Research in Medical Physics

Dr. Keith Stantz's (Medical Physics Graduate Program Director), research interests include: (1) developing photoacoustic computed tomographic (PCT) scanner and analytic methods for in vivo quantification of endogenous (hemoglobin) and exogenous (photoacoustic contrast agents) molecules, (2) developing a new PCT-S scanner for dynamic constrast-enhanced techniques (DCE-CT) for in vivo quantification of vascular physiology in mouse models of cancer, (3) discovering patterns of intra-tumor hemodynamics and oxygenation of cancer to different cancer angiogenic phenotypes, and (4) discovery of biological models linking anti-angiogenic therapeutic-driven hypoxia to cancer stem cells and metastasis.


Dr. Ulrike Dydak's research interest is the methodological development and application of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study human health. In particular she uses Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS) for the noninvasive in-vivo assessment of metabolism to investigate neurodegeneration, influences of toxins, and to monitor treatment response. Special emphasis of her work lies on the development of the in-vivo detection and quantification of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter, to study manganese-induced parkinsonian neurotoxicity and idiopathic Parkinson Disease. A second focus lies on the development of whole-liver phosphorous (31P) magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging of the human liver to improve treatment monitoring in liver cancer. Dr. Dydak holds an adjunct appointment at the Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences at IU School of Medicine, where part of her research lab is located.

Dr. Uzay Emir’s expertise lies in the development and clinical translation of magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) techniques at clinical (3T) and ultra-high field (UHF>3T) magnetic fields. He have used these systems at both 3T and 7T to quantify various brain metabolites, including neurotransmitters (γ-amino butyric acid, GABA, and glutamate, Glu) in Parkinson’s Disease (PD); antioxidants (glutathione, GSH, and ascorbate, Asc) in aging; and oncometabolites (2 hydroxyglutarate, 2-HG, and lactate, Lac) in patients with glioma. His research interests include (1) studying the neurochemical basis of brain plasticity; (2) developing methods for profiling psychiatric disorders and psychoactive drug discovery; (3) neurochemical profiling of brain cancer; and (4) unraveling the neurochemical mechanisms of BOLD-fMRI signal.

Dr. Jason T. Harris’ research interests include a number of areas related to environmental and reactor health physics, accelerator applications, radiation detection and measurement, nonproliferation, and nuclear security. Specifically he focuses on: 1) radiological impact to the public and occupational workers from nuclear fuel cycle facilities, 2) development of radiation detectors and sensors for nuclear reactor and accelerator applications, and 3) integration of nuclear safety and security.

Since 2009, Dr. Harris has worked in several endeavors related to nuclear security.  In 2012, he became the Chair of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) International Nuclear Security Education Network (INSEN). He serves as an expert for the U.S. Department of State Partnership for Nuclear Security (PNS), lecturing at a number of professional development workshops throughout the world and also serves on the Advisory Board for the European Masters Program in Nuclear Security, sponsored by the IAEA and European Commission. He has been at the forefront of nuclear security education development, specifically working to better integrate radiation safety with security.  All of these advancements culminated with a recent invitation to speak at the United Nations. Dr. Harris has graduated over 20 MS and PhD students and has served on research committees for nearly 50 MS and PhD students in health physics, nuclear engineering, and physics. Since 2008 he has authored or co-authored over 20 peer-reviewed papers or proceedings and over 60 conference presentation abstracts on a diverse set of topics. He has secured nearly $7M from over 30 competitive external grants and contracts as Principle Investigator or Co-Principle Investigator from the Department of Energy, Department of State, and Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Dr. Shuang Liu's research interests include receptor-based target radiopharmaceuticals, new bifunctional chelators, development of new techniques for radiolabeling of small biomolecules, formulation development, design/synthesis/evaluation of metal complexes as MRI contrast agents for cardiac perfusion imaging, and coordination chemistry of radiopharmaceuticals. There have been tremendous research efforts from his research group in the development of novel radiotracers for early tumor detection and diagnosis of cardiovascular diseases.  These efforts rely on identification and the use of small biomolecules as “vehicles” to carry a diagnostic radionuclide to the tumor cells. Imaging with radiolabeled small biomolecules allows us to monitor the tumor biological changes at the molecular level.  Over the last 10 years, Dr. Liu has become the leader in radiolabeled cyclic RGD peptides as integrin αvβ3-specific SPECT and PET radiotracers for imaging the integrin expression αvβ3 in rapidly growing and metastatic tumors.  Dr. Liu is the author or co-author over 160 scientific publications, and has been granted 30 US patents and PCT applications.  Dr. Liu’s contributions also have significant impacts on inorganic chemistry, radiochemistry, radiopharmaceutical development, bioconjugates chemistry, molecular imaging, and nuclear medicine.  His research has been supported by grants from the National Institute of Health, Department of Energy, American Heart Association, and industry.

Dr. Linda H. Nie's research focuses on two integrated areas. One is on instrumentation development. In this line of research, her group has developed instruments and technologies for noninvasive, real-time in vivo quantification and distribution of elements in human body and for diagnose and treatment of diseases. Currently her group is working on four projects in this area: 1) development and validation of a transportable neutron activation analysis technology for in vivo quantification of metals in human bone; 2) development and validation of a portable x-ray fluorescence technology for in vivo quantification of metals in human tissues; 3) development and validation of an associated particle neutron imaging technology for medical applications related to elemental distributions and alterations; and 4) development of a DD compact neutron generator based boron neutron capture therapy (BNCT) system.  The second area of Dr. Nie’s research focus is to apply the novel instruments developed in her group to the field of medicine and health sciences. Her group is currently working on three projects in this direction: 1). childhood lead (Pb) poison study on the association between Pb exposure and psychological effects for children, in collaboration with researchers at Xinhua Hospital affiliated to Shanghai Jiaotong University in China, using the bone Pb measurement technologies developed in her group; 2) a collaborative study to investigate association between Mn exposure and neurological outcomes using the new in vivo neutron activation analysis (IVNAA) technology being developed in her group, together with researchers from School of Health Sciences at Purdue University and the researchers at Zunyi Medical University in China; and 3) a collaborative study on a project related to association between lead exposure and neurodegeneration, together with researchers at Harvard School of Public Health and Rush Medical Institute.

Dr. Pérez-Torres's research focuses on how radiation treatment affects the normal brain to develop better diagnostic MRI tools (is it tumor or just a treatment side effect?) and to potentially improve radiation therapy of brain tumors. His research (1) develops Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) techniques – diffusion weighted imaging (DWI), perfusion, and magnetization transfer – in the characterization of normal tissue and tumors; (2) investigates radiation-induced necrosis and cognitive impairment; and (3) the characteristics of brain tumors in response to therapy using MRI.

Dr. Matthew Scarpelli's  research focuses on understanding how it is that two patients, with the same type of cancer (or disease), can have significantly different outcomes. His lab is specifically interested in the interplay between radiation and the immune system. The studies aim to elucidate mechanisms of radiation induced immune suppression and or stimulation. These findings are translated into new diagnostic and therapeutic techniques that utilize radiation for treatment of disease.  He is (1) Investigating the role of the immune system in the biological response to radiation(2) Establishing imaging biomarkers of the immune system and (3) Developing image-guided radio and immunotherapies.

Dr. Schweitzer has primary interests in applied health physics topics, emergency response, and training. The Radiological and Environmental Management (REM) group serves as a site for formal undergraduate health physics internships where students receive an overview of the radiation safety program. Graduate students also utilize REM as a practicum site to gain experience in specialized applied health physics areas.

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