The University of Arizona

UA Regents' Professor Elected to National Academy of Engineering

By Daniel Stolte, University Communications | February 7, 2014

Harrison Barrett, a UA Regents' Professor who has made groundbreaking advances in medical imaging, has been elected as a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

Regents' Professor Harrison Barrett
Regents' Professor Harrison Barrett

Harrison Barrett, a University of Arizona Regents' Professor whose work in medical imaging has contributed to fields including cardiovascular disease, cognitive neuroscience, breast cancer and tumor detection, was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering on Thursday.

Barrett is a Regents' Professor of Radiology, a Regents' Professor of Optical Sciences and a Regents' Professor of Applied Mathematics, and leads the UA Center for Gamma-Ray Imaging. He also holds an appointment of professor in the Program in Biomedical Engineering and the UA Cancer Center.

Election to the National Academy of Engineering is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer. Academy membership honors those who have made outstanding contributions to engineering research, practice or education, and to those who have pioneered new and developing fields of technology, made major advances in traditional fields of engineering, or developed or implemented innovative approaches to engineering education

According to the academy, Barrett was selected for his contributions to the physical and statistical foundations and applications of radiological and nuclear medical imaging.

"Harry is an icon in the field of image science, and his groundbreaking research in the mathematics of image reconstruction and image quality has had enormous impact in the field of medical imaging," said Thomas Koch, dean of the College of Optical Sciences.

Barrett credited the scientific team at CGRI with the center's success and his selection as a new NAE member, specifically Lars R. Furenlid, Eric Clarkson, Matthew A. Kupinski, Zhonglin Liu and James M. Woolfenden, as well as the students affiliated with the center, who hail from the College of Optical Sciences, the UA departments of Physics and Electrical and Computer Engineering, and the programs in Applied Mathematics and Biomedical Engineering.

"This award would not have been possible without the magnificent contributions of these faculty members and our many students over the years," Barrett said. "Together we strive to advance the emerging field of image science, in the context of radionuclide imaging in biology and medicine."

The overall objective of the Center for Gamma-Ray Imaging is to develop new gamma-ray imaging instruments with dramatically improved spatial and temporal resolution and to make them available to a wide community of biomedical and clinical researchers. The collaborative research supported by the center will apply these new imaging tools for basic research in fields like cardiovascular disease and cognitive neuroscience, as well as breast cancer and tumor detection during surgery.

Research in the area of nuclear medicine includes a program to study various aspects of nuclear imaging, especially tumor detection. Tumors made radioactive by tumor-seeking radiopharmaceuticals will be detected at an early stage by imaging equipment now being developed at CGRI.

"CGRI collaborates with many groups across campus, throughout the United States and in many foreign countries," Barrett said. "We have active collaborations in oncology, cardiology, neuro-imaging and in imaging science in general."

Now in its 15th year and funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering under the umbrella of the National Institutes of Health, CGRI is a joint effort between the UA College of Optical Sciences and the Department of Medical Imaging in the UA College of Medicine

"Research in CGRI and its predecessor grants have led to over 60 students receiving PhD degrees from the University of Arizona," Barrett said, "and these students are now becoming leaders in image science in industry, government and academia."

Barrett marks 40 years at the UA this year, and has enjoyed continued NIH funding since 1976. Next month, he will receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Ghent in Belgium.

Barrett earned his doctorate in applied physics in 1969 from Harvard University while employed by Raytheon Research Division in Waltham, Mass., as a senior research scientist. He stayed with Raytheon as a project leader in the medical electronics department until 1974, when he accepted a joint appointment of associate professor in the Department of Radiology and the College of Optical Sciences at the UA.

Barrett is one of 67 new members that have joined NAE along with 11 foreign associates, bringing the number of UA NAE faculty members to 16. The total U.S. membership amounts to 2,250 members and 214 foreign associates.