Melissa Skala

Melissa Skala

Investigator, Carol Skornicka Chair in Biomedical Imaging



(608) 316-4108


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Research website

My lab uses photonics-based technologies to develop personalized treatment plans for cancer patients (including breast, pancreatic, colorectal, neuroendocrine, oral, and other cancers). We work closely with oncologists to collect fresh patient biopsies that are maintained in 3D culture (tumor organoids), which are used to screen response to multiple treatment options for each patient. Studies across cell and animal systems are focused on tumor immunology and immunotherapy, cell-level metabolic heterogeneity, and cell-cell interactions. Collaborative projects leverage our unique imaging technologies for clinical problems including quality control in T cell and stem-cell therapies, monitoring diseases in the eye, and predicting pre-term birth, among many others. Projects are highly diverse and range from translational research to biologically-driven questions to algorithm / instrumentation development.

Areas of Expertise

  • Optical imaging
  • Tissue engineering
  • Cancer
  • Metabolism
  • Immunology and cancer immunotherapy
  • Machine Learning
  • High-throughput tool development
  • Cell-cell interactions
  • Cellular heterogeneity
  • Translational research

Selected Honors & Awards

  • 2022 Carol Skornicka Chair of Biomedical Imaging, Morgridge Institute for Research
  • 2021 Retina Research Foundation Daniel M. Albert Chair
  • 2019 Fellow, OSA (Optical Society of America)
  • 2019 Fellow, SPIE (International society advancing light-based research)
  • 2019 Fellow, AIMBE (American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering)
  • 2019 UW Carbone Cancer Center Ride Scholar
  • 2018 Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) – Innovation Award
  • 2017 Stand Up To Cancer – Sharp Collaboration Award
  • 2017 Chartered member, NIH study section: Emerging Imaging Technologies and Applications (EITA)
  • 2016 NSF CAREER Award
  • 2010 NIH/NCI Pathway to Independence Award (K99 / R00)

Selected Publications


Ph. D. Biomedical Engineering, 2007, Duke University

M.S. Biomedical Engineering, 2004, University of Wisconsin–Madison

B.S. Physics, 2002, Washington State University