Zhitao Li earned his doctorate in electrical and computer engineering at the University of Arizona in 2019. His advisers were Ali Bilgin of ECE and Maria Altbach of the Department of Medical Imaging and Department of Biomedical Engineering. Now, he’s working as a postdoctoral research fellow in radiology at Stanford University.
Why did you choose to study electrical and computer engineering? What brought you to the University of Arizona?
When I was studying biomedical engineering as an undergraduate at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China, I was trying to accelerate some image processing algorithms by using a high-performance graphics processing unit, or GPU, in a medical imaging lab. I got interested in that and decided to pursue a higher degree in computer-related fields. The UA was one of the universities in the United States that I applied to, and I chose to go to here after comparing living expenses and tuition, as well as noting the strength of the UA’s ECE program.
Can you explain what your new postdoctoral position at Stanford entails?
The work I am doing in my postdoc position at Stanford carries some similarities to the work I did during my doctoral studies at the UA. It involves the modification and creation of new magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, scanning sequences that collect data in the clinic and reconstruct those collected data into human-readable tomographic images. I worked more with data collection during my PhD studies with Dr. Bilgin and Dr. Altbach. Now, at Stanford, I focus more on the reconstruction element. In particular, I am interested in using novel techniques such as machine learning and deep learning for image reconstructions, in hopes of accelerating the image reconstruction process as well as improving the final image quality.
How did your University of Arizona education prepare you for your position?
The University of Arizona is a top-tier research university, and during my time there, the university provided an enormous amount of support. For example, the university's library has subscriptions to most of the scientific journals. Sometimes it is amazing to see that through the UA I can have access to some of the smaller journals that other universities usually don't subscribe to. I think the UA created a resource-rich environment for its students and faculty to carry out world-class research. During my PhD studies with Dr. Bilgin and Dr. Altbach, I was given opportunities to travel to conferences around the world. In those conferences, I got the chance to communicate with the leaders in the field of MRI face-to-face. Those opportunities are invaluable for my research and prepared me for my future development at Stanford or anywhere else.
What was your favorite part of your time at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering?
What I enjoyed most about my time in ECE was doing research and communicating with both the faculty and my fellow students. The process of research can sometimes become repetitive, and working in the lab day and night can also make students feel lonely, which can slow down the pace of research. But both my advisers and the ECE department would regularly schedule meetings and poster sessions within the lab as well as in the department. Those events gave us the chance to socialize and see what others in the department were doing, and I enjoyed them quite a lot. There were always desserts at those events, and I enjoyed those a lot as well.