ISMRM & SMRT Member Spotlight

Member Spotlight for December 2020:
Adam van Niekerk

Adam Van Niekerk

Adam van Niekerk, Ph.D.
Prospective Motion Correction in MRI
Karolinska Intitutet
Stockholm, Sweden

ISMRM Member since 2016

My introduction to MR was during an orientation day when I started my master’s degree program at the University of Cape Town. A camera with no “moving” parts that can see you from any angle? I am in! While it melds physics, medicine, and engineering (the coolest sciences), I really like the immediateness of MR. You can think of something, write some code, and then have fancy hardware do some extreme gymnastics to make it happen. You get to see the results of an idea so fast! I really love the number of degrees of freedom there are to explore. It is a field that has had a lot of attention but still seems to come up with surprises.

The thing that inspires me most about MR is the fact that it actually works. I think, as a researcher, I am often guilty of pointing out this imperfection and that bias and so on, but the hardware is pretty remarkable. We seem to spend a lot of time sampling noise that we represent with only a couple of digits, yet it still makes images look better/sharper. It just shows that if there is information in a signal, no matter how small, we can find it!

A typical “day in the life” starts off with a therapeutic wakeup purr from our exotic feline (a regular house cat who travelled all the way from South Africa to stay with us). My wife Jennifer and I have only been living in Stockholm for about a year now, so our routine has changed quite a lot since our Cape Town days. I cycle to the Karolinska Institutet each morning, choosing a scenic route along two lakes. I enjoy the ducks—they have a “walk-like-a-badass” character to them. From there, it’s coffee o’clock; I can also really get behind this whole Swedish fika thing! Then it is off to our office, which is in the extremely modern Karolinska Sjukhuset. There are incredibly stubborn robots in the basement that get into hilarious stalemates asking each other to move out the way. The rest of my workday involves a combination of chatting to colleagues, occasional whiteboard debates, circling the MR scanners like a vulture to see if I can snatch some time, and staring hopelessly into free space contemplating a simpler profession where at least I know what the question is. I like to end my day with a trail run in the local forest; there is something special about the smell of damp soil/wood.

This January, I will have been a member of the ISMRM for almost 5 years. I joined because it’s the place to be! What I love most about it is the people. I have always received so much help at the annual conferences—it is such a great place for ideas. I am also the trainee representative of the Motion Correction Study Group, and I enjoy spending more time with the “wise” senior members (gurus) and understanding more about how the ISMRM works. Additionally, the Motion Correction Study Group is a fantastic group of people that also have amazing workshops. In the last Cape Town workshop, I led a pretty scary hike up Table Mountain, with some real mountaineering required, and every member made it (there was some complaining)! Everyone seemed to be up for a challenge! The venues are also pretty out there, like the highest, most northerly, most southerly and oldest (planned). Plus, the research is phenomenal.