Rebecca Richards-Kortum is a bioengineer recognized for her work in point-of-care diagnostics and global health technologies. She is known particularly for her work to provide vulnerable populations in the developing world access to life-saving health technology, focusing on diseases such as cervical and premature birth. Richards-Kortum was born in Grand Island, Nebraska, in 1964. She graduated from the University of Nebraska with a degree in Physics and Mathematics and from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1990 with a Ph.D. in Medical Physics. She joined the faculty of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Texas in 1990 where she helped found the Biomedical Engineering department. In 2005, she moved to Rice University as Chair of the Bioengineering Department. She served on the NIH Advisory Councils for the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering and the Fogarty Center and is a member of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering.

Research Interests

Dr. Richards-Kortum's research group is developing miniature imaging systems to enable better screening for oral, esophageal, and cervical cancer and their precursors at the point-of-care. She led development of a novel high resolution microendoscope capable of real-time, subcellular imaging of epithelial tissue. Clinical trials of over 15,000 patients in China, Brazil, and El Salvador are now underway. Dr. Richards-Kortum led development and dissemination of low-cost, robust technologies to improve neonatal survival in sub-Saharan Africa. Her team developed a low-cost bubble CPAP device to treat premature infants with respiratory distress; the device has been implemented at all government hospitals in Malawi, and introduced in Zambia, Tanzania, and South Africa. In 2014, CPAP was recognized by the UN as one of 10 innovations that can save the lives of women and children now. She founded the Beyond Traditional Borders (BTB) program in which undergraduate students from multiple backgrounds learn to think beyond geographic and disciplinary boundaries to solve challenges in global health.

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Section 31: Engineering Sciences