Grace McIlvain

Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering

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.

Research Interests

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Magnetic Resonance Elastography (MRE), Soft Tissue Biomechanics, Neurodevelopment, Neuroscience, Translational/Clinical Research, MR Sequence Development, Image Reconstruction, Machine Learning, Developmental Disabilities

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. 


Professional Experience

Assistant Professor, Biomedical Engineering, Columbia University, 2024-

Research Experience

Postdoctoral Fellow, Emory University/Georgia Institute of Technology

Professional Affiliations

•    International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine (ISMRM), Junior Fellow
•    Organization of Human Brain Mapping (OHBM)
•    Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES)     
•    Radiological Society of North America (RSNA)
•    American Society of Pediatric Neuroradiology (ASPNR)

Honors & Awards

F32 Ruth L. Kirschstein Postdoctoral Individual National Research Service Grant Award, 2023

T32 Training Grant Postdoctoral Fellowship from NHLBI, 2023

NIH Outstanding Scholars in Neuroscience Award, 2022

Junior Fellow, ISMRM, 2022

F31 Ruth L. Kirschstein Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Grant Award, 2020

Select Publications

•    G McIlvain, JM Schneider, MA Matyi, MDJ McGarry, JM Spielberg, Z Qi, CL Johnson “Mapping Brain Mechanical Property Maturation from Childhood to Adulthood”, NeuroImage, 2022, 263, 119590.
•    G McIlvain, A Cerjanic, AG Christodoulou, MDJ McGarry, CL Johnson, “OSCILLATE: A Low-Rank Approach for Accelerated Magnetic Resonance Elastography”, Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, 2022 88(4), 1659-1672.
•    G McIlvain, MDJ McGarry, CL Johnson, “Effects of Off-Resonant Related Geometric Distortion on Brain Mechanical Property Estimation through Magnetic Resonance Elastography”, NMR in Biomedicine, 2022; 35, e4616.
•    G McIlvain, RG Clements, EM Magoon, JM Spielberg, EH Telzer, CL Johnson, “Viscoelasticity of reward and control systems in adolescent risk taking”. NeuroImage, 2020, 215, 116850.
•    G McIlvain, JB Tracy, CA Chaze, DA Petersen, HG Wright, F Miller, JR Crenshaw, CL Johnson, “Brain Stiffness Relates to Dynamic Balance Reaction Performance in Children with Cerebral Palsy”, Journal of Child Neurology, 2020; 35, 463-471. 
•    G McIlvain, E Ganji, C Cooper, ML Killian, BA Ogunnaike, CL Johnson, “Reliable preparation of agarose phantoms for use in quantitative magnetic resonance elastography,” Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials, 2019; 97, 65-73.
•    G McIlvain, H Schwarb, NJ Cohen, EH Telzer, CL Johnson, "Mechanical Properties of the In Vivo Adolescent Human Brain," Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 2018; 34:27-33.