UWM: Engineer wins Shaw Scientist Award

MILWAUKEE — An electrical engineer at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee (UWM) has been awarded one of two Shaw Scientist Awards given by the Greater Milwaukee Foundation for his research on a novel method for earlier diagnosis of retinal disease.

Hao Zhang, a UWM assistant professor in the College of Engineering and Applied Science, is developing imaging equipment that produces a detailed profile of blood vessels within the eye and reveals how well blood vessels in the eye transport oxygen and nutrients.

The Shaw Award – a $200,000 unrestricted prize – provides support to young scholar-scientists from either UWM or UW–Madison who are engaged in groundbreaking work in the fields of genetics, cell biology and cancer research at critical stages in their careers. Jing Zhang, an assistant professor of oncology in the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research at UW–Madison, is this year’s other recipient.

Hao Zhang’s current research, done in partnership with the Medical College of Wisconsin and the University of Southern California, involves photo-acoustic imaging, a hybrid technology that combines short pulses of laser light, which produce ultrasonic waves in blood vessels, and optical coherence tomography, which detects reflected light from tissues based on optical interference.

The laser-induced ultrasonic waves can be captured and analyzed to produce a high-resolution image of the oxygenation of vessels, while optical coherence tomography provides functional information on blood flow. The ability to measure blood oxygenation and blood flow with high precision could allow doctors to diagnosis and treat disease, such as diabetic retinopathy, before the patient experiences severe vision loss.

Zhang, who joined the UWM faculty in 2007, is director of the Functional Optical Imaging Laboratory (FOIL) which develops optical, ultrasonic and electrical imaging techniques for biomedical applications. He earned his doctoral degree in biomedical engineering at Texas A&M University and completed postdoctoral research at Washington University in St. Louis.

The Shaw Scientist Awards, supported by the James D. and Dorothy Shaw Fund at the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, were created in 1982 and have provided more than $11 million to support the cutting-edge research at the two institutions.

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(CONTACT: Hao Zhang, 414-229-1165, [email protected].)