November 2016 spotlight of the month
Visiting Assistant Professor, Computational Biomedicine, Imaging and Modeling Center (CBIM), Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA
Research Associate, National Institute of Dental Health and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Bethesda, MD, USA
- How did you become interested in research relating to Hypertension and Cardiovascular Disease?
Hypertension is a major public health problem worldwide, and a major risk factor for target organ damage resulting in coronary artery disease, heart failure, stroke, and kidney disease. Despite efforts to prevent, treat, and control hypertension and its sequelae, the prevalence of this disorder has not decreased.
Development of novel mathematical modeling and quantitative biological approaches in hypertension research is one of the future directions that need to be explored. A fully integrative mathematical approach is essential for the complete analysis of currently available data and modeling of cardiovascular system dynamics. Such quantitative knowledge and mathematical modeling has attracted my interest since it applies perfectly with my background and my current research interests and activities.
- Describe your research & the program/lab (info of your supervisor) that you are in?
My research activities include: pre-clinical imaging using micro-PET/CT and micro-PET/MRI in small animal models, multi-modality image analysis of PET/CT & PET/MRI scans, informatics and computer-aided diagnosis (CAD) in nuclear medicine applications, machine learning for medical imaging, and computer vision for clinical image processing.
- What do you consider to be your substantial scientific contribution so far (provide Pubmed PMID if possible)?
A recent (October 2016) publication in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (JCEM) (PMID: 27533306) on the applications of somatostatin-receptors (SSTRs) imaging with 68Ga-labelled compounds in patients with tumor-induced osteomalacia (TIO) will have significant impact on the diagnostic work-up of these patients.
- What is your favourite manuscript from a lab or mentor other than your own (provide Pubmed PMID if possible)?
A paper by Dr. Hofman et. al., which was published in the journal of Radiographics in 2015 (PMID: 25763733) on Somatostatin Receptor Imaging with 68Ga-DOTATATE PET/CT. This is an excellent manuscript summarizing the knowledge on the field, which has helped me a lot on my projects and which I have cited in several of my publications.
- Where do your research strengths lie? Why? What are your research weaknesses? How will you improve?
My primary research interests broadly lie in the interdisciplinary area of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging, with emphasis on Positron Emission Tomography (PET) applications. The strength of my chosen field is the functional nature of the acquired data and the increased sensitivity of the employed techniques. However, specificity is weak downgrading the efficacy of the applied molecular imaging methods. Basic research in radiochemistry and development of novel disease-specific PET-radiotracers is of utmost importance to overcome these weaknesses.
- Describe your unforgettable (proudest) moment in science, and the most challenging situation that you have had to overcome (lessons learnt) so far?
Selection of one of my research projects to be highlighted on the cover of the 2014 annual report of the division of intramural research of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), in Bethesda, MD, USA, was one of the proudest moments in my career so far.
However, what offers me the strongest motivation is the every day struggle together with other colleagues from various fields of science to make the best use of our resources and contribute to our chosen field of research in the most effective way. Difficulties will always be out there. However, improving your skills and developing a true collaborative spirit is the best strategy to overcome difficulties and find your way to scientific success.
- At which conference did you first present? How was your experience?
My first presentation was an oral presentation on computer-aided applications on PET imaging at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) in Chicago. Presenting and publically debating in front of a high-level audience at the top international radiology meeting is a good reason to have stress and nervousness. Finally, everything went well, I enjoyed the presentation, which received positive remarks and useful comments.
- How did you learn about ISH/NIN and its activities?
My long-term collaboration with Dr. Fady Hannah-Shmouni, endocrinologist at the Clinical Center of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda US, made me aware of the ISH/NIN activities and it’s noble mission.
- What area(s) do you wish to specialize in the future?
Radiochemistry and development of novel more specific PET-radiopharmaceuticals together with improvement of the resolution of the current PET scanners can significantly contribute to enhancing diagnosis and improving management of patients in a wide spectrum of diseases. Therefore, I am strongly motivated in pursuing expertise and in-depth knowledge of current advances in radiochemistry with emphasis on PET radiotracers.
- Who is your role model in Science? Why?
My role model in science is Constantin Caratheodory, a pioneer Greek mathematician of the 20th century with major contributions to the theory of functions of a real variable, the calculus of variations, the measure theory and the theory of boundary correspondence.
He made a huge effort to create the Ionian University in Smyrna using his scientific connections throughout Europe and touring Europe in order to buy books and equipment. However, his vision was never fulfilled due to the war in Asia Minor and the destruction of Smyrna. Also, very well known are the letters that Caratheodory and Einstein had exchanged regarding common research interests in mathematics.
To me Caratheodory is one of the greatest scientists of the modern times and a great example for both his scientific achievements and the principles he followed.
- What are your scientific goals? Advice for talented emerging scientists?
I firmly believe that modern hybrid (anatomical/functional) imaging modalities are the perfect combination of competing fields of science at the crossroads of diagnosis and treatment, which offer rich research opportunities, promising both immediate and long-term benefits to patients as well as cutting costs and improving efficacy. The academic discourse and the intellectual stimulation available in an academic or a highly-esteemed research institute environment motivates me more to contribute to research in biomedical imaging. Therefore, I am deeply committed to working hard and making a positive contribution to my chosen research fields of molecular imaging in a broad and interdisciplinary sense.
I don’t like giving advice to younger colleagues. I just believe in them and their capabilities.