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 Integrated 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

Safety+Health Magazine
October 2, 2019
Astronauts traveling to Mars and beyond in the future could encounter radiation that negatively affects brain functioning, results of a recent study out of the University of California, Irvine suggest.
August 8, 2019
It is a common goal for space agencies and scientists to find ways to sustain life on the Red Planet.
Inside Science
August 8, 2019
Next summer, NASA will launch its fifth rover to Mars to look for signs of ancient life on the Red Planet. But the latest robotic mission, simply dubbed Mars 2020, has another goal: figuring out how to sustain human life in the harsh and unforgiving environment on Mars. Hitching a ride on the rover are devices to convert the abundant carbon dioxide on Mars into oxygen and a ground-penetrating radar to hunt for underground ice as a future water supply.
August 5, 2019
Sending humans to Mars could leave astronauts with neurological problems, according scientists who studied mice in conditions which they claimed replicate deep space.

Articles Featuring Francis Cucinotta

Two women stand in front of an image of a Martian rover
ResearchMay 19, 2020
Pair of geoscience professors at the forefront of UNLV’s contributions to Mars exploration, but plenty more academics are involved in the Red Planet.
People preparing to cut ribbon on new Fertitta Complex
Campus NewsNovember 1, 2019
A collection of local, national, and international news stories highlighting the people and programs of UNLV.
UNLV campus
ResearchJanuary 26, 2018
Three faculty garner 2018 Barrick Scholar Awards for their extensive research achievements.
Alyssa Crittenden
ResearchDecember 26, 2017
UNLV researchers made international headlines this year with their discoveries. Here's a round up of some of our top stories of 2017.