Puzzle Solver

During the 2016 AIUM Annual Convention, Michael Kolios, PhD, was awarded the Joseph H. Holmes Basic Science Pioneer Award. We asked him a few questions about the award,November 11, 2015 what interests him, and the future of medical ultrasound research. This is what he had to say.

  1. What does being named the Joseph H. Holmes Basic Science Pioneer Award winner mean to you?
    It means a lot to me to be recognized by my peers in this manner. It motivates me to work even harder to contribute more to the community.  I have been associated with the AIUM for a long time and have thoroughly enjoyed interacting with all the members over the years. When I peruse the list of the previous Joseph H. Holmes Basic Science Pioneer Awardees and look at their accomplishments, I feel quite humbled by being the recipient of this award, and hope one day to match their contributions to the field.
  1. What gets you excited the most when it comes to research?
    I get excited when I generate/discuss new ideas, participate in the battle of new and old ideas, and the immensely complex detective work that is required to prove or disprove these new ideas. I thoroughly enjoy the interactions with all my colleagues and trainees that join me in this indefatigable and never-ending detective work, as solving one puzzle almost always creates many new ones. This is what I’ve encountered in the last 2 decades while probing basic questions on the propagation of ultrasound waves in tissue, and how different tissue structures scatter the sound. Finally, I get very excited when I try to think about how to use the basic science knowledge generated from this research to inform clinical practice, and envisioning the day this will potentially make a difference in the lives of people.
  1. How can we encourage more ultrasound research?
    We need to provide the resources to people in order to do the research in ultrasound. Most funding agencies are stretched to the limit and success rates are sometimes in the single digits. This makes it very challenging to do research in general, including ultrasound research. Therefore, pooling resources and providing environments where ultrasonic research can excel will partially help—creating/promoting/maintaining centers for ultrasound research. This can also be promoted through networking and professional societies, such as the AIUM.Another thing to do to encourage more ultrasound research is by demonstrating the clinical impact of ultrasound and how it could be used to save the lives of patients. Only through the close collaboration of basic scientists/engineers with clinicians/clinician-scientists/sonographers can this be achieved. Developments in therapeutic ultrasound for example are very exciting, and have recently attracted the attention of both public and private funding agencies with many success stories. Moreover, providing seed money through opportunities such as the ERR (Endowment for Education and Research) is a step in the right direction—to give people the opportunity to pursue their ideas in the field of ultrasound research.
  1. What new or upcoming research has you most intrigued?
    While I spent a lot of time trying to understand ultrasound scattering, and how changes in tissue morphology influence this scattering, I’m currently dedicating most of my time to the new field called photoacoustic imaging. It is known that conventional clinical ultrasound has relatively poor soft tissue contrast, but in photoacoustic imaging light is used to generate ultrasound. These ultrasound waves, created when light is absorbed by tissue, provides exciting results that allow not only probing tissue anatomy, but also function in ways that not many other modalities can. After the light is absorbed and the waves initiated, everything we know about ultrasound applies—and in fact we can use the same ultrasound instrumentation to create images. I expect this imaging modality to have clinical impact in the near future.
  1. You are well accomplished within the medical ultrasound research community, but when you were young what did you want to be when you grew up?
    When I was young I wanted to be firstly an astronaut, then a philosopher, pondering basic questions and fundamental problems in nature. I ended up studying physics and its applications in medicine. It has been a highly rewarding choice!
  1. If you were presenting this award at the 2017 AIUM Annual Convention, who would you like to see receive it and why?
    I’d like to see someone that has contributed to ultrasound, with work spanning from the basic science/engineering to clinical application! It would also be encouraging to see the next recipient being a woman or minority, reflecting the true diversity from which new ideas come, and representing a constituency for which society has relatively recently given the opportunity to contribute to science in a meaningful and sustained manner.

Who would you like to see win an AIUM award? What ideas do you have to increase the interest in and funding for research? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

Michael Kolios, PhD, is Professor in the Department of Physics, and Associate Dean of Science, Research and Graduate Studies at Ryerson University.