Research Associate Professor; Director of Small Animal Imaging Facility
Area of interest
As the Director of the Small Animal Imaging (SAI) Facility, my goal is to enhance the preclinical imaging service, which is provided to research investigators on UNC campus as well as regional institutes, so that imaging can be widely utilized in basic and translational research studies, and benefit overall biomedical research. As an active researcher, I also put great effort in cancer imaging and radiotherapy research. My goal on research is to improve treatment efficacy in cancer therapy by utilizing imaging information.
One of my main tasks is to manage the imaging facility and ensure it’s full functionality to support research activity. Specifically, I have set up all the standard operation procedures (SOPs) for various imaging modalities to provide consistent imaging service for various studies. I have been training our staff and leading a multi-task service team to provide comprehensive research support from animal protocol to image data analysis. I have put great effort to promote imaging education and enhance the communications between the basic biological scientists and imaging scientists. Although imaging is becoming a more attracting and useful tool in biomedical fields, there is still a huge gap between biological research and imaging science, which prevents effective collaborations among investigators from these two fields. One of my goals is to fill this gap by providing broad consultation for biological researchers, helping them to identify the best imaging method and experimental protocols that is the most appropriate for their specific needs, and guiding them through the imaging studies. The facility has expanded dramatically in recent years. Total of twelve pieces of imaging equipment and multiple supporting accessories are now housed within the facility. The number of imaging users has also increased significantly in the last five years with investigators coming from more than fifteen departments within UNC and about ten outside institutions or companies.
On the other hand, I also maintain high research activity. My research interests are to utilize the imaging information for precise and quantitative cancer treatment. I have developed numerous imaging protocols for various imaging projects, which are demonstrated in more than thirty publications on collaborative research in the last five years. One of my research focuses is on molecular imaging, in particular PET imaging and optical imaging using novel imaging agents. Tumor microenvironment plays an important role in tumor progression, metastasis, and treatment resistance, however there has not been a comprehensive research tool to monitor and delineate changes in tumor hypoxia, PH, metabolites, redox status, immune population, etc. It is my strong interest to monitor and quantify some of these parameters related to the tumor microenvironment, and provide prognosis and image guidance in cancer treatment, including radiotherapy. I have worked on tumor hypoxia imaging and its potential application in cancer treatment prognosis and guidance. Another research focus is on radiation treatment on brain tumor. Over the last two years, I have been collaborating with Drs. Otto Zhou and Sha Chang in developing the microbeam radiation therapy and how imaging can help to accurately locate the tumor and guide the treatment. More recently, I have also got award on using nanoparticles to protect brain tissue from radiation induced damages after radiotherapy.
It is a continuous challenge for me to secure some funds for research, and meanwhile reach out investigators and improve the facility for more facility usage. Both demand significant time and consistent effort and excellence. My approach to meeting these demands is to improve working efficiency by prioritizing tasks and setting stage goals for the big goals. I will continue to learn from other senior faculty members in terms of time efficiency and I believe my positive approach will lead me to reach my goals.
Awards and Honors
- 2007 Young Investigator Travel Award, American Society of Molecular Imaging
- 2005 Scholar-in-Training Award, American Association for Cancer Research
- 2002 Young Investigator Travel Award, Radiation Research Society
- 2001 Best Poster Presentation, Tennessee Biomedical Engineering Conference