Calendar Icon May 17, 2023 Person Bust Icon By Emily Case
Sarah Altman describes herself as a curious person. It’s a trait that’s served her well as a biological systems engineering major with minors in mathematics and biomedical engineering.
“I always have questions,” she said. “Being in research, this is the perfect place because when you have questions you can investigate it right away.
Altman’s inquisitive nature will continue to propel her forward as a National Science Foundation graduate fellow. She is one of five University of Nebraska-Lincoln students who received a 2023 Graduate Research Fellowship from the NSF.
In the program, she plans to investigate the ways machine learning and artificial intelligence can be used in medical imaging. This can have a variety of applications, including magnetic resonance imaging and cardiovascular imaging, she said.
This unique area of study piqued her interest after working on many research teams in her undergraduate career, including conducting cancer research at the University of Nebraska Medical Center with funding from a Goldwater Scholarship and participating in the National Institutes of Health INBRE Scholars program.
She discovered the realm of MRI research through a signals and systems class with BSE professor Greg Bashford. In August 2022 she joined his research team, the Biomedical Imaging and Biosignal Analysis (BIBA) lab.
“At the beginning of this school year I started working in Dr. Bashford’s lab and got introduced to the non-biological side of bioengineering and I really liked it,” she said. “From my class and doing my own research and talking to professors, I became interested in the niche of MRI.”
Working with Bashford and BSE postdoctoral researcher Ben Hage helped influence her research interests and has given her hands-on experience with processing signals and reconstructing images.
“It’s been really nice to work with Dr. Bashford and Dr. Hage… I’m able to get all my questions answered, so my curiosity fits well into the lab,” she said.
In turn, Altman has made a tremendous impact on the BIBA lab in the relatively short time she’s been a part of it, Hage said.
“Sarah does not realize how outstanding she is,” he said. “Although only an undergraduate, she has research skills at the graduate student level.”
For example, in a project she was assigned, she was able to make significant improvements to the original code.
“The results of her project mean that, for the first time ever in our lab, we can measure the amount of sound intensity from an ultrasound machine in the same units that the FDA uses,” he said. “This will make it much easier for us to comply with federal regulations and ensure safety when building custom ultrasound imaging devices.”
Altman credits her experiences in the BIBA lab and INBRE program with helping her advance her academic passions, as well as the support provided by the UNL Office of Undergraduate Research & Fellowships.
This May, Altman graduated as a Chancellor’s Scholar. She plans to pursue a doctoral degree in medical engineering and medical physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and continue research into improving image reconstruction and acquisition techniques in MRI.