Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Professor Focuses Biomedical Engineering Research, Education on Improving Cancer Diagnoses, Minimizing Radiation


According to a top 100 careers rating by and, biomedical engineering ranked tenth out of the 100 top careers with an estimated 79 percent job growth forecasted for the next 10 years. These kinds of statistics look good for Hong Liu, professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Oklahoma and endowed Charles and Jean Smith chair in biomedical engineering, who also holds the George Lynn Cross Research Professorship.

With approximately 10 graduate students typically pursuing a master’s or doctoral degree in electrical and computer engineering with an emphasis in biomedical engineering research, Liu is pleased to know his students are entering a growing field that has the potential to save lives.

Liu focuses his current research on medical imaging technology to decrease radiation and generate earlier diagnosis in patients diagnosed with breast cancer, cervical cancer and leukemia.

“Medical imaging research will help save and improve lives,” he said. “I’m pleased that the field is growing dramatically, allowing us to make more advancements and lead students to pursue careers that help others.”

Da Zhang, who received his doctorate in electrical and computer engineering from OU in May 2009, studied under Liu and is currently a junior physicist in the Department of Radiology at Massachusetts General Hospital, said he wouldn’t be where he is today without the guidance of Liu, a lifelong mentor.

Since medical imaging currently is a hot topic in the biomedical science field, Zhang said he and his colleagues saw many new job listings in biomedical engineering when they were job hunting.

“More physicians are using medical imaging first when diagnosing a patient, so it’s a big deal to reduce radiation exposure. We also need physicians to be able to use the X-ray image to its fullest for diagnosis,” Zhang said. “One of Dr. Liu’s most promising projects to help in this area is the X-ray phase and phase contrast, which is designed to provide a clearer image and a lower dosage of radiation.”

Liu’s students have gone on to work in both industry and academia. One former student is conducting cancer research at the University of Pittsburgh; another joined General Electric early last year and is now an R&D engineer developing PET-CT systems.

“It’s an exciting but competitive field,” Zhang said. “I have goals to become a head medical physicist, further diagnostics imaging and possibly get a professorship to become a faculty member, so I can teach in addition to conducting research.”

To those interested in pursuing biomedical engineering, Liu suggests they:
Build a solid foundation through formal educational programs and increase self-learning skills through research and practices
Develop interdisciplinary collaborations and always keep the patients’ benefits in mind
Know the state-of-the-art developments, think about the big picture and then learn how to move forward to reach new discoveries

Liu joined the OU College of Engineering faculty nine years ago and is an internationally acclaimed researcher in medical imaging. He is a fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering and the International Society for Optical Engineering. He serves as editor-in-chief of the Journal of X-ray Science and Technology and has also served as a charter member of the National Institutes of Health study section in Biomedical Imaging Technology. His research has been funded continuously through NIH grants and other peer-reviewed funding agencies for the past 20 years. In the past nine years at OU, he has received more than $8 million through major externally funded grant awards for his research in the areas of medical X-ray cancer imaging and optical genetic imaging. Projects include phase contrast mammography for breast cancer diagnosis, optical chromosome imaging for leukemia diagnosis, and optical fluorescence imaging for cervical cancer screening. Liu and his students have published more than 180 scientific papers and book chapters and have several issued patents.

The University of Oklahoma biomedical engineering department spans research and education activities in biomedical sciences and bioengineering on the Norman, Okla., and Oklahoma City campuses. The department provides interdisciplinary training of the highest quality to the next generation of biomedical engineers and scientists; serves as a catalyst for innovative interdisciplinary research at the interfaces of biology, engineering and medicine; and serves as the platform through which new discoveries in biomedical sciences and engineering are translated into clinical technologies and therapies for the prevention, detection, diagnosis and treatment of disease.


For more information contact:
Mindy Robson or Lindsey Sparks at
Anglin Public Relations (405) 840-4222


  1. Amazing how simple it can be to communicate with people and have them understand a certain topic, you made my day.

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  2. Does the Biomedical Dept offer tours to interested High School seniors?
    Shelley Canada, DDS