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New VUSM master’s program offers broad training in biomedical imaging

Nov. 3, 2022, 8:49 AM

Students in a new one-year Master of Imaging Science program will learn about the full range of biomedical imaging modalities and gain hands-on clinical and research experience.
Students in a new one-year Master of Imaging Science program will learn about the full range of biomedical imaging modalities and gain hands-on clinical and research experience. (photo by Vanessa Crain)

by Leigh MacMillan

A new Master of Imaging Science (MIS) program will immerse students in the full spectrum of biomedical imaging and provide hands-on clinical and research experience.

Biomedical imaging technologies, including ultrasound, X-ray, CT, MRI and PET, allow physicians and researchers to observe internal organs, detect cancers and monitor image-guided surgeries. The one-year MIS program, being offered by Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, aims to train students who will fill roles in the imaging technology industry, academic and pharmaceutical research, or who may choose to pursue medical or doctoral degrees.

“There’s a need in many different spheres for people who have knowledge of imaging technologies and how to work with imaging data,” said Todd Peterson, PhD, director of the MIS program and professor of Radiology & Radiological Sciences.

“Right now, there are imaging technologists who have expertise in single types of imaging and are focused on clinical support, and there are PhD-level researchers who are developing new technologies. There’s a big gap in between those two that isn’t really filled that we’re addressing with this program,” added Daniel Gochberg, PhD, director of Graduate Studies and professor of Radiology & Radiological Sciences.

The MIS program is one of only a handful of such programs in the country, Peterson and Gochberg said. It takes advantage of the unique resources offered by the Vanderbilt University Institute of Imaging Science.

“There aren’t a lot of places like Vanderbilt that have a collection of faculty, staff and research infrastructure that spans all the imaging modalities in a building together,” Peterson said. “We have a special environment that is a natural fit for developing a highly integrated master’s program.”

The new program, which will enroll its first cohort of students for the 2023-24 academic year, will include nine months of didactic coursework and associated labs where students will acquire and analyze data from multiple imaging modalities, followed by three months working on a research project.

“What we’re hoping to offer is a good base in all of the imaging modalities and hands-on experience working with the data,” Peterson said. “Someone who understands how imaging technologies work and when it’s best to use different imaging techniques would be of great value in a number of scenarios including designing imaging studies for clinical and pharmaceutical trials.”

Potential students may be individuals with undergraduate degrees in a scientific area — or with demonstrated math and science knowledge — who would like to learn more about imaging science as a pathway to further education or as a route to careers in imaging technology and research. They might also be experienced investigators who want to understand the uses and limitations of imaging modalities in order to incorporate imaging in their research.

“Most people who end up in imaging science were trained in another area and found their way to imaging through various paths,” said Gochberg, noting that he and Peterson have PhD degrees in Physics. “We’re breaking new ground here, recognizing that there’s a need for people with this type of broad training in imaging, and providing a path that’s not a many-year circuitous route.”

The priority application window closes Feb. 15, 2023. Learn more and apply:

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