Animal imaging researcher wins award for contributions to oncology research
The International Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine awarded Natalie J. Serkova, PhD, the 2021 Senior Fellow Award for her work in animal imaging for oncology research.
“I was humbled and ecstatic to receive this award, which is from my alma mater — the International Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, the largest and most prominent MRI society of which I was a member since my graduate work,” Serkova, director of the Animal Imaging Shared Resource at University of Colorado Cancer Center, said during an interview with Healio. “They supported me as a student with travel scholarships and free educational workshops. To receive this award means that my contributions really matter to the MRI world. It shows that our work is recognized by the some of the best imaging scientists and physicians in the world.”
The award recognizes her leadership in the field of preclinical MRI and her significant contributions to functional and molecular MRI in cancer, according to a press release.
Serkova spoke with Healio about the research that she has been conducting on animal imaging and the ways it contributes to oncology research, how she got into the field and where her career has taken her so far.
Healio: What led you to become involved in animal imaging and oncology research?
Serkova: Since high school, I was fascinated by the ability to see inside the brain with MRI and to do so quickly, reliably and without any intervention to see a tumor very early on — especially in children because who does not want to prevent and cure pediatric brain cancer? Also, a friend of mine was diagnosed with brain cancer as a child, and she underwent MRI and I was fascinated to see how sophisticated and noninvasive the technology was and how quickly the physician was able to follow-up on her diagnosis, as well as the success of her treatment. This is a great combination of science, physics and medicine.
It is quite common to develop the technology first in animal models, depending upon the organ type. Most of the large imaging facilitates have preclinical animal imaging to help in developing the novel advanced imaging protocol to later translate into clinical human trials. Animal imaging was nonexistent at University of Colorado before I was recruited in 2003.
Healio: What has your career been like so far?
Serkova: My training has been in both human and animal imaging. I am so thankful to have the great mentors and colleagues that I have had in my education and training.
After my graduate training in one of the best MRI facilities in Germany, I completed my postdoctoral training at Stanford and University of California, San Francisco. I was then recruited to University of Colorado to build a preclinical animal imaging program similar to those at Stanford and UCSF. As of today, this mission has been successfully completed.
Healio: What is your ultimate hope for the research that you are conducting?
Serkova: My hope is that this research helps families and children with brain cancer by translating our advanced MRI diagnostics from animal models of disease to our pediatric patients. Also, I hope to make sure that all my colleagues in the Rocky Mountain region who conduct amazing cancer research have easy access to the most sophisticated imaging equipment here in Denver, Colorado. We will try and expand our research in animal imaging to other areas. It is important that all researchers in our surrounding areas collaborate and have access to this type of imaging technology for their research.
Healio: Is there anything else that you would like to mention?
Serkova: Although it is wonderful to have your own awards and achievements, it is important to recognize the team that helped you get those awards. Behind any great woman is a great team who supports and encourages her, and any achievement is even bigger if you share it with your team.
For more information:
Natalie Serkova, PhD, can be reached at email@example.com.