Xin Zhang to Compete for STAT Madness All-Star Award
BU College of Engineering professor will have the opportunity to pitch her work on metamaterials that can improve MRIs to expert judges
Scientific breakthroughs will go head-to-head this year at the STAT Breakthrough Summit, a two-day event starting May 3 that brings together some of the biomedical field’s finest minds. Among them, Boston University’s Xin Zhang. The College of Engineering professor of mechanical engineering will compete with two other finalists for the title of STAT Madness All-Star.
The event is the culmination of health and science–focused media company STAT’s annual March Madness-style tournament to find the best innovation in science and medicine for the year—complete with a public online bracket competition and separate All-Star vote at the summit. The online competition pit 64 entries—selected by STAT—from competing US schools and institutions against each other in weekly rounds of voting, with the highest-voted innovations advancing to the next round.
Zhang reached the quarterfinals of the online bracket and was selected as an All-Star finalist for her work developing a metamaterial that makes magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) faster, safer, and more accessible to patients around the world. Her metamaterial—a structure that can bend, absorb, or manipulate electromagnetic waves, sound waves, or radio waves—can be designed in different sizes and shapes, and placed at different orientations. Zhang and her team at BU designed one that can fit over a person’s head to boost the quality of MRI brain scan images.
At the STAT Breakthrough Summit, she’ll present her work to a panel of judges that includes STAT leadership and past winners, as well as audience members composed of executives, industry leaders, investors, and experts in the field. The audience will then vote for their favorite presentation, giving Zhang the opportunity to gain interest and further elevate her work.
“I’m so excited to be joining STAT in San Francisco in May to speak at their signature West Coast event,” Zhang says. “I look forward to meeting a great group of leaders, talking about the biggest breakthroughs at the intersection of biotech and health tech.”
Zhang was selected to participate in STAT’s bracket-style competition, which ended in March, alongside Alice White, an ENG professor and chair of mechanical engineering who codeveloped a miniature living heart replica—nicknamed miniPUMP—to help researchers better study heart disease and test new treatments. Although both lost out in the monthlong bracket, Zhang now has another opportunity to win.
“Xin has been carrying out incredibly creative and pioneering work in the area of metamaterials,” says Gloria Waters, BU vice president and associate provost for research. “Her work using novel metamaterials to increase the signal-to-noise ratio in MRI systems has the potential to create truly transformational diagnostic procedures and to potentially help millions of patients globally.”