On Mondays at 10 a.m. this fall semester, graduate students in the Nanomedicine in Healthcare course at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) log into an online virtual world known as Second Life, activate their computer-generated personae or avatars and head off to class.
Waiting for them on the shore of a glistening sea is the jean-dressed avatar who teaches the class. He is surrounded by large floating screens, one of which has the “nano problem” of the week. Other boards are for PowerPoint presentations, websites and for students to write on.
Welcome to the virtual classroom of Ananth Annapragada, Ph.D., holder of the Robert H. Graham Professorship of Entrepreneurial Biomedical Informatics and Bioengineering at the UTHealth School of Biomedical Informatics and fellow at the IC² Institute, an interdisciplinary research unit of The University of Texas at Austin. He is also on the faculty of the UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and UT Austin Department of Biomedical Engineering.
Scientists studying Alzheimer’s disease at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) and the University of Houston (UH) are working on a new approach involving Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) that could aid in the detection and treatment of the disease.
It involves the detection of plaques that can develop in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease years before the onset of memory loss and other symptoms. The plaques are hard to detect with conventional medical imaging techniques.
Currently, it is difficult to concentrate enough contrast agents at the sites of the plaques to highlight them during an MRI, report project investigators Ananth Annapragada, Ph.D., the Robert H. Graham Professor of Entrepreneurial Biomedical Informatics and Bioengineering at the UTHealth School of Biomedical Informatics and Jason Eriksen, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmacology at UH.
In further recognition of the entrepreneurial culture of The University of Texas School of Health Information Sciences at Houston, a gift has been made that will provide resources for the school’s efforts in this area. This includes the establishment of a new professorship and resources to advance new collaborative, educational and funding opportunities.
Specifically the funds will provide for the creation of the Robert H. Graham Professorship in Entrepreneurial Biomedical Informatics and Bioengineering, highlighting the importance of this area to the school. Such professorships provide tangible recognition of a faculty member’s contributions and value-added status to The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. This professorship will rotate every 5 years. The initial holder is Ananth Annapragada, PhD, associate professor, who is committed to interdisciplinary innovation and has already demonstrated an entrepreneurial approach to research.