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Interdisciplinary Research Spurs Innovation

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    By Matthew O. Perez
    UM News


    Provost Jeffrey L. Duerk discusses how team science advanced magnetic resonance imaging.

    CORAL GABLES, Fla. (April 6, 2018)–After more than 30 years developing the field of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), Jeffrey L. Duerk, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost,  shared his passion for science and innovation when he presented the College of Engineering’s Strategic Research Initiative Seminar on April 2.

     In his presentation, “Interdisciplinary Teams: Lessons Learned from the Technical Development and Clinical Application of Magnetic Resonance Imaging,” Duerk discussed the evolution and function of biomedical imaging as well as the critical role interdisciplinary teams play in scientific research.

     “Team sciences are best deployed to solve big, challenging problems,” Duerk said.  “If it’s how to tie your shoes, you don’t need a team of scientists. But if you want to transform MRI from a tool that’s used in diagnostic imaging to one that’s used for real-time, image-guided, cancer therapies or cardiovascular therapies, then that’s a big paradigm shift.”

    The promise of what can be accomplished through interdisciplinary collaboration, such as the application of engineering to the medical field and vice versa, is what brought Duerk to UM’s College of Engineering where he explored the problems these collaborations have the potential of solving.

    Early on, Duerk said, physicists, chemists and electrical engineers were the primary drivers in the development of  MRI. But it was collaborations with experts from other disciplines that enabled the new technologies to be applied to brain, spine, cardiac and musculoskeletal body imaging.

     During the hour-long seminar, attendees learned about research and revolutions in MRI technology, the engineering behind MRI, and how the combination of academic disciplines within the field dramatically affected Duerk’s perception of research and higher education.

     Duerk was the founding director of the Case Center for Imaging Research, which brings together engineers, physicists, physicians, biochemists and radiochemists to develop new biomedical imaging technologies and translational applications, and a founding leader of the Cancer Imaging Program at the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center.

    Inducted as a fellow into the National Academy of Inventors in 2017, he holds more than 40 patents, has been awarded numerous National Institutes of Health and industry-sponsored grants, and has published nearly 200 peer-reviewed scientific articles.

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