Prof. J. Thomas Vaughan Elected AIMBE Fellow

Feb 16 2021 | By Holly Evarts

J. Thomas “Tommy” Vaughan, Jr, professor of biomedical engineering and radiology, director of The Columbia Magnetic Resonance Research Center, and principal investigator at Columbia's Zuckerman Institute, was elected to the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) College of Fellows. In awarding the honor, AIMBE cited his groundbreaking developments of magnetic resonance imaging, spectroscopy and fMRI technologies for applications in science and medicine.

A leading pioneer in magnetic resonance (MR) and its broad utility in science and medicine, Vaughan joined Columbia as director of research in 2016 to launch a new university-wide initiative to develop and apply MR methods and technologies to advance biomedical research and clinical diagnostics. With 52 patents to his name, Vaughan designs and builds the MRI systems that produce non-invasive high-resolution images of anatomical, metabolic, and physiological systems and functions. His inventions, which are usually licensed by the biotech and medical industries, are found in most MRI systems.

Vaughan is developing new research tools at Columbia Engineering and applying them to basic research at the Zuckerman Mind, Brain, Behavior Institute and to translational research at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

Although widely used in some countries, MRI is not available to 70% of the world’s population. One of Vaughan’s many projects is to build a system that can provide access to MRI diagnostics anywhere in the world. He, together with colleagues from the University of Minnesota and other international institutions, has received three National Institutes of Health BRAIN Initiative grants to develop and build such a system.

Another project is the development and delivery of a 9.4T human neuroimager to be located in a lab under Vaughan’s direction at the New York State Nathan Kline Institute. To be shared with Columbia and other NYC-area institutions, this will be one of the most powerful MR systems in the world for human neuroscience applications. The 9.4T magnet for this project has already arrived.

Vaughan, who has co-authored more than 140 research papers and a number of book chapters as well as several books, is a fellow of the IEEE and ISMRM societies, serves on the editorial board of NMR in Biomedicine, and is active in NIH and journal peer reviews. He is also the CTO of three small biotech businesses, including Life Service, LLC; MR Safe Devices, LLC; and MR Access, Inc.

He will join 174 colleagues of the AIMBE Fellow Class of 2021 when they are formally inducted at a ceremony on March 26 during AIMBE’s 2021 Annual Event. AIMBE’s College of Fellows is comprised of the top two percent of medical and biological engineers in the country.