Using Ultrafast Imaging for Advances in Medical Science

Hossein Asghari, assistant professor of electrical engineering at Loyola Marymount University, is quite literally in a fast-paced line of work. His research focuses on ultrafast measurement and imaging. Asghari aims to capture things that are happening very fast or require high throughput, such as mechanical shockwaves or rare cancer cell detection in living tissue. Though the applications of this research are far reaching (from aerospace to environmental engineering), most of Asghari’s work is focused on the biomedical field.

After completing his undergraduate studies in Iran, Asghari moved to Canada and earned his Ph.D. at University of Quebec. Soon after, he was accepted at UCLA as a post-doc where he received UCLA Chancellor’s award for postdoctoral research awarded annually to 6 post-doctoral researchers among more than 1,000 post-docs across all the departments. In 2015, he accepted a position with LMU Frank R. Seaver College of Science and Engineering and began teaching electrical engineering courses, including Senior Capstone Project, Optical Engineering (which covers the basics of his research), and Circuits. He works closely with seniors on their Capstone Projects and mentors undergraduate students in his lab.

Asghari appreciates the supportive environment at LMU. “The support I’ve received from LMU is very different from what I’ve seen at other places,” said Asghari. “Everyone wants to help you here.”

And that’s a sentiment Asghari reciprocates—he is motivated by a desire to make the world a better place. The imaging he’s developing can rapidly identify cancer cells by capturing images of billions of cells in a single second and analyzing them in real-time. The result is identification of cancer cells much earlier than is currently possible.

Another application of his work is optical coherence tomography of living tissues. This technology can take volumetric images of living tissues in real-time without harming the patient. It’s like an MRI but much faster, so that the dynamic actions inside the tissue are actually visible. The ultimate goal of his research is to use these methods for brain mapping, so that doctors and scientists can see the brain working as it’s working.

Asghari puts a great deal of emphasis on the practical applications of engineering research. “If there is something useful being developed, it should go out to industry so that people can benefit from it,” said Asghari.

On his life outside of engineering, he says, “I don’t have much time for other things.” Between running the research lab he’s passionate about and teaching at a university he’s proud of, he says, “I’m very happy with what I’m doing.”