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UTA bioengineering professor named Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering

Friday, January 8, 2016 • Media Contact: Herb Booth

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Hanli Liu, a University of Texas at Arlington bioengineering professor and nationally recognized expert in brain imaging, has been named a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering.

Hanil Liu

Hanil Liu, a UTA bioengineering professor, was named a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering.

Liu joined the UTA College of Engineering in 1996 and has secured more than $11 million in research funding during her career. Her work is focused on medical instrumentation and imaging, minimally invasive and noninvasive spectroscopy and imaging of tissue, optical diffuse imaging for cancer prognosis, and brain activities.

The Institute specifically recognized Liu’s “significant contributions to the development of near infrared spectroscopy/imaging and their broad applications for biomedicine.” She will be formally inducted into the Institute’s College of Fellows on April 4 during a ceremony at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C.

“It is very comforting and encouraging that my persistent efforts over the past 25 years are well recognized and rewarded by one of the most respected scientific organizations in my field,” Liu said. “This recognition is very important to me personally, and it also demonstrates to many young scientists and junior faculty members that, in spite of original nationality and/or various educational backgrounds, many of us can achieve our professional successes and make our dreams come true if we believe in ourselves and make sincere efforts.”

Liu joins Michael Cho, chair of the UTA Bioengineering Department, Khosrow Behbehani, dean of the UTA College of Engineering, and UTA bioengineering professors Charles Chuong and Liping Tang as fellows of AIMBE.

The American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering represents 50,000 individuals and the top 2 percent of medical and biological engineers. The College of Fellows consists of the top 2 percent of AIMBE members.

Cho said, “Dr. Liu’s accomplishments span beyond the worlds of bioengineering and medicine. Her research in brain imaging really speaks to what bioengineering can do to advance diagnostics and potential treatment for brain diseases.”

Behbehani said Liu’s honor is “a very well-deserved honor and recognition of her accomplishments.”

“Her contributions to the field of optical medical imaging are many, and her research continues to help people to live better lives,” he said. “Her tireless contributions to the College have significantly contributed to our strength in bioengineering, and I am happy that she has been recognized at the highest level of her field.”

Liu credited her colleagues, collaborators, and graduate students for helping her achieve the honor, but expressed special thanks to Robert Eberhart, who hired her 20 years ago and believed in her even though she wasn’t sure she could handle the job. Eberhart is a UTA bioengineering professor emeritus and was chair of the joint UT Southwestern/UTA Graduate Bioengineering Program from 1983-2000.

“Taking the job at UTA was exciting, but also challenging. Bioengineering is very multidisciplinary, requiring solid knowledge from both engineering and biology/medicine, but I earned all of my degrees in physics and applied physics,” Liu said. “I also am grateful to my former department chair and current dean, Khosrow Behbehani, and former Dean Bill Carroll, who supported me strongly so that I could concentrate on my professional development over the years.”

Liu has studied traumatic brain injuries extensively with her collaborator, Alexa Smith-Osborne, an associate professor in UTA’s School of Social Work. They have developed a portable brain-mapping device that allows them to “see” where memory fails student veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

That research led the team to discover that shining low-level light on the brain by placing the light source on the skull can stimulate and energize neurons to function more effectively. When cells are stimulated with light, they remain stimulated for a lengthy period of time even after the light is removed. The approach differs from other therapies that use magnets or electric shocks and has the potential to yield effective, longer-lasting treatments.

Liu’s previous projects include a 2010 National Institutes of Health grant of almost $1 million to investigate a minimally invasive method of screening and diagnosing prostate cancer using a multichannel optical imaging system. She also won a 2009 Department of Defense Prostate Research Program grant to develop an optical detection system that allows physicians to find lesions that may have cancer, correctly estimate the cancer’s severity and identify tiny, low-grade cancers not likely to cause problems.

This month, Liu signed a contract to assist UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Texas Institute for Brain Injury and Repair with a traumatic brain injury study.

Liu is a member of the UTA Academy of Distinguished Scholars and also is a member of The Optical Society and SPIE, the international optical engineering society.

About The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of more than 51,000 students in campus-based and online degree programs and is the second-largest institution in The University of Texas System. The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked UTA as one of the 20 fastest-growing public research universities in the nation in 2014. U.S. News & World Report ranks UTA fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. The University is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is ranked as the top four-year college in Texas for veterans on Military Times’ 2016 Best for Vets list. Visit to learn more, and find UTA rankings and recognition at

-- Written by Jeremy Agor