Dr Adam Gibson, University College London

Medical imaging: biology not physics

My Challenging Engineering award.

I am developing new approaches in medical imaging. There have been outstanding advances in medical imaging in the past few decades, but most of these have been based on imaging the physical properties of tissue. It is a happy coincidence that a tumour, for example, has physical properties that allow it to be visible on a CT or MRI scan. Clinicians really want to know the biological properties of tissue, though, and we are now beginning to see ways in which images of tissue biology rather than tissue physics are being obtained. I suggest that even these approaches are likely to be limited if they are restricted to pure imaging techniques, and computer-assisted imaging procedures will only compete with trained radiologists if we combine multimodality imaging information with individual patient data and with biophysical models of disease.

My Challenging Engineering award funded a number of PhD studentships which I have used to attract collaborators in fields where I do not have a track record. It has allowed me to work in other medical imaging fields and in analysing patient monitoring data. I have also begin to apply medical imaging techniques to imaging ancient documents.

The flexibility of the finding is, to me, the great advantage of a Challenging Engineering award. Being able to respond to good students, keep good post-docs or attract good collaborators has changed the way I do research.

I think a Challenging Engineering award should be seen differently from other types of grants.

A successful application should not be fundable by responsive mode. There should also be a strong strategic view, showing how the applicant sees their research group developing beyond the end of the Challenging Engineering award.