We compare and contrast the development of optical molecular imaging techniques with nuclear medicine with a didactic emphasis for initiating readers into the field of molecular imaging. The nuclear imaging techniques of gamma scintigraphy, single-photon emission computed tomography, and positron emission tomography are first briefly reviewed. The molecular optical imaging techniques of bioluminescence and fluorescence using gene reporter/probes and gene reporters are described prior to introducing the governing factors of autofluorescence and excitation light leakage. The use of dual-labeled, near-infrared excitable and radio-labeled agents are described with comparative measurements between planar fluorescence and nuclear molecular imaging. The concept of time-independent and -dependent measurements is described with emphasis on integrating time-dependent measurements made in the frequency domain for 3-D tomography. Finally, we comment on the challenges and pro-gress for translating near-infrared (NIR) molecular imaging agents for personalized medicine.