Fourth SIAM Conference on Imaging Science: A Student Perspective

April 13, 2009

Without student members, SIAM wouldn't have much of a future. For this reason, SIAM News is always receptive to good articles about newsworthy student activities, programs, and events.

Such an article appears here. With a master's degree from San Diego State University and an interest in imaging science, Michelle Miller attended the SIAM Conference on Imaging Science run in conjunction with last year's SIAM Annual Meeting. She reports on sessions of various types she attended, and why they were important to her. Her impressions should be of interest to students considering attending a national meeting, to meeting organizers, and to others at the beginning of careers in imaging.

Michelle Miller

The fourth biennial SIAM Conference on Imaging Science was held in San Diego, July 7–9, jointly with the 2008 SIAM Annual Meeting. Sponsored by the SIAM Activity Group on Imaging Science, which brings together SIAM members interested in conceptual and mathematical aspects of imaging, the conference showcased many diverse applications of imaging in science, medicine, and engineering.

As a recent graduate of a master's program in applied mathematics with a special focus on numerics and imaging, I found it a treat to be exposed to the variety of applications. In the opening talk, bright and early Monday morning, Jeffrey Fessler from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, briefed us on mathematical challenges in magnetic resonance imaging. His concise yet clear depiction of the application motivated me to attend other talks related to MRI later in the conference.

One of the biggest highlights of the conference for me was the opportunity to listen to many pioneers in the field describe their work. It was fantastic to meet and talk to the authors of articles and books used in some of my classes and research. Examples include Leonid Rudin, who explained and illustrated successes achieved with total variation-based image restoration, and Stanley Osher, who described the use of nonlocal operators for image processing.

Many students and recent graduates of mathematics programs are familiar with the line, "Oh, so you study math; what exactly do you plan to do with it?" Few students have a ready answer. For me, as I explore my options in imaging science, unaware of many of the opportunities available in the field, the conference presented a medley of prospects. I enjoyed sessions on computational science and biology, especially those in which researchers described their work in building computational models of biological shapes, such as the hippocampus, in quantifying strain in the heart, and in developing methods for high-performance 3D molecular image reconstruction. I was also introduced to such topics as seismic imaging, the use of ultra-wideband synthetic aperture radar, applications of compressive imaging, reconstruction algorithms in tomographic imaging, and the use of mathematical models in vascular imaging systems.

As both a presenter and an attendee, I very much enjoyed the combined poster presentation/open discussion sessions. Each afternoon, one of the concurrent sessions featured eight presenters who gave ten-minute descriptions of their work; in the remaining 30 minutes, people had the chance to meet the presenters, look at the posters, and ask further questions. It was great to have the opportunity to discuss in detail others' research, as well as present and be able to answer questions regarding the work I had done in collaboration with my research group. It was a rewarding experience to be part of the give-and-take of knowledge and information that is intrinsic to the field of imaging science.

I attended two informative panel discussions at the conference. I have often wondered how federal agencies choreograph the identification of new research directions, and then the communication of funding opportunities and disbursement of funds. On Monday afternoon I got some answers by way of the Program Manager Panel, made up of representatives of the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research, and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, among others. Each gave details as to how his/her agency solicits new technological ideas and awards funding; in broad strokes, they also informed us of the types of technological advances they are hoping to stimulate.

The Forward Looking Panel was an especially eye-opening discussion for me. With so many recent advances in imaging science, it was a privilege to hear senior researchers in the field discuss where they see the next advances being made. It was projected, for example, that we will see increased use of manifolds in image modeling, utilization of the role of inhomogeneity in imaging in complicated environments, improvements in compression techniques, and the conversion of analog data to information without a complete reconstruction of all the data.

Throughout the three days of the conference, intriguing conversations and interactions arose during the coffee breaks, receptions, and intermissions between sessions---leaders and pioneers discussing past research and new ideas, people at all levels busily networking, and everyone reconnecting with old friends. It was fun to be present at the birth of new research ideas, new perspectives on possible solutions to old problems, and the building of collaborations for future projects. As a new member of the field of imaging science, I am excited to be part of a field that has been instrumental in so many important technological advances. The conference provided abundant evidence that imaging science is truly interdisciplinary. I look forward very much to the next one.

Michelle Miller ( presented a poster titled "Structure Enhancement Diffusion and Contour Extraction for Electron Tomography of Mitochondria" (Carlos Bazán, Michelle Miller, and Peter Blomgren) at the 2008 SIAM Conference on Imaging Science. She received a master's degree from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at San Diego State University and is currently exploring employment opportunities in the San Diego area.

Information of interest to students---about activities, prizes, careers, student chapters---can be found on the Student Page of the SIAM Web site:

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