GVSU students contribute to growing medical field

Engineering student Michael Dykstra was selected to present his research at the World Molecular Imaging Congress meeting.
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Engineering student Michael Dykstra was selected to present his research at the World Molecular Imaging Congress meeting.
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A group of students and faculty at Grand Valley State University have been working with Van Andel Institute to develop new methods to further a growing medical field that aims to improve early detection of cancer and disease.

A group of four Grand Valley students and graduates, and Anthony Chang from VAI, presented three years worth of research at the World Molecular Imaging Congress, one of the largest meetings in the medical imaging field, September 18-21 in Savannah, Georgia.

Chang, research assistant professor and director of the Small Animal Imaging Facility at Van Andel Institute's world-class laboratories, said in the future, if a tumor or lesion is found, a doctor will be able to predict early on if it will spread or grow with the help of advanced imaging technology. “The medical imaging field, especially molecular imaging is booming,” said Chang. “It's a new concept, and right now people are starting to realize the power of this technology.”

The partnership began when Grand Valley was awarded a National Science Foundation grant to start a biomedical engineering master’s program in 2010. “My colleagues and I reached out to local companies and research labs in the medical industry, which is how our relationship with VAI began,” said Samhita Rhodes, professor of engineering. “Since then, the program has taken off and our students are doing great things.”

Chang and a group of Grand Valley graduate students, including Anderson Peck, helped form the research lab at VAI three years ago.

Peck, who was in the first class of the master’s program in 2010, now works at VAI as a full-time researcher. “VAI is the only place in Michigan that’s developing these new techniques, and we’re right here in West Michigan. We have a few new techniques, and hope they’ll be used in the future,” said Peck.

Chang said: “We have a strong presence in the imaging research field, which before, only happened at really big universities. We’re putting Grand Valley and Grand Rapids on the map in this area. VAI and our students are helping develop new techniques and concepts that could save lives.”

Brittany Holly, a biomedical sciences major, and Michael Dykstra, a physics major, also attended the meeting. Chang said their research was selected to be presented, and they each competed for and received student travel awards.

Located in the Seymour and Esther Padnos College of Engineering and Computing, the Master’s of Science in Biomedical Engineering program was established in 2010 and focuses on medical device design and development.

Rhodes and her colleagues, John Farris and Bruce Dunne, are working to expand the program. “The first grant we received helped us support the program, now we want to move it forward so our students can continue to contribute to the growing field of biomedical engineering,” she said.

For more information, contact Samhita Rhodes in Grand Valley’s School of Engineering at (616) 331-6267 or rhodesam@gvsu.edu.