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Medical physics researcher receives award for development of acoustic bioimaging techniques

9 October 2017

Dr Bradley Treeby (UCL Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering) received the R. Bruce Lindsay Award from the Acoustical Society of America for contributions to the modeling of biomedical ultrasound fields. The award is given annually and recognises a young researcher who has contributed substantially to theoretical or applied acoustics.

Bradley Treeby grew up in South Western Australia, graduating from the University of Western Australia in 2003 with a first class BEng. As a graduate student in Mechanical Engineering, Brad began his first in-depth studies in acoustics under the supervision of Professors Roshun Paurobally and Jie Pan. His dissertation work examined the effect of hair on how humans determine where a sound is coming from, and required him to develop new ways to describe how sound reflects from flexible surfaces. For his research accomplishments he received the Robert and Maude Gledden Postgraduate Research Scholarship (2004), the F. S. Shaw Memorial Postgraduate Scholarship for excellence in applied mechanics research (2005), and earned the title of Doctor of Engineering in 2007.

Upon completing his degree, Brad moved to the UK to become a Research Fellow at University College London (UCL). Working with Dr. Ben Cox at UCL Medical Physics and Bioengineering, Brad began investigating how to quickly model the way sound waves travel through materials with similar properties to human tissues. This has applications in photoacoustics – a technique where a laser pulse heats a small area inside a sample, which then expands due to heating, producing high frequency, ultrasonic acoustic waves as it pushes on surrounding material. These can be detected and analysed to create images of the interior of the material. This translation of light into acoustic signals can be used for biomedical imaging, detecting levels of blood oxygenation, the development of blood vessels in tumours, and much more.

From this time onward Brad focused his career on the development of fast and accurate models for describing ultrasound waves traveling through the human body. His work at UCL on ‘pseudospectral time domain models for acoustic wave propagation’ grew into what is today the open source “k-Wave” Matlab toolbox, widely used by specialists for modelling biomedical ultrasound fields. The freely-distributed software now has around 9,000 registered users in at least 70 countries, and the paper describing the first release of the toolbox has been cited over 450 times to date since its publication in 2010. These models have important applications in both ultrasound and photoacoustic imaging, and dosimetry and treatment planning for ultrasound therapy.

Dr Ben Cox says:

“Brad developed k-Wave all the way from theoretical principles, through coding and validation, to its applications to real world problems. In doing so, he has demonstrated considerable expertise and attention to detail in an impressive range of areas of acoustics.”

Between 2010 and 2013 Brad spent time at Australian National University (ANU) as a research fellow. While continuing his research throughout this period, Brad also dedicated time to teaching and mentoring, receiving both a Top Supervisor Award and a Dean’s Commendation for Teaching Excellence in his three years at ANU. In 2013 Brad returned to London to establish a new Biomedical Ultrasound Group– or “BUG”– at UCL and has nurtured its growth since. Currently supported by an Early Career Fellowship from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, he has maintained levels of grant funding, allowing the lab’s experimental and computational capabilities to grow.

Brad is very active in the application of his work to clinical problems, notably for accurate targeting and dosimetry in therapeutic ultrasound. To this end, he has established collaborations with a wide circle of clinicians, scientists, manufacturers, and other interested parties from around the world. His ongoing research “sits at the interface between physical acoustics, biomedical ultrasound, numerical methods, and high performance computing,” and has earned much respect and attention among the ultrasound modeling community.

The award was presented to Dr Treeby at “Acoustics ’17: Joint Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America and the European Acoustics Association”. He joins previous winners of the R. Bruce Lindsay award including Professor Leo Beranek (builder of the first anechoic chamber), Joseph Carl Robnett Licklider. (who developed early theories of pitch perception) and Professor Eleanor Stride (bubble and ultrasound researcher and graduate of UCL Mechanical Engineering).
Dr Treeby says:

“The ASA is very unique in being such an open and inclusive society. From my first ASA meeting in 2012, the support I have received from the community has been very humbling, and I’m very honoured to receive this award.”

The above is a modified version of the excellent citation produced by Nathan J McDannold in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America] to accompany the prizegiving, and we thank the author for their work.

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