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Grace McIlvain conducts research in quantitative medical imaging techniques and applications. Her laboratory focuses on the development of a technique called magnetic resonance elastography (MRE), which is a noninvasive MRI method for assessing the mechanical properties of soft tissues. MRE has many applications for understanding neurodegenerative disease, traumatic brain injury, and tumor pathology. Dr. McIlvain is known for her contributions in the development of pediatric brain MRE techniques, including developing fast acquisition and motion robust MRE imaging. She uses her techniques to characterize tissue mechanical properties of the developing brain and neurodevelopmental pathology.  


The goal of the lab is to advance quantitative brain imaging techniques for studying tissue mechanical properties noninvasively. Our engineering lab designs MR compatible hardware, works on MR sequence programing, uses machine learning for image analysis, and conducts mechanical testing of tissue.

We apply our techniques in a clinical setting through partnerships with the Columbia Department of Radiology Neurological Institute. Our current objectives are to inform treatment of pediatric gliomas -- which are softer than normal brain tissue -- by assessing tumor mechanical heterogeneity, tumor mechanical margins, and severity of mechanical deficits. Additionally, we aim to characterize how the integrity of white matter changes with disease progression in pediatric relapsing-remitting MS, and we aim to characterize tissue mechanical properties in children with hydrocephalus. 

We also use our techniques to study brain mechanical development in healthy children with our colleagues at the Zuckerman Mind Brain and Behavior Institute. Regional brain mechanical properties are highly sensitive to cognitive function in the realms of language development, memory, and even adolescent risk-taking tendencies. Mechanical properties reflect tissue structural integrity and composition and can be leveraged as a sensitive metric for understanding neurodevelopment.


Dr. McIlvain has an M.B.A. and a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Delaware. She was a postdoctoral fellow at Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology, and she is a Junior Fellow of the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine. 

Grace McIlvain
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