Author: Wick Eisenberg

Alycen Wiacek, a PhD candidate in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), has been selected as a Siebel Scholar for 2022, an award that recognizes her as being among the world’s top graduate students in terms of academic performance and demonstrated leadership in the fields of business, bioengineering, computer science, and energy science. Siebel Scholars receive a financial award of $35,000 to support their final year of studies.

Wiacek, who is a member of ECE John C. Malone Assistant Professor Muyinatu Bell’s Photoacoustic & Ultrasonic Systems Engineering (PULSE) Lab, is joined by four other Hopkins students in being selected as a Siebel Scholar.

“I am incredibly honored and proud to be named a Siebel Scholar. Every year at Hopkins when I see the announcement of Siebel Scholars, I am amazed by their accomplishments,” Wiacek said. “To be a part of this outstanding group of researchers, not only at Hopkins, but across the country is an incredible honor. This award positions me to focus on my goal of expanding access to early cancer detection technologies and I am thrilled to build upon this goal as I complete my PhD and beyond, striving to use engineering to make positive impacts on patient care.”

Wiacek’s research focuses on ultrasound and photoacoustic imaging technology in breast radiology and minimally invasive gynecologic surgery. Closely related to ultrasound, photoacoustic imaging is a new imaging method that relies on pulsed laser light to produce sound waves within the body. These sound waves can be received by standard ultrasound probes and processed to form images.

Instead of using the traditional, simple approach to image formation, Wiacek’s research looks to process those received ultrasound signals in alternate ways – by using advanced signal processing and machine learning techniques – to create different types of images that help radiologists and surgeons in their decision-making. For example, these techniques can determine whether a suspicious breast mass is a fluid-filled cyst that can be disregarded or a solid cancerous mass that needs to be biopsied. Similar techniques can be used to convert distance measurements from photoacoustic images to audio outputs that warn surgeons operating too closely to critical structures.

“Alycen is an outstanding scholar who is highly deserving of this recognition. I am very pleased with the research progress she has made since her arrival to my lab in 2017,” Bell said. “Together, in close collaboration with radiologists and surgeons at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, we have pushed the frontiers of new possibilities for ultrasound and photoacoustic imaging applications in women’s health. In addition to excelling in her research endeavors, Alycen also excels in leadership, mentorship, teaching, and volunteer activities within and outside of my lab. Overall, Alycen is a well-rounded individual who is poised to continue making a positive impact on our society.”

In addition to being named a Siebel Scholar, Wiacek was also recently selected as a scholar by the Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS) Foundation. She was also selected to present her work at the upcoming 2021 Rising Stars in EECS in EECS, a virtual workshop hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Department of EECS from October 14-15, 2021.

Click here for full Hub article about all 2022 Hopkins Siebel Scholars.