Denis Wirtz, Ph.D.

Headshot of Denis Wirtz
  • Joint Appointment in Biomedical Engineering


Denis Wirtz, vice provost for research at The Johns Hopkins University, directs the Johns Hopkins Cancer Nanotechnology Training Center, and is the Theophilus Halley Smoot Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering in the Whiting School of Engineering. He is also the Associate Director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology, director of the NCI-funded postdoctoral and pre-doctoral training programs in nanotechnology for cancer medicine, and a member of the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center. Dr. Wirtz earned his Engineering Physics degree at the Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium and M.Sc. and PhD in Chemical Engineering at Stanford University (’93). Dr. Wirtz is a fellow of the APS and the AIMBE. He joined the Johns Hopkins faculty in 1994 and has joint appointments in the departments of Materials Science and Engineering and Oncology. He was a winner of the National Science Foundation’s CAREER Award and the Whitaker Foundation Biomedical Engineering Foundation Award.

Dr. Wirtz studies the biophysical properties of healthy and diseased cells, including interactions between adjacent cells and the role of cellular architecture on nuclear shape and gene expression. Cell biophysics, single molecule manipulation, intracellular particle trafficking, instrument development, tissue engineering, and nanotechnology in biology and medicine are some of Dr. Wirtz’ research interests. He was elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for his contributions to cell micromechanics and cell adhesion. He also was distinguished for his development and application for particle tracking methods to probe the micromechanical properties of living cells in normal conditions and disease state. more


  • Joint Appointment in Biomedical Engineering
  • Joint Appointment in Oncology
  • Joint Appointment in Pathology

Departments / Divisions

Centers & Institutes



  • Ph.D.; Stanford University (California) (1993)

Research & Publications

Selected Publications

  1. Fraley, S.I.; Feng, Y.; Krishnamurthy, R.; Kim, D.H.; Celedon, A.; Longmore, G.D.; Wirtz, D. A distinctive role for focal adhesion proteins in three-dimensional cell motility. Nat Cell Biol. 2010 Jun;12(6):598-604.
  2. Mali, P.; Wirtz, D.; Searson, P.C. Interplay of RhoA and motility in the programmed spreading of daughter cells postmitosis. Biophys J. 2010 Dec 1;99(11):3526-3534.
  3. Muller, M.; Hemicker, G.; Juptner, U.; Wuellner, U.; Wirtz, D.C.; Hirner, A.; Standop, J. Inadequate Reimbursement for Surgical Patients with Parkinson's Disease According to Diagnosis-Related Grouping. Zentralbl Chir. 2010 May 3.
  4. Smeets, R.; Marx, R.; Kolk, A.; Said-Yekta, S.; Grosjean, M.B.; Stoll, C.; Tinschert, J.; Wirtz, D.C.; Riediger, D.; Endres, K. In vitro study of adhesive polymethylmethacrylate bone cement bonding to cortical bone in maxillofacial surgery. J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2010 Dec;68(12):3028-3033.
  5. Stahl, P.J.; Romano, N.H.; Wirtz, D.; Yu, S.M. PEG-based hydrogels with collagen mimetic peptide-mediated and tunable physical cross-links. Biomacromolecules. 2010 Sep 13;11(9):2336-2344.
  6. Weber, O.; Goost, H.; Mueller, M.; Burger, C.; Wirtz, D.; Pagenstert, G.; Gravius, S. Mid-Term Results after Post-Traumatic Knee Joint Replacement in Elderly Patients. Z Orthop Unfall. 2010 Apr 13.
  7. Weiss, S.; Wirtz, D.; David, B.; Krueger, S.; Lips, O.; Caulfield, D.; Pedersen, S.F.; Bostock, J.; Razavi, R.; Schaeffter, T. In vivo evaluation and proof of radiofrequency safety of a novel diagnostic MR-electrophysiology catheter. Magn Reson Med. 2010 Nov 3.
  8. Wildt, B.; Wirtz, D.; Searson, P.C. Triggering cell detachment from patterned electrode arrays by programmed subcellular release. Nat Protoc. 2010 Jul;5(7):1273-1280.
  9. Wirtz, D.; Khatau, S.B. Protein filaments: Bundles from boundaries. Nat Mater. 2010 Oct;9(10):788-790.
  10. Zhang, W.; Titze, M.; Cappi, B.; Wirtz, D.C.; Telle, R.; Fischer, H. Improved mechanical long-term reliability of hip resurfacing prostheses by using silicon nitride. J Mater Sci Mater Med. 2010 Nov;21(11):3049-3057.
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