04 October 2013
Imaging Physicist Delivers Final Talk of 2013 NICBR Summer Student Seminar Series
by NICBR Public Affairs and Community Relations Subcommittee

The last of this year’s Summer Student Seminar Series, which featured leading scientists discussing their current research, was held on Aug. 6. Sponsored by the National Interagency Confederation for Biological Research, the Series allowed summer students to meet one another and hear about the broad range of research being carried out at the Frederick campus. Students from the Frederick community, as well as the National Cancer Institute at Frederick and Fort Detrick, were welcome to attend. The program was started around 1996 by Dr. Howard Young at the NCI, a demonstration of his dedication to training all levels of the next generation of scientists.

The lectures were held in Bldg. 549, from noon to 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday. There are generally about 60-100 attendees. In this final event of the summer series, Dr. Lauren Keith treated attendees to pizza and spoke about her role as Imaging Physicist for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. NIAID is part of the National Institutes of Health and has an Integrated Research Facility at Fort Detrick. The NIAID-IRF manages, coordinates, and facilitates emerging infectious disease and biodefense research on vaccines, countermeasures, and animal models that could lead to improved patient outcomes in human medical care. As explained in Keith’s presentation, the IRF is also exploring medical imaging as a tool for infectious disease research, an emerging discipline.

As an undergraduate student majoring in physics at the University of Wisconsin-where, she quipped, “It doesn’t snow all the time!”-Keith worked in a magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, research laboratory. She went on to obtain both her master’s degree and doctorate in medical physics. This field of science encompasses medical imaging, which involves non-invasive visualization of the body’s internal organs and tissue density. Images are produced when energy, depending on where it falls on the electromagnetic spectrum, is passed through, injected into, or transmitted into and absorbed by the body. Keith explained how technologies like x-rays, computed tomography (commonly known as a CAT scan), and single photon emission scans work, and are used in healthcare to diagnose musculoskeletal or head trauma, disorders of the heart and lungs, cancer, and other conditions.

Turning to potential research applications, Keith explained that medical imaging could identify biomarkers, such as metabolic activity and blood flow, that are objectively measured and can indicate the presence and/or severity of disease. Her medical imaging research at the IRF involves infectious disease organisms that require special precautions-which she detailed-because there are currently no vaccines or treatments available for those diseases, and they are often fatal. Medical imaging enables fewer subjects to be used for these studies.

Following her presentation, Keith took questions from the audience. She observed that she “really enjoyed the opportunity to speak to such an engaged, interested audience. It was inspiring to see self-motivated young adults explore and get involved in the scientific community through [the Summer Student Seminar Series]. Their level of interaction throughout the talk, and during the Q&A, made it clear that the students were thinking critically and independently - two essential abilities of great scientists, young and old.”

Other speakers in the 2013 Summer Student Seminar Series were Drs. Jay Schneecloth, Barry O’Keefe, David Wink, and Shyam Sharan, all of NCI; Dr. Paul Tooley, U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service; Dr. Kei Amemiya, U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases; and Dr. Stephen Cendrowski, Department of Homeland Security-National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center. Staff from NICBR partner agencies are invited to speak at the 2014 Summer Student Seminar Series. If you are interested in speaking, please contact Julie Hartman at hartmanjb@mail.nih.gov. For more information, please visit http://ncifrederick.cancer.gov/Programs/Student/SummerStudents/Seminar.

The mission of the NICBR is to develop unique knowledge, tools, and products by leveraging advanced technologies and innovative discoveries to secure and defend the health of the American people. In addition to NIAID, NCI, DHS-NBACC, USDA-ARS, and USAMRIID, the NICBR partners include the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, Naval Medical Research Command, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food and Drug Administration, and U.S. Army Installation Management Command.

Posted by PAO

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