The David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MITThe David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

National Cancer Institute Cancer Center

Science + Engineering... Conquering Cancer Together

Angela M. Belcher, PhD

James Mason Crafts Professor

Professor of Biological Engineering

Head of the Department of Biological Engineering

Member, Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine


KI Research Areas of Focus:
Nano-based Drugs
, Detection + Monitoring

"We seek to understand and harness nature’s own processes in order to design technologically important materials and devices for energy, the environment, and medicine. Ancient organisms have evolved to make exquisite nanostructures like shells and glassy diatoms.  Using directed evolution, we are engineering organisms to grow and assemble novel hybrid organic-inorganic electronic and magnetic materials.  In doing so, we have capitalized on many of the wonderful properties of biology–using only non-toxic materials, employing self-repair mechanisms, self-assembling precisely and over longer ranges, and adapting and evolving to become better over time.  These materials have been used in applications as varied as solar cells, batteries, medical diagnostics and basic single molecule interactions related to disease."

Dr. Belcher is a material scientist, biological engineer, and professor at MIT. She attended the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she received her Bachelor's degree from the College of Creative Studies in 1991 and her Ph.D. in chemistry in 1997. Dr. Belcher was awarded the 24th annual MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, and the 2004 Four Star General Recognition Award. In 2006 she was named Scientific American’s Research Leader of the Year. Her work has been published in many prestigious scientific journals including Science and Nature, and has been reported in the popular press including Fortune, Forbes, Discover, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.

Further Information

Research Summary

Prof. Belcher is an expert in using biology for nanomaterials design and synthesis of bio-inspired, organic and inorganic hybrid materials. Her research spans applications of lithium ion batteries, lithium oxygen batteries, sodium ion batteries, fuel cells, solar cells, environmental bio-remediation, electrocatalysis, photocatalysis, homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis, carbon dioxide capture and storage, quantum transport and the development of new imaging systems to detect tiny tumors. In the last year, the Belcher Group has developed both new probes for second-window near-infrared (NIR-II: 950-1650 nm wavelength) imaging and a whole-animal NIR-II imaging system. Initial results for imaging tumors in both ovarian cancer and brain cancer show promise for detection of 1/2 mm size tumors for pre-surgical planning as well as real-time fluorescence-guided surgery in these cancer models. Ovarian cancer animal studies show a 40% increase in median survival using this new technology. In very recent work, the Belcher Lab developed a new kind of optical imaging system (DOLPHIN) that combines hyperspectral and hyperdiffuse NIR-II spectral imaging that facilitates non-invasive, in vivo cellular-level imaging of whole mice and rats. In addition, this imaging system has demonstrated depths to 8 cm in tissue phantom and 6 cm in muscle tissue.

Selected Publications

Dang X, Bardhan NM, Qi J, Gu L, Eze NA, Lin C-W, Kataria S, Hammond PT, Belcher AM. Deep-tissue optical imaging of near cellular-sized features. Scientific Reports, 9, 2019, 3873. PMCID: 30846704.

Ceppi L, Bardhan NM, Na YJ, Siegel A, Rajan N, Fruscio R, Del Carmen MG; Belcher AM, J. Birrer MJ. Real-time single-walled carbon nanotube-based fluorescence imaging improves survival after debulking surgery in an ovarian cancer model. ACS Nano, 2019. PMCID: 31009198.

Nandini Rajan, Andrew Siegel, Neelkanth Bardhan, and Angela Belcher. Systems and Methods for Dual-Mode Imaging Using Optical Coherence Tomography and Fluorescence Imaging. US Filed 15/411,704, Jan 2017.

Siegel A, Rajan N, Bardhan N, Belcher A. Enhancement of Video-rate Fluorescence Imagery Collected in the Second Near-Infrared Optical Window. US Filed 15/209,571, July 2016.

Dang X, Gu L, Qi, Correa S, Zhang G, Belcher AM, Hammond PT. Layer-by-layer Assembled Fluorescent Probes in the Second Near-Infrared Window for Systemic Delivery and Detection of Ovarian Cancer. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2016 113(19), 5179-5184. PMCID: PMC4868435.

Ghosh D, Bagley AF, Na YJ, Birrer MJ, Bhatia SN, Belcher AM. Deep, Noninvasive Imaging and Surgical Guidance of Submillimeter Tumors Using Targeted M13-Stabilized Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2014, 111 (38), 13948-13953. PMCID: 25214538.

Bardhan NM, Ghosh D, Belcher AM, Carbon Nanotubes as in vivo Bacterial Probes. Nature Communications 2014, 5, 4918. PMCID: PMC4349414.

Yi H, Ghosh D, Ham MH, Qi J, Barone PW, Strano MS, Belcher AM. M13 Phage-Functionalized Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubes as Nanoprobes for Second Near-Infrared Window Fluorescence Imaging of Targeted Tumors. Nano Letters 2012, 12 (3), 1176-1183. PMCID: PMC3905603.

Search PubMed for Belcher lab publications

Articles and Media

Listen to Prof. Belcher's podcast on Green Nanotechnology. Professor Belcher was one of the speakers for Technology Day 2005: Bioengineering at MIT: Building Bridges Between the Sciences, Engineering and Health Care (Part One). See MIT World for her talk and more about the day's events. The Fall 2005 Spectrum reported her use of viruses to assist in fabricating nanostructures.

Her work with Cambrios Technologies has been reported by Technology Review and in the Feb. 2005 issue of Technology Insider.

Professor Belcher's MacArthur Fellowship, known as the "Genius Grant," was reported in Tech Talk and the Boston Globe.

Professor Belcher will lead the Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies; the MIT News Office, the November 2003 issue of Materials Today, and the February 2004 Technology Review have further details. Tech Talk reported on seven MIT women who have been named "Top Scientists" in 2002; Professor Belcher has been named one of Popular Science magazine's "PopSci Brilliant 10." Her research was recently mentioned in Technology Insider, The MIT Report, Technology Review, and the February 12, 2004 issue of The New York Times.

Contact Information

Angela M. Belcher

room 76-561
phone (617) 252-1163

Belcher Lab


Administrative Support:

Koch Institute (Lab)
Peter Jansen
phone (617) 252-1163
fax (617) 258-6558 

BE Headquarters
Gerri Powers
phone (617) 253-7420