Adam Uselmann works to advance imaging tech in new postdoctoral fellowship

Time and again the Madison community has shown itself to be an incubator for collaborative ideas and innovative work. Adam Uselmann, a research associate at the Morgridge Institute for Research, has seen some of his collaborations grow into a new postdoctoral opportunity.

While working on a Ph.D. in medical physics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Uselmann explored several side projects with groups like the Morgridge Institute and the Laboratory for Optical and Computational Instrumentation (LOCI).

Some of those side projects have now become full projects and are the focus of a new postdoctoral fellowship position under Kevin Eliceiri, director and principal investigator at LOCI and the director of medical engineering at the Morgridge Institute.

“It’s a chance for me to work on the projects I’m excited about with good people I have existing connections with,” Uselmann says. “This fellowship provides the framework to develop the work more fully.”

As part of the fellowship, Uselmann will tackle several projects involving optics, like improving and refining the SETI imaging system. The SETI, or Sequential Erosive Tissue Imaging, system is a device that builds 3-D replicas of tissue samples by carefully slicing and imaging hundreds of layers, then digitally reassembling a model of the sample.

A transient lighting project, which Uselmann has worked on with Eliceiri and other collaborators in the past, will be another priority.

Transient lighting refers to a light system that imperceptibly flickers, timed to allow the human brain to register a fully lit room, but light-sensitive equipment to register a dark room.

“We have an imaging system and a lighting system paired with it,” says Uselmann. “It allows you to have a well-lit room while you’re doing fluorescence imaging, something that normally would have to be done in the dark.”

A stand-alone desk lamp was developed as a proof of concept; Uselmann will be scaling the concept up from a single lamp to an entire imaging room by implementing the technology into light fixtures at LOCI.

“Further developing that technology and implementing it in a way that the researchers can actually use is one of the goals of the postdoc position,” says Uselmann.

The position is also an opportunity for continued network building and partnerships, like a project developing better near-infrared imaging systems.

Near-infrared imaging has many applications, particularly in medicine. Uselmann is working to build instruments that will help facilitate Medical Engineering research collaborations with Jamey Weichert and John Kuo, radiology and neurosurgery researchers at the UW Carbone Cancer Center. Applications of the work include both near-infrared fluorescence microscopy and wide-field imaging, which may be used in fluorescence-guided surgeries.

For example, in a procedure involving tumor removal, a fluorescent imaging agent can be injected into a patient. This agent is taken up preferentially by the tumor, so when the body is imaged during surgery, the tumor area is highlighted. Surgeons can use this information as a guide during the procedure to determine the extent of a tumor.

Having the point of view of somebody outside your field can help you look at the problem or the technology or the research in a different way, Uselmann says. Particularly in a field like medical engineering, input from those who would actually be users of the device can be vital.

“It’s easy to solve a problem in vacuum that might not actually be a problem in the field, or could be better solved with a deeper understanding of the issues at play,” Uselmann says. “Collaboration really helps by making a project less of just solving a technical problem and more of working together to find the right kinds of useful solutions.”