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Engineering doctoral student is Vanderbilt’s first recipient of Rabi Young Investigator Award

Abitha Srinivas’ work to improve image quality in portable MRI systems with minimal passive shielding could reduce the reliance on shielded rooms and allow for truly portable and more accessible MRI.

Vanderbilt engineering graduate student Sai Abitha Srinivas received the I.I. Rabi Young Investigator Award at the 2022 meeting of the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, held May 7-12 in London. This award is recognition for her work to improve image quality in portable MRI systems with minimal passive shielding that could reduce the reliance on shielded rooms and allow for truly portable and more accessible MRI.

Abitha Srinivas

The I.I. Rabi Young Investigator Award is named after the physicist who discovered nuclear magnetic resonance, and it is given for original basic science research in magnetic resonance to authors of papers published in Magnetic Resonance in Medicine journal.

This is the highest award given to a young scientist by the ISMRM and Srinivas is the first Vanderbilt recipient. She will receive a certificate and a monetary award. The award is affirmation from extremely talented people in our field that the work we do really does matter,” Srinivas said. 

Srinivas, a third-year doctoral student in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, received the award for her paper, “External Dynamic InTerference Estimation and Removal (EDITER) for low field MRI,” by authors Stephen F. Cauley, Jason P. Stockmann, Charlotte R. Sappo, Christopher E. Vaughn, Lawrence L. Wald, William A. Grissom and Clarissa Z. Cooley. Srinivas was selected for the award by a committee of 15 senior scientists after delivering an extended podium talk and giving interviews at the London meeting, which had 4,200 attendees.

Srinivas is a trainee in the Vanderbilt University Institute of Imaging Science and a research assistant in the laboratory of Professor William Grissom, her adviser. “Abitha is an idea machine, and it’s awesome to see her recognized for it. Her award also reflects the Society’s appreciation for work that advances MRI technology for underserved populations and point-of-care applications.“ Paper co-authors Sappo and Vaughn also are Grissom Lab trainees.

Point-of-care MRI requires operation outside of shielded rooms normally used to block image-degrading electromagnetic interference (EMI). To address this, Srinivas introduced the EDITER method—External Dynamic InTerference Estimation and Removal—an external sensor-based method to remove image anomalies from external interference sources.

The basic idea is to place additional sensors around the body that are only sensitive to EMI and not the signals of interest for imaging, and then subtract those signals from the main sensor that collects image data. A key distinguishing feature of the method is that it requires no separate calibration before imaging, which enables it to suppress EMI that changes during an MRI scan. This means that the method can, for example, suppress anomalies arising due to EMI from a medical pump that switches on midway through a scan.

“EDITER’s robustness to time-varying EMI is its most important feature because in real-world scenarios where portable MRIs need to be in emergency rooms or ICUs, equipment in the room switches on and off constantly. The EMI it produces can vary over the duration of the scan,” Srinivas said. “Overall, the dynamic nature of this method and the ease of its implementation make clinical translation feasible.”

Srinivas’ fascination with MRI began with an undergraduate senior design project. “Our team made a gradient system pipeline for a very low field MRI system at Visvesvaraya Technological University, Bangalore. With a se­vere lack of clinical MRIs in my home country, I was motivated to learn about MRI physics and building things from scratch,” Srinivas said. “My overall career goal is to make accessible, low-field MRI more clinical­ly viable.”

Contact: Brenda Ellis, 615 343-6314