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UTA bioengineering professor Hanli Liu earns Dallas Business Journal Women in Technology Award

Friday, May 4, 2018 • Media Contact: Herb Booth

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Hanli Liu, an expert in brain imaging and a professor in the Bioengineering Department at The University of Texas at Arlington, was among 26 women named by the Dallas Business Journal as winners in the fifth annual Women in Technology Awards.

The awards, which celebrate and honor the tech mavericks who are forging the way for both women and future tech leaders in Dallas-Fort Worth, were announced April 5. Liu and her fellow honorees will be recognized at a reception May 22 at the Westin Galleria in Dallas.

Hanli Liu

Hanli Liu

“I am honored and humbled to be recognized at the Women in Technology Awards,” Liu said. “I am proud to be included alongside these brilliant women leaders as an example of the influence of women in the Dallas-Fort Worth area on their organizations and the greater community.”

Liu is a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering and a member of the UTA Academy of Distinguished Scholars. She joined UTA’s College of Engineering in 1996 and has secured more than $11 million in research funding as principal investigator or co-investigator during her career at UTA. Her research includes medical instrumentation for imaging, minimally invasive or noninvasive spectroscopy of human tissue, optical diffuse imaging of cancer and brain activities.

Her recent, technology-based research and development is related to non-invasive transcranial infrared brain stimulations or TIBS by shining low-power laser light on the human forehead. In 2016, she led a team that published groundbreaking research in Nature’s Scientific Reports that explained the underlying principle of TIBS, followed by another high-impact article in the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism. This publication has provided the first demonstration that TIBS can significantly improve metabolic activity, blood flow and blood oxygenation in the human brain.

The team’s novel and rigorous research contributes important insight into the physiological mechanisms, which may provide critical, scientific foundation for an effective, non-pharmaceutical, non-invasive, long-term intervention in the near future for treating brain disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder, using light. This direction of technology-oriented research and development matches well the federal BRAIN or Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies Initiative and led into a $2.8 million federal funding from the National Institutes of Health to the multi-institutional research team under Liu’s leadership.

Furthermore, she is currently working with a UT Southwestern neonatal intensivist to provide a portable brain imaging system and to develop advanced signal-processing techniques for very ill newborns. Her collaboration will help better measure the babies’ neurophysiology and brain networks over time, providing physicians with advanced analysis tools needed to guide treatments for encephalopathy or brain swelling more promptly and accurately, which could save the babies’ lives.

Liu’s previous projects include a nearly $1 million NIH grant to investigate a minimally invasive method of screening and diagnosing prostate cancer using a multichannel optical imaging system. She also won a $1.37 million NIH grant to develop computational optical imaging methods for monitoring anti-stroke therapy. She won 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.

Liu earned her degrees in physics and applied physics, including a doctorate in applied physics, from Wake Forest University. She has published more than 130 journal articles and 140 conference proceedings and holds a few patents, including “Optical Methods to Intraoperatively Detect Positive Prostate and Kidney Cancer Margins,” which utilizes optical spectroscopy as an innovative technique for  demonstration of renal and prostate tumors during surgery.

Peter Crouch, dean of UTA’s College of Engineering, said that the Women in Technology Award is a great honor for Liu and reflects UTA’s commitment to health and the human condition, a theme of the University’s Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions | Global Impact.

“Dr. Liu is extremely deserving of this prestigious award. She has distinguished herself as a scholar and a peerless researcher. On behalf of UTA and the College of Engineering, I extend our hearty congratulations,” Crouch said.

“Her contributions in the area of non-invasive neuromodulation using light show great promise for helping scores of people who suffer from neurological or psychological disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and similar afflictions, have a better quality of life.”

-- written by Jeremy Agor