early CAREER Award, which recognizes early stage scholars with high levels of promise and excellence.

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