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Friday, March 22, 2019

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IBIS working to bring the future to life


This is Part 2 of a four-part series profiling the newly formed Institute for Biomedical Imaging Science.

Scientist Alan Turing once devised a test to gauge artificial intelligence and, although it has never been passed, one UH researcher hopes that a recent partnership may help pave the way to fulfilling Turing’s dream.

Chairman of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Haluk Ogmen, one of UH’s committee members in the Institute for Biomedical Imaging Science partnership, said that multi-disciplinary research will lead to better and more effective solutions in the fields of science and medicine.

"What IBIS is trying to do is get researchers from three instructions with complementary expertise to come together and tackle problems that require multi-disciplinary skills using imaging as the data," Ogmen said.

Imaging has become the primary tool for obtaining data in many medical and science fields, Ogmen said. And while imaging ranges in complexity depending on what type of body imaging is being used, IBIS hopes to create a bridge between different imaging machines and researchers.

There are 44 researchers working in the IBIS partnership, and all of them, Ogmen said, are trying to understand some sort of bio-medical problem by first analyzing how organs -†such as the heart, brain or the eye – function.

"If you want to understand the dysfunction you must understand the normal function," Ogmen said. "Any organ you look at you want to understand in the normal state, then you can come up with solutions for the dysfunction."

One inspiration for Ogmen’s involvement with IBIS is the prospect of creating autonomous intelligence in the future.

By studying the circuitry of the brain and central nervous system by analyzing electrical messages that course throughout the human body, Ogmen hopes to one day take such knowledge and create machinery with similar intelligence.

"We, as engineers, want to build devices in an area where there’s little progress in the past few decades of intelligent system," Ogmen said. "We can build complicated TVs and airplanes, but something autonomously intelligent is out of reach. Take a simple fly or ant: these animals can navigate, find food and survive. They look so simple, yet we can’t build a robot with similar capabilities."

Ogmen said that the merging of neuroengineering, brain signal analysis and the application of engineering expertise could lead to the creation of such intelligence.

"If you look at the brain and nervous system of an animal and find out how it operates, then we figure out the engineering principles, and we can use it in scientific ways depending on what’s available to us in terms of material. That’s the ultimate goal from our perspective," Ogmen said.

Ogmen serves as executive director of the Center for Neuro-Engineering and Cognitive Science at UH. The Center was founded in 1996 in response to the growing area of cognitive science and to encourage interdisciplinary research among different departments.

IBIS is an umbrella program that brings researchers from different fields together for one single goal: furthering knowledge in bio-medical research and imaging.

"It lets research from these institutions to form groups and identify core facilities and collaborations so we can effectively match expertise and needs to create synergy and interdisciplinary expertise to combat problems in bio-medical sciences," Ogmen said.

Ogmen received his bachelor’s in science and Ph.D in electrical engineering from UniversitÈ Laval in Quebec, Canada, and joined the UH faculty as an assistant professor in 1988.

IBIS is a partnership between the University, Methodist Hospital and Cornell University.

Each institution submitted an initial $250,000 for the partnership. Researchers will write proposals to be reviewed and based on those, seed funding will be given. Ogmen said this could then lead to federal funding.


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