E-news from the
International Society for Magnetic Resonance
in Medicine

Vol. 2, Issue 1, 3 Feb 2013

2012-2013 Junior Fellow

Wei Li
Duke University

I came from a small village in Northeast China. My childhood dream is to become an artist. After I got my bachelor and masterís degree in Biochemical Engineering at Tianjin University, I went to Case Western Reserve University to study Biomedical Imaging, for the reason that I think MRI is a perfect combination of art, science and engineering. At Case Western, I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Xin Yu on cardiac MRI. I used MRI and various cellular/molecular methods to characterize the cardiac functional changes in genetically altered mice. This research in Dr Yuís laboratory laid the foundation of my knowledge in MRI and stimulated my passion for developing and applying novel MRI methods to study important biological questions.

After finishing my PhD degree, I came to Duke University as a postdoc to further my studies in MRI. My research with Dr. Chunlei Liu is focused on magnetic susceptibility imaging. I developed robust methods for phase processing and quantitative susceptibility mapping, which was shown to be especially good for high resolution brain imaging.  Working closely with Dr. Liu and our collaborators from Duke and many other institutions, we have successfully applied these methods for mapping the brain magnetic susceptibility changes in preclinical animal models and human subjects with various neurological diseases or during normal ageing. Recently, it is shown that the magnetic susceptibility of brain white matter is anisotropic, and this anisotropy can be described by susceptibility tensor. I have been working on further development of susceptibility tensor imaging (STI) and the elucidation of its underlying physical principles. We have demonstrated the STI of human brain in vivo, and the STI-based fiber tractography of mouse brain ex vivo. With biophysical modeling, we found that the cylindrically aligned myelin lipids are likely to be the major source of MRI-observed macroscopic susceptibility anisotropy.

While my work could be considered as productive, I feel that my knowledge is limited. There is a strong need for me to broaden my vision in MRI, and to learn from experts in different fields. To pursue this, I applied for the junior fellow program and was fortunate to be selected as one of the junior fellows in 2012.  This junior fellow title gives me a lot of invaluable opportunities. For example, I visited some leading MR research laboratories, including Dr. Seong-Gi Kimís NeuroImaging Laboratory at University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Jeff Duynís advanced MRI laboratory at NIH and Dr. Timothy Q. Duongís laboratory at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Dr. Peter van Zijl from Johns Hopkins University, my mentor for the junior fellow program, had also kindly invited me to attend the OctoberCEST workshop, followed by a visit to the F. M. Kirby Research Center for functional NeuroImaging at Johns Hopkins. In addition, I was given the chance to review abstracts for the ISMRM 2013 annual meeting. Recently, I was honored to be promoted to an instructor by the Department of Pediatrics at Duke University. This junior fellow program indeed helped me grow rapidly in my career as an MRI researcher. Finally, I want to give special thanks to my PhD advisor Dr. Xin Yu, my current supervisor, Dr. Chunlei Liu, our Director of Brain Imaging and Analysis Center, Dr. Allen W. Song, and all of my wonderful colleagues at Duke University. Without their help, I couldnít have reached these academic achievements.