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Francis Cucinotta

Professor, Department of Health Physics and Diagnostic Sciences

Expertise: Theoretical Nuclear, Radiation and Space Physics , Biophysics of DNA Damage and Repair , Terrestrial and Space Radiobiology, Radiation Risk Models for Cancer and Noncancer Effects, Biodosimetry


Francis (Frank) Cucinotta is a professor for the department of health physics and diagnostic sciences within the School of Allied Health Sciences. He is an expert in how environmental and man-made radiation affects the body, and currently teaches radiobiology to undergraduate health physics students.

Prior to joining UNLV, Cucinotta led a team at NASA focused on the potential radiation health risks to astronauts visiting Mars and determined how to mitigate those risks. He has been a chief scientist with NASA’s radiation program since 2003, and continues to serve as an adviser to the Human Medical and Technical Authority at NASA on radiation risks.

A prolific researcher, Cucinotta’s work has been published in more than 340 professional journal articles, including Science, Nature Reviews Cancer, Reviews of Modern Physics, PLOS Computational Biology, PLOS ONE, and Nucleic Acids Research. He is continuing his research on radiation health risks in space and on Earth.

Cucinotta is an elected councilor of the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements, which is chartered by the U.S. Congress to make recommendations on radiation protection. In 2013-2014 he was the president of the Radiation Research Society, which encourages the advancement of radiation research in all areas of the natural sciences; facilitates cooperative research between the disciplines of physics, chemistry, biology, and medicine in the study of the properties and effects of radiation; and promotes dissemination of knowledge in these and related fields through publications, meetings, and educational symposia.


  • Ph.D., Physics, Old Dominion University
  • B.A., Physics, Rutgers University
  • Floyd L. Thompson Fellowship: Johns Hopkins Medical School and Medical Research Council of the United Kingdom

Francis Cucinotta In The News

Jul 5, 2017

The first colonists on Mars will be tasked with flying a massive spacecraft to the planet, landing safely, laying the groundwork for a future civilization, conducting vital scientific research, and getting back to Earth. But, lurking between those stressors will be something much more cynical: radiation.

Jun 13, 2017

A new study by researchers at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) suggests the cancer risk for astronauts on a mission to Mars could be higher than expected. The results of the study were published in the May issue of Scientific Reports and show the risk is effectively doubled compared with previous models.

Jun 13, 2017

It’s been said that the first Mars explorers will have to be prepared to take one for humanity. As various studies have shown, they risk permanent neural damage as well as an increased risk of leukemia and Alzheimer’s disease. And now, scientists at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas have added to this list with a new study that shows how a deep-space mission to Mars could double astronauts’ risk of getting cancer.

Jun 12, 2017

New research from scientists at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) shows that the cancer risk for astronauts undertaking long-term missions to Mars or any other destination beyond Earth’s magnetic field is actually twice what we previously thought.

Articles Featuring Francis Cucinotta

Frank Cucinotta
Jun 5, 2017

New predictive model shows radiation from cosmic rays extends from damaged to otherwise healthy “bystander” cells, effectively doubling cancer risk.

Closeup of books
Apr 18, 2017

From professional reasons to personal connections, faculty across campus share why they’re fond of certain works they penned.