Precision Imaging Beacon
Dipendra is currently undertaking a PhD within the Precision Imaging Beacon of Excellence. His project is focussed on optimising the hardware of open MRI machines to improve image quality and reduce scan times.Dipendra is a physicist by education, with over 7 years’ industry experience specialising in RF systems for radiotherapy and satellite communication.
How would you explain your research?
My research project will be focussed on optimising two key aspects of MRI system instrumentation. The first involves mapping the spatiotemporal response of the magnetic field within the scanner for the gradient waveforms used in key imaging sequences. This will be explored by designing a small field probe to characterise the electromagnetic field interactions, which can be used to correct for eddy current and hysteresis effects. The second aspect is focussed on radiofrequency (RF) receive coils to improve sensitivity for localised imaging of different areas of the body. This will involve optimising the RF coil geometry and coupling to achieve parallel imaging using an array of coils. Alongside this, I will also learn how to operate the open MRI machine and test the hardware improvements mentioned above in routine imagine sequences.
Why Nottingham and why the Precision Imaging Beacon?
I chose the University of Nottingham for my PhD research due to its heritage in developing the first MRI system (Sir Peter Mansfield) and its expertise across the field of medical physics. I also studied my undergraduate physics degree here, so I have seen first-hand the joy of studying on the University Park campus, and the world-class facilities available within the SPMIC (Sir Peter Mansfield Imaging Centre).
For me the Precision Imaging Beacon represents the pinnacle of cutting-edge technology for delivering revolutionary treatment and precision medicine to society. My passion has always been to work on solving technical problems for the betterment of humanity; and I see no greater way to do this than to work within the Beacon, and the amazing team here at Nottingham.
What inspired you to pursue this area?
From a young age, I remember being fascinated by how things worked, and I used to constantly ask those around me for answers. I was hungry for knowledge and so I turned to books, the internet and my teachers. As I continued my studies, I later found my niche in physics, after attending a talk on MRI at an Oxford Summer School programme, and I knew my heart was set on specialising in medical physics.
This research project combines my passion for medical physics, the skills gained during my time in industry and the opportunity to work on something which benefit the lives of others. During my career I have realised that I enjoy the scientific method of enquiry which I gained from my undergraduate studies, as well as the challenge of making something tangible which I have seen throughout industry. I believe that this course would be the perfect combination of both aspects, plus the opportunity to develop deeper domain knowledge in medical physics – MRI in particular.
I also studied my undergraduate physics degree here, so I have seen first-hand the joy of studying on the University Park campus, and the world-class facilities available within the SPMIC (Sir Peter Mansfield Imaging Centre).
How will your research affect the average person?
Open MRI has huge potential advantages over conventional MRI, both as a tool for experimental medicine and in aspects of clinical MRI. Participants can be scanned in almost any pose, which will allow us to study the effects of position and gravity on anatomy and function and will facilitate imaging of subjects who cannot normally lie flat. Furthermore, the open design will reduce the stress of MRI for patients who dislike enclosed spaces, will enable new protocols for scanning children who generally require sedation or anaesthetisation prior to MRI, and will make it easier to study obese patients, which is important because of their frequent, complex, multi-morbidities.
Also, the outputs from this research will be used in clinical studies which require the efficacy of open MRI, to study Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome which can result from viral infections like COVID-19, dietary interventions in gastroparesis and dynamic weight-bearing knee MRI.
What’s been the greatest moment of your career so far?
During my time industry, I had the opportunity to investigate a fault observed by a client on a new radiotherapy machine. The issue was caused by the inadequate design of a high voltage connector feedthrough which led to breakdown, and in some circumstances arcing. As a result, the system would trip and shut down, resulting in lost time for the client and degradation of the connector.
I led the activity to find the root cause of this issue and devise a retrofittable solution. Within a few weeks, my team produced a prototype sample. This was tested extensively at the customer site in California, where I gathered vast amounts of data, and trained the customer on how to install the prototype into their system. The testing was successful and lead to useful insights into how to improve the manufacturing process and reduce the overall cost. Following this, the customer proceeded with a follow-on contract to take the prototype into mass production for systems in the installed base.
How will being based at UoN and joining Precision Imaging help you achieve your goals?
I will have access to a team of world leading researchers who have a proven track record in research excellence in medical imaging. So, I look forward to working with and learning from them during my research programme. I am excited to work within the PI Beacon, due to the interdisciplinary nature of my project, I believe this opportunity will allow me to develop as a researcher to become an expert in my field.
What aspects of your research and role are you looking forward to?
I am excited to work on the open MRI machine, and to go through the cycle of design, test and optimisation. I particularly enjoy working on hardware and using this knowledge to understand how we can achieve improvements in medical imaging, such as better image quality and shorter scan times. Once we have realised these improvements, I look forward to the seeing the benefit that my research will bring to future patients.