Fan Lam earns NSF CAREER award for enhanced brain mapping technology

Faculty in the News: Fan Lam, Assistant Professor, Bioengineering



Fan Lam's enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) research has earned him a National Science Foundation CAREER award and more than $500,000 to support his project, “Ultrahigh-Resolution Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopic Imaging for Label-Free Molecular Imaging of the Brain."

As a researcher and assistant professor in Bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Lam is developing advanced MRI technology to study the brain — how it functions, how it is affected by central nervous system disorders, and how to better detect and treat those diseases.

Lam and his research group are creating enhanced imaging tools to study molecular-level activities in the human brain noninvasively, without using contrast agents, and in a way that allows scientists to "see information beyond anatomy and neuronal activation," he said. They are working to advance the MRI's capability of imaging molecules in the brain to generate more information and in greater detail than previously available.

"Our goal is to develop a new generation of imaging technologies to enable the visualization of another level of information in the brain non-invasively that are the molecular-level activities — using a unique modality called magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging (MRSI)," he said.

Lam expects his CAREER award project to help detect diseases of the brain at an earlier stage, before they have progressed too far, and to better assess the efficacy of treatments.

"For many brain diseases, it is often at a late stage when you start to see macroscopic structural changes, or 'lesions,'" Lam said. "... For many clinical treatments, the earlier and the more specific clinicians can see the changes caused by the treatments — for example, biochemical and metabolic responses to treatments — the more effective they can be at managing the diseases. That is what we hope to provide by developing new MRSI technologies."

Read more : Bioengineering