Professor Neal K Bangerter, Electrical & Computer Engineering and Professors Erin Bigler and Brock Kirwan, Psychology
This project was aimed at providing in-depth training and mentoring for a small group of students to address the large anticipated demand for accessible research and training resources at BYU’s new MRI Research Facility. The facility opened summer of 2013, and demand has been steadily increasing by groups across campus interested in doing research using the BYU MRI machine. The resources and mentoring environment that was established with funds from this MEG have laid the groundwork for an explosion of student mentoring that is taking place at the MRI facility.
The MEG funds were used exclusively for student salaries, and funded a group of five student researchers that were mentored by Drs. Bangerter, Kirwan, and Bigler. These students formed the first core group to be trained at the new MRI research facility, and were instrumental in developing training and research resources related to both functional and structural MRI, developing the MRI facility website, developing the safety training program for all users of the MRI facility, and developing a scheduling, billing, and user account web application for MRI users. (Please see http://mri.byu.edu)
In addition, the students received training in various areas of MRI physics, MRI safety, techniques for image acquisition, retrieving MRI image data, basic image analysis principles, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), diffusion tensor imaging. They were also mentored on using the MRI scanner itself, and several of them are now fully-qualified to independently operate the scanner.
The project funded by this MEG has been a resounding success. Since these initial five students were trained, there have been over 90 additional students who have undergone the Level 1 User training at the MRI facility (over the 18 months since the facility opened). While some of these have graduated or moved on to other projects, there are currently approximately 40 students actively involved in MRI mentored research. The MRI facility recently funded approximately 15 research seed grants, so we expect even more students to enter the MRI mentoring environment over the coming 6 months as these projects kick off. The MEG funds were key in making this possible.
While the primary objective of this project was to lay the groundwork for the development of a successful mentoring environment at the new BYU MRI Research Facility by developing infrastructure and training materials to handle the anticipated volume of student and faculty trainees, the students trained under the MEG-funded effort reaped significant academic benefits as well. These included:
- Training on research methodologies using functional and structural MRI;
- Experience creating and disseminating training materials, and sometimes teaching;
- Coding and web development experience;
- Hands-on experience using the MRI scanner at BYU;
- Participation in scientific studies being conducted at the MRI facility;
- Co-authorships on several publications in well-regarded technical journals and conference proceedings;
- Participation in weekly facility meetings, as well as research meetings with faculty mentors;
- Development of close relationships with faculty mentors.
Again, the effort was a resounding success, both for the mentored students, for the new research facility, and for the new students now reaping the benefit of all of the groundwork laid over the past two years.
The following five students formed the core group for this project. All MEG funds were devoted to funding these students’ salaries.
- Christopher Doxey: Chris worked heavily on developing training materials for functional MRI, and through the process was involved in research that culminated in publication of the following paper (with Chris as first author):
Doxey, C. R. and Kirwan, C. B. (2014), Structural and functional correlates of behavioral pattern separation in the hippocampus and medial temporal lobe. Hippocampus. doi: 10.1002/hipo.22389
- Malia Anderson: Malia was heavily involved in the development of the functional MRI environment at BYU under the mentorship of Prof. Brock Kirwan. She is currently involved in several research studies, and is currently acquiring pilot data for her first MRI-related publication.
- Meredith Taylor: Merry was involved in all aspects of helping to get the new MRI facility operational, and was the first undergraduate student to complete the training and mentoring required to independently run the scanner. She is mentored by Prof. Neal Bangerter, and is currently involved in a collaborative project with colleagues at the Department of Orthopaedics at Oxford University (England) using high-field MRI to image cartilage, and is preparing that work for submission to the journal Osteoarthritis and Cartilage. She was also able to present her work as a conference proceeding last May at the Annual Meeting of the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine (ISMRM) in Milan, Italy.
- Raul Lopez: Raul was largely responsible for the development of the MRI facility website, and architected and coded the scheduling, billing, and account management web application that allows scan time to be scheduled, tracks accounts and billing, and enforces scheduling rules. He was also part of the Bangerter research group, and was able to coauthor a conference publication also presented at the Annual Meeting of the ISMRM last year in Milan, Italy.
- Peter Jepsen: Peter headed up the effort to develop training materials for diffusion MRI and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). In addition to his considerable work helping to get the MRI facility up and running and helping to build training materials for the mentoring environment, Peter was involved in a collaborative project with the MRI research group at the University of Utah on the use of diffusion insert gradients to improve diffusion tensor MRI. He was able to coauthor a proceeding submission to the annual meeting of the ISMRM in 2013.