Dr. Gerard Arino-Estrada, an assistant project scientist in the Biomedical Engineering department, has been awarded with the Trailblazer R21 Award from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB). The award is an opportunity for New and Early Stage Investigators to pursue research programs of high interest to the NIBIB that integrate engineering and the physical sciences with the life and behavioral sciences. It is a high risk-high impact grant program aimed at funding projects with the potential of creating a breakthrough in their field of research.
Arino-Estrada will work together with Professor Saif Islam, Electrical and Computer Engineering Department Chair, to improve the image quality in positron emission tomography (PET) and allow for early diagnosis of diseases and more efficient treatments. They plan to achieve this by using tapered-hole microstructures in photodetectors to curve light and achieve a very high detection efficiency in a thin silicon layer. This concept can also improve the timing resolution of photodetectors by over an order of magnitude. If the behavior of the photodetector is as good as expected, their integration into commercial PET scanners would be straightforward and could rapidly generate a high impact in the field. An improvement of this magnitude would allow for detection of lesions of just a few millimeters with an extremely high signal-to-background contrast that would lead to early diagnoses of cancer or brain diseases, among many other applications.
“We are excited for the very positive feedback on our grant. This award acknowledges the cooperative approach between the Departments of Biomedical Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering,” said Arino-Estrada. “This is a great opportunity for us to strengthen the bonds between these two departments and pave the way for future collaborative projects.”