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Oct. 30, 2019

Briggs undergrad researcher wins award at international conference

For senior Hasaan Hayat, a Lyman Briggs student with dual majors in neuroscience and human biology, the opportunity to work in a cutting-edge laboratory as an undergraduate researcher both confirmed his interests in technology and medicine and helped illuminate his career path.

For about a year, Hayat has been contributing to research in the lab of Ping Wang, an affiliate with MSU’s Precision Health Program, or PHP. Precision medicine, a component of PHP, is a fairly recent field of biomedicine. This field develops personalized, patient-specific therapies and treatments, often incorporating tools like molecular imaging, nanoparticle technology and artificial intelligence to produce better outcomes for patients.

Through research like that of Wang, tools and technologies can be developed to detect disease sooner and treat it earlier, achieving better outcomes and reducing healthcare costs. PHP at MSU aims to transform the approach to healthcare from reactive to proactive by focusing on disease prediction, prevention and early detection.

Hayat has been interested in technology and human biology for as long as he can remember. After he joined Wang’s lab, he became especially intrigued by the use of artificial intelligence, or AI, in the field of precision medicine.

“As a child, I only dreamed of working on such technology myself due to its complexity and mass potential, but I also feared it, thanks to dystopian films such as ‘Terminator’ and ‘iRobot’ where the sentient machine is always portrayed as the bad guy,” he said. “However, I find that AI can be a crucial, beneficial tool for analysis and monitoring of patients in a more modern field of medicine, specifically in oncology, radiology and stem-cell transplants.”

Researching in Wang’s lab has provided Hayat a unique platform to investigate the intersection of technology and biology. One specific study involved the application of deep learning in non-invasive imaging for monitoring tumor response to chemotherapy.

With help from Wang and Moore, Hayat put together an abstract of his work titled, “Molecular imaging and analysis of uMUC1 expression levels in response to chemotherapy in an orthotopic murine model of ovarian cancer,” and submitted it to the World Molecular Imaging Congress 2019, or WMIC 2019, in Montreal, Canada.

The WMIC 2019 program committee invited Hayat to present this research as an oral presentation, which is a high honor for the attendees. Hayat’s paper was one of the highest-rated abstracts at the conference and he won the Student Travel Award.

Hayat was grateful and energized by the experience of presenting at an international research conference.

“The congress was phenomenal. I was able to hear about some amazing research and innovations in the field of medicine and molecular imaging/biology,” he said. “Networking with knowledgeable individuals from top institutions all over the world was a highlight of the event, and I am thankful to PHP and MSU for this opportunity.”

Hayat was originally drawn to MSU for its many research opportunities, and specifically to Lyman Briggs College, because of its solid foundations in science.

“I admire Lyman Briggs for its creative and innovative approach to STEM fields, and its focus on preparing students for success in graduate school,” he said. “The faculty at Lyman Briggs are very supportive and ensure that students have a clear understanding of core scientific concepts.”

As for the future, his work with the Precision Health Program is inspiring him to go to medical school.

“I aim to pursue an M.D.-Ph.D. after I graduate, a decision that has been heavily reinforced by the research I am doing at the Precision Health Program, and my mentor and PI, Dr. Wang, who himself is an M.D.-Ph.D. I salute the cutting-edge work that is performed here,” he said. “In the future, it is a dream and vision of mine to bring novel, innovative therapies and technologies such as AI and nanomedicine to the clinic in order to provide tools for physicians to use and to improve patient outcomes.”