Skip to main content

People at the Center for Chromatin NanoImaging in Cancer


Vadim Backman, PhD

Center Director, Administrative Core Director and Sachs Family Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Medicine

Dr. Backman serves as the Director of NU-CCNIC, and also directs the Administrative Core. In addition, he works with Dr. Zhang on the development of the optical nanoimaging and nanosensing technologies, and with Drs. Dravid and Katsaggelos on the development of the co-registration of images originated by the Nanoscale Chromatin Imaging and Analysis (Nano-ChIA) platform. Additionally, he will also leverage his expertise in experimental studies of chromatin structure–transcription interactions by working with Dr. Szleifer to further the computational modelling efforts of the Center.

Dr. Backman is the Sachs Family Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Medicine, Professor of Medicine (Hematology/Oncology) and Professor of 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. 

Daniela Matei, MD

Research Test Bed Director and Diana Princess of Wales Professor of Cancer Research

Dr. Matei directes the Research Test Bed Core (RTB) of NU-CCNIC. She is the Diana Princess of Wales Professor of Cancer Research at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a Professor in the Departments of Medicine-Hematology/Oncology and Obstetrics and Gynecology-Gynecology Oncology. Dr. Matei is a well-known oncologist and translational cancer investigator and serves as Chief of the Division of Reproductive Science in Medicine and the co-leader of the Translational Research in Solid Tumors Research Program at the LCC. She has over 20 years of experience in cancer biology and therapeutics and has worked extensively on mechanisms of drug resistance and metastasis. She works closely with Dr Adli, RTB Co-Investigator, to oversee RTB functions. As a physician scientist, Dr. Matei brings an unrivaled perspective to the NU-CCNIC.

Jayms Peterson, PhD

NU-CCNIC Center Administrator

Dr. Peterson is the Center Administrator for NU-CCNIC and Senior Director of Operations and Outreach of the Center for Physical Genomics and Engineering. He manages the day-to-day administration of the Center and aids Director Backman in facilitating integration of the Center programs, fostering synergy of Center projects and ensures that collaborative efforts contribute to the progress of NU-CCNIC in addressing its research objectives and milestones. Dr. Peterson serves on the NU-CCNIC leadership team and supervises development of Center collaborations, reporting, and other administrative endeavors.

Hao Zhang, PhD

Technology Development Director and Professor of Biomedical Engineering

Dr. Zhang directs the Technology Development Core at NU-CCNIC and is Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Northwestern University. He is a leading researcher on developing functional optical imaging technologies. Dr. Zhang uses innovative optical imaging technologies to investigate various biological processes, including chromatin structure, and continues to develop and improve these technologies through novel optical designs. For the NU-CCNIC, Dr. Zhang leads the Technology Development Core and specifically its efforts on microscopy system design, optical instrumentation, imaging reconstruction, and data analysis. He will also work closely with Dr. Backman and the other co-Investigators to develop imaging methodologies to probe structural
modifications of chromatin over a wide range of length scales.

Key Personnel

Mazhar Adli, PhD

Co-Investigator and Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology

The Adli laboratory is focused on understanding the key drivers of cancer and identifying novel therapeutic drug combinations to prevent cancer development and chemotherapy resistance. To achieve these goals, the lab is using and developing genomic and epigenomic mapping, editing and imaging approaches to understand genome regulation in normal and malignant settings. The group integrates experimental approaches with large-scale computational data analysis to verify experimental observations and come up with new testable hypotheses.

The Adli laboratory is utilizing and also developing cutting-edge functional genomics strategies and developing novel CRISPR based manipulation tools to understand dynamic gene regulation and 3D genome organization in normal and malignant settings. These efforts are based on the group's previous expertise in genome-wide approaches and development of novel technologies for cancer research. The Adli lab has developed particular expertise in utilizing and developing CRISPR based technologies.

Vinayak Dravid, PhD

Co-Investigator and Abraham Harris Professor of Materials Science and Engineering

Vinayak P. Dravid is the Abraham Harris chaired Professor of Materials Science & Engineering. He is also the founding director of the NUANCE Center and the NSF Center for facilities and infrastructure, the SHyNE Resource. The NUANCE Center houses state-of-the-art atomic and nanoscale microscopy, characterization and instrumentation capabilities, which was selected as the Midwest node of the NSF National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure (NNCI) program. Professor Dravid has extensive experience in the development and applications of innovative “imaging and sensing” tools and techniques to problems in physical and life sciences.

Dravid has developed new facilities for cryo/bio-analytical and high spatial resolution electron, scanning probe and ion microscopy (EM/SPM/IM) for biological structures and hybrid bio-physical interfaces.

Aggelos Katsaggelos, PhD

Co-Investigator and Joseph Cummings Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Aggelos Katsaggelos, PhD is Professor and Joseph Cummings Chair in the ECE Department at Northwestern University. He also runs the Image and Video Processing Laboratory (IVPL), whose objective is to generate cutting-edge research results in the fields of multimedia signal processing, multimedia communications, and computer vision. IVPL works in a variety of problems (e.g., recovery, compression, segmentation, and speech and speaker recognition) and applications areas (e.g., medical, multi-spectral, and astronomical image processing). Dr. Katsaggelos is a Fellow of the IEEE (1998) and SPIE (2009), the co-inventor of seventeen international patents, the recipient of the IEEE Third Millennium Medal (2000), the IEEE Signal Processing Society Meritorious Service Award (2001), the IEEE Signal Processing Society Technical Achievement Award (2010), and co-author of several award-winning papers.

Igal Szleifer, PhD

Co-Investigator and Christina Enroth-Cugell Professor of Biomedical Engineering

Igal Szleifer, PhD is the Christina Enroth-Cugell Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Northwestern University. The Szleifer lab has been developing and applying theoretical and computational methodologies to study soft materials, biological systems and their interactions. Recently one of the areas of major concentration in the Szleifer lab has been the study of the role of macromolecular crowding in the structural and functional properties of biological systems. This includes the modeling of chromatin under crowding conditions and prediction of gene expression under different nanoarchitectural changes of cell nuclei. The modeling work of Szleifer has been done in close collaboration with a leader in the field of cancer biophotonics, Dr. Vadim Backman. Szleifer is also a member of the Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center at Northwestern University.
Back to top