Andreas H. Hielscher


351 Engineering Terrace
Mail Code 8904

Tel(212) 854-5080

Andreas H. Hielscher’s work focuses on the development of new medical imaging technologies that use near-infrared light instead of more widely known X-rays or ultrasound.  Light transmitted through the human body can provide information about the blood and oxygen supply in various tissues. In turn this information can be used by physicians to diagnose and monitor various diseases.  Hielscher’s team is applying the technology in clinical studies related to breast cancer, prostate cancer, arthritis, and peripheral artery disease (PAD) in diabetic patients. In addition, his group has developed imaging technologies that allow him to study new drugs for brain cancer in small animal models. 

Research Interests

Medical imaging instrumentation, biomedical optics, inverse problems, cancer, vascular diseases, joint diseases, numerical models of light propagation in tissue.

Other Interests

Photography Soccer

Breast cancer affects one in eight women in their lifetime. Neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NAC) is widely applied as standard treatment for patients with newly diagnosed operable invasive breast cancer. The goal of NAC is shrink the breast tumor over a period of five months prior to surgical intervention. As a result of NAC, an inoperable cancer may become operable, or an operable cancer can be converted from mastectomy to breast-conserving therapy. However, by some estimates, 50 percent of women fail to respond to therapy. In a recent study, performed in collaboration with physicians from Columbia’s medical center, Dr. Hielscher’s team has shown that using his patented vascular optical tomographic imaging system (VOTIS) non-responding patients can be identified as early as two weeks after treatment initiation. If confirmed in a larger clinical trial, these patients could be switched to another therapy instead of enduring months of ineffective NAC.

In another clinical study involving up to 100 PAD patients, Dr. Hielscher looks to monitor vascular disease in patients that underwent endovascular interventions. PAD affects eight to twelve million people in the United States. When linked with diabetes, PAD results in over 71,000 amputations annually. Lower extremity angioplasty or bypass surgery is performed in advanced stages when limb threatening ischemia occurs. Hielscher’s team has shown that their technology can be used to diagnose PAD in diabetic patients, which has been a difficult task in the past. In their ongoing study, early data suggest that VOTIS can also be used to assess much earlier than currently possible, if endovascular interventions were successful and resulted in long term improvements of blood supply to the foot. With these promising results, efforts are under way to commercialize the technology in collaboration with Columbia’s technology transfer office (CTV).  Hielscher’s work has been funded by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLB), the National Institute for Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), the National Cancer Institute, The Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, the Whitaker Foundation for Biomedical Engineering, and the New York State Office of Science, Technology and Academic Research.

Hielscher received BS and MS degrees in physics from the University of Hannover, Germany, in 1987 and 1991, respectively. Subsequently he moved to the US where he got his PhD in electrical and computer engineering from the Rice University, Houston, TX, in 1995, before spending two years as postdotoral fellow at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. He is a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE).


  • Postdoctoral fellow, Los Alamos National Laboratory, 1995-1998


  • Professor of of biomedical engineering electrical engineering, and radiology, Columbia University, 2011 –
  • Associate professor of biomedical engineering electrical engineering, and radiology (tenured), Columbia University, 2006 - 2010
  • Associate professor of biomedical engineering and radiology (non-tenured), Columbia University, 2001 - 2006
  • Assistant Professor, State University of New York – Downstate Medical Center, 1998 - 2001


  • Optical Society of America (OSA)
  • SPIE—The International Society for Optical Engineering
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
  • American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE)


  • Fellow, American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), 2013
  • Fellow of the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Laser Medicine,  Free University, Berlin, Germany, 2005


  • J. Jia, H.K. Kim, A.H. Hielscher, “Fast linear solver for radiative transport equation with multiple right hand sides in diffuse optical tomography, Journal of Quantitative Spectroscopy and Radiative Transfer, Vol. 167, pp. 10-22 (Dec 1, 2015). PMID: 26345531; PMCID: PMC4556172.
  • M.A. Khalil, H.K. Kim, J.W. Hoi, I.-K. Kim, R. Dayal, G. Shrikhande, A.H. Hielscher, “Detection of Peripheral Arterial Disease Within the Foot Using Vascular Optical Tomographic Imaging: A Clinical Pilot Study,” European J. of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery, Vol 49(1), pp. 83–89 (2015). PMID: 25457299; PMCID: PMC4439381
  • J.H. Lee,  H.K. Kim, C. Chandhanayingyong, F.Y. Lee FY, A.H. Hielscher, “Non-Contact Small Animal Fluorescence Imaging System for Simultaneous Multi-directional Angular-dependent Data Acquisition,” Biomedical Optics Express, Vol. 5, Iss. 7, pp. 2301–2316 (2014). [doi: 10.1364/BOE.5.002301. eCollection 2014 July 1] PMID: 25071965 
  • M.L. Flexman, H.K. Kim, J.E. Gunther, E.A. Lim, M.C. Alvarez, E. Desperito, K. Kalinsky D.L. Hershman, A.H. Hielscher, “Optical biomarkers for breast cancer derived from dynamic diffuse optical tomography,” Journal of Biomedical Optics 18(9), 096012 (Sep 18, 2013). [doi:10.1117/1.JBO.18.9.096012] PMID: 24048367
  • L.D. Montejo, H.K. Kim, J. Jia, H.K. Kim, U.J. Netz, S. Blaschke, G.A. Muller, A.H. Hielscher, “Computer Aided Diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis With Optical Tomography, Part 1: Feature Extraction,” Journal of Biomedical Optics 18(7), 076001 (2013). [doi: 10.1117/1.JBO.18.7.076001] PMID: 23856915
  • L.D. Montejo, H.K. Kim, J. Jia, H.K. Kim, U.J. Netz, S. Blaschke, G.A. Muller, A.H. Hielscher, “Computer Aided Diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis With Optical Tomography, Part 2: Image Classification,” Journal of Biomedical Optics 18(7), 076002 (2013). [doi: 10.1117/1.JBO.18.7.076002] PMID: 23856916
  • M. A. Khalil, H.K. Kim, I.-K.Kim, M. Flexman, R. Dayal, G. Shrikhande, and A.H. Hielscher, “Dynamic Diffuse Optical Tomography Imaging of Peripheral Arterial Disease,” Biomedical Optics Express Vol. 3, No. 9, 2288-98, September 2012. PMID: 23024920
  • B.J Beattie, D.L.J Thorek, C.R. Schmidtlein, K.S. Pentlow, J.L. Humm. and A.H Hielscher, “Quantitative modeling of Cerenkov light production efficiency from medical radionuclides,” PLoS ONE 7(2):e31402. [doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031402 (2012)] PMID: 22363636.
  • M.L. Flexman, F. Vlachos, H.K. Kim, S. Sirsi, J. Huang, S.L. Hernandez, T.J. Johung, J. Gander, A. Reichstein, B.S. Lampl, A. Wang, M. Borden, D.J. Yamashiro, J.J. Kandel, A.H. Hielscher, “Monitoring Early Tumor Response to Drug Therapy with Diffuse Optical Tomography,” Journal of Biomedical Optics 17(1), 016014 (2012). [doi: 10.1117/1.JBO.17.1.016014] PMID: 22352664
  • M.L. Flexman, H.K. Kim, R. Stoll, M. Khalil, C.J. Fong, A.H. Hielscher, “A wireless handheld probe with spectrally constrained evolution strategies for diffuse optical imaging of tissue,” Review of Scientific Instruments 83(3), pp. 033108 - 033108-8 (2012). [doi: 10.1063/1.3694494] PMID: 22462907
  • M.L. Flexman, M.A. Khalil, R. Al Abdi, H.K. Kim, C.J. Fong, E. Desperito, D.L. Hershman, R.R. Barbour, A.H. Hielscher, “Digital optical tomography system for dynamic breast cancer imaging,” Journal of Biomedical Optics 16(7), 076014 (July 2011); [doi:10.1117/1.3599955] PMID: 21806275
  • A.H. Hielscher, H.K. Kim, U. Netz, L. Montejo, C.D. Klose, S. Blaschke, P.A. Zwaka, G.A. Müller, J. Beuthan, “Frequency-Domain Optical Tomographic Imaging of Arthritic Finger Joints,” IEEE Transaction on Medical Imaging 30(10), pp.1725 – 1736 (2011). [doi: 10.1109/TMI.2011.2135374], PMID: 21964730 [19]