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Muyinatu Bell is recognized internationally for her pioneering work in medical imaging technology, specifically ultrasound and photoacoustic imaging, photoacoustic-guided surgery, robot-assisted imaging, machine learning for image formation, and other cutting-edge techniques created to significantly advance healthcare interventions and diagnosis. She is the John C. Malone Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, with a joint appointment in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and a secondary appointment in the Department of Computer Science.

Bell, who founded and directs the Photoacoustic and Ultrasonic Systems Engineering (PULSE) Lab at Johns Hopkins University, developed and patented the world’s first short-lag spatial coherence (SLSC) beamformer for ultrasound data. She leads her team in creating several innovations, including the first software to train computers to remove “noisy” background information from ultrasounds to provide interventional radiologists with a new and clearer type of ultrasound image that only displays structures of interest, such as a needle tip or a tumor. She received the Trailblazer Award (2018) from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering for this high-risk, high-impact innovation.

Another groundbreaking project is the exploration of photoacoustic imaging systems for surgical guidance, work that led to Bell being named one of MIT Technology Review’s “35 Innovators Under 35” (2016), Maryland’s Outstanding Young Engineer (2019), and an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow (2019). Bell’s PULSE Lab-created novel uses of optical fibers for photoacoustic sensing of blood vessels, nerves, and other major structures are otherwise hidden from a surgeon’s immediate view to eliminating surgical complications caused by accidental injury to these structures. Her lab also introduced the concept of teleoperated photoacoustic-guided surgery using the da Vinci surgical system, the first study of its kind combining photoacoustic imaging and minimally invasive robotic surgeries to improve accuracy.

In addition to her three departmental appointments in the JHU Whiting School of Engineering, Bell is affiliated with Hopkins’ Carnegie Center for Surgical Innovation, Laboratory for Computational Sensing Robotics, Malone Center for Engineering in Healthcare, and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Department of Oncology at the Kimmel Cancer Center. She is a fellow with the Hopkins Extreme Materials Institute, completed a postdoctoral fellowship with the Hopkins Engineering Research Center for Computer-Integrated Surgical Systems and Technology (2016), and was a Whitaker International Fellow at the Institute of Cancer Research and Royal Marsden Hospital in the U.K. (2009-2010).

Bell is the recipient of numerous awards, grants, and fellowships, among them the National Science Foundation CAREER Award (2018), the National Institutes of Health K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award (2015), and the Johns Hopkins Discovery Award (2018). In 2018, the National Academy of Engineering invited Bell to participate in the U.S. Frontiers of Engineering Symposium. Bell has published more than 60 scientific journal articles and conference papers and holds patents for the SLSC beamformer, photoacoustic-guided surgery, and machine learning approaches to beamforming, with multiple pending patent applications.

She is a Lifetime Member of SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, a Lifetime Member of Optica (formerly the Optical Society of America, OSA), and a member of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES), the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Within IEEE, she holds various memberships in the Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics, and Frequency Control Society and the Robotics and Automation Society.

Her numerous conference presentations include the keynote address for the 2019 International Conference on Medical Imaging with Deep Learning and the 2018 keynote address for the OSA-sponsored Conference on Optics, Atoms, and Laser Applications (KOALA), Listening to the Sound of Light to Guide Surgeries. Bell’s professional service is equally extensive, among them, organizing the 2019 Special Session on Advances in Ultrasound Imaging Technology for the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM), chairing the Biomedical Imaging and Instrumentation track for the 2019 BMES conference, helping to organize several IEEE conferences, and championing Women in Engineering/Diversity for the IEEE Ultrasonics Standing Committee.

In addition to reviewing articles for numerous journals, she is an associate editor for IEEE Transactions on Medical Imaging, an associate editor for Photoacoustics, and an associate editor for Ultrasonic Imaging. She has also served as an associate editor and associate editor-in-chief for IEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics Ferroelectrics and Frequency Control, and she guest-edited “Deep Learning in Medical Ultrasound–From Image Formation to Image Analysis,” in IEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics Ferroelectrics and Frequency Control.

Bell earned a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering with a Biomedical Engineering minor from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from Duke University, and completed postdoctoral research in computer science at Johns Hopkins University.

Selected Awards and Honors

  • 2024 Optica Fellow
  • 2023, SPIE Fellow
  • 2022, IEEE Ultrasonics Early Career Investigator Award
  • 2022, AIMBE Fellow
  • 2021, SPIE Early Career Achievement Award
  • 2020, IEEE UFFC Star Ambassador Lectureship Award
  • 2019, Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow
  • 2019, Maryland’s Outstanding Young Engineer Award
  • 2019, ORAU Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award
  • 2018, NSF CAREER Award
  • 2018, NIH Trailblazer Award
  • 2018, Johns Hopkins Discovery Award
  • 2016, MIT Technology Review, 35 Innovators Under 35
  • 2015, Best Paper Award Honorable Mention, IEEE International Conference on Advanced Robotics
  • 2015, NIH K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award
  • 2013, Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship
  • 2012, UNCF-Merck Postdoctoral Research Fellowship
  • 2011, UNCF-Merck Graduate Research Dissertation Fellowship
  • 2009, Whitaker International Fellowship