Alumnus Demonstrates Significant Impact of Undergraduate Students on Biomedical Optics and Imaging Research

Kinan Alhallak
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Kinan Alhallak

This past summer, recent U of A graduate Kinan Alhallak was the first author on a scientific paper published in the Journal of Biomedical Optics entitled, "Optical imaging of radiation-induced metabolic changes in radiation-sensitive and resistant cancer cells."

Other coauthors on the paper include Kyle Quinn and Narasimhan Rajaram, both assistant professors of biomedical engineering at the U of A. In the paper, which was recently highlighted on Medical Physics Web, the authors report on their use of the optical redox ratio, a label-free method, to identify early metabolic changes in radiation-resistant lung cancer cells. There are currently no methods to determine radiation response during the 5-6 week course of treatment. Therefore, patients who do not respond favorably lose critical time when they could be switched to surgery or chemotherapy earlier in the time frame. Identifying radiation-resistant tumors within the first week of commencing treatment would allow non-responding patients to avoid the toxic side effects of ineffective therapy.

Alhallak, who is now pursuing his doctorate in biomedical engineering at the Washington University in St. Louis, was also the lead author on a paper published last November in Biomedical Optics Express. Coauthors of the paper entitled, "Optical redox ratio identifies metastatic potential-dependent changes in breast cancer cell metabolism," include Quinn and Rajaram, as well as Timothy Muldoon, who is also an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the U of A. This work formed the basis of Alhallak's senior honors thesis.

Professor Rajaram said, "Kinan was the first student in my lab and he started his sophomore year. Over the course of nearly three years, his research productivity has been phenomenal. Before he graduated and left the U of A, he also completed a third manuscript that is a follow up to his recent paper on radiation resistance."

In addition to journal publications, Kinan has presented his work at four conferences, received a research grant from the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery, a travel award from Seahorse Biosciences, and the Biomedical Engineering Department's Jean R. Ostermeier Memorial Cancer Research Award.

Alhallak said, "None of my accomplishments at the University of Arkansas would've been possible without my mentor, Dr. Rajaram. My productivity in his lab was powered by his never-ending energy and commitment to his students, research, and teaching. This also holds true for the rest of the BME department and is demonstrated by the large number of publications being published by Arkansas BME. The U of A's ability to bring in world-class researchers will definitely pay dividends for the university and the department in the future."

"We are extremely proud of undergraduate students like Kinan, who are committed to addressing significant research problems while pursuing their undergraduate studies in biomedical engineering. Equally significant is time and effort provided by Dr. Rajaram, whose commitment and mentoring of Kinan has contributed to addressing significant questions in biomedical optics and imaging while contributing to his career development as an independent researcher," added Raj Rao, professor and department head of biomedical engineering. 


Elizabeth DeMeo, media specialist
Biomedical Engineering


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