Sonal Ambwani (PhD ’11) and Zachary Sun (PhD ’13) win at CenSISS

in NEWS, Students

Sonal Ambwani (PhD '11)
Sonal Ambwani (PhD '11)

Boston University was well-represented at October’s Bernard M. Gordon Center for Subsurface Sensing and Imaging Systems Research and Industrial Collaboration Conference (CenSISS) where not one but two Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE) students took away awards for their research.

Sonal Ambwani (PhD ’11) and Zachary Sun (PhD ’13) both left the Boston conference with Best Poster awards. Ambwani’s research, “5D Cardiac PET/CT Imaging: Joint Reconstruction and Cardiac and Respiratory Motion Estimation” won in the Biomedical and Biological Track while Sun’s work, “Non-Rotational Tomography for Luggage Scanning using Krylov Methods,” was awarded in the Homeland Security and Defense Track.

Ambwani hopes her research on PET (positron emission tomography)/CT (computer tomography) imaging will lead to earlier detection of heart problems.

“Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and by the time many patients see a doctor, they’ve already suffered from a cardiac episode,” said Ambwani.

Zachary Sun (PhD '13)
Zachary Sun (PhD '13)

PET imaging has the potential to provide physiological imaging of the plaque that causes blockages in a patient’s arteries; blockages that lead to cardiac problems.

“The tough and challenging problem we face is that currently, a PET scanner doesn’t provide images that have a high enough resolution to allow visualization of the arteries,” said Ambwani. Another problem, she added, is that a patient’s cardiac and respiratory motions during a scan cause the images to be blurry.

Ambwani is hoping to find a non-invasive method to detect blockages earlier by combining her background in signal processing and medical imaging.

Sun is also looking at CT imaging but doing so from a homeland security perspective.

Most major airports now use CT scanners to look at bags being checked aboard aircrafts. As opposed to X-ray pictures, images obtained by CT scanners are far more accurate in detecting everything from drugs to weapons. These CT scanners, however, tend to be very large and require a lot of power, and as a result, airports don’t tend to have more than two of the machines on hand.

ECE Professor W. Clem Karl
ECE Professor W. Clem Karl

“We’re hoping to develop the same capabilities for scanning carry-on luggage as checked bags,” said Sun.

Sun said that current airport CT scanners require a bag to be rotated to get photos from different angles, but he is hoping to develop a method so that its conveyer belt can radiate out to a flat panel that captures the images. These machines could ultimately be much smaller than current scanners and require less power.

In addition to being award recipients, Sun and Ambwani also have another thing in common. ECE Professor W. Clem Karl advises both the PhD candidates.

“He’s been very helpful and hands on,” said Ambwani. “When he starts to explain things, it’s like a light shines in your head.”

Not surprisingly, Karl is very proud of his students’ research win.

“They have been great to work with, and I’m thrilled that their hard work and effort is being recognized,” said Karl.

-Rachel Harrington (