Chen and Zhao receive Google Faculty Research Award

3/9/2020 3:35:58 PM Ryann Monahan, ECE ILLINOIS

Holonyak Lab Research Assistant Professor Yun-Sheng Chen and Assistant Professor Yang Zhao recently received a Google Faculty Research Award. The award will support their research aimed at improving disease prevention, detection, and treatment, through their team’s unique innovative photoacoustic imaging technique. 

Yang Zhao
Yang Zhao

Chen, Zhao, and their research team are revolutionizing a new photoacoustic imaging technique by incorporating deep-learning algorithms with nanotechnology developed in their labs. The research is set to lead to a cost-effective diagnostic imaging tool that brings in high imaging quality and reveals the molecular details of tissue, which are particularly critical for early detections of many aggressive diseases.

“By harnessing the powerful tool of deep-learning neural network and the unique nanotechnology developed in my lab, we expect that this new type of imaging will catalyze immediate clinical translation, especially important for preventing, diagnosing, and treating many critical health conditions such as cancers, heart disease, maternal and neonatal disorders, and neurological disorders,” Chen said.

Medical imaging is critical in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases. While the understanding of diseases has progressed rapidly, the development of clinical diagnostic imaging techniques has lagged behind, thus many diseases are still diagnosed after symptoms appear. Chen and Zhao’s new diagnostic imaging technique can lead to a more personalized treatment and far better patient outcome.

“This research builds upon our understanding in the fundamental physics of photoacoustics at the nanoscale. We aim to revolutionize the photoacoustic imaging technique to break the fundamental imaging limit, and pushing it towards clinical applications as a new diagnostic tool,” Zhao explained. 

Yun-Sheng Chen
Yun-Sheng Chen

The Google Faculty Research Awards provides unrestricted gifts to fund world-class technical research in computer science, engineering, and related fields. Chen and Zhao’s team will receive $53,000 in funding to support their research. “The award is highly competitive - only 15% of applicants receive funding - and each proposal goes through a rigorous Google-wide review process,” the Google Faculty Research Award webpage stated. “Our goal is to identify and strengthen long-term collaborative relationships with faculty working on problems that will impact how future generations use technology,” Google stated.

“We are humbled to receive this award and excited to work closely with the Google scientists,” Chen said.

Chen’s PhD students Kevin Huang (ECE), Shensheng Zhao (ECE), and one undergraduate, Christine Wu (BS CompE ‘21) will be associated with this award. Chen is also affiliated with the Beckman Institute.

More information on Google Faculty Research Awards can be found here.