Press Release

New USC faculty member Zhaoyang Fan bridges lab, clinic in MRI research

Wayne Lewis October 29, 2020
Zhaoyang Fan-intra
Zhaoyang Fan. (USC Photo/Richard Carrasco)

Zhaoyang Fan, PhD, will join the faculty of the Keck School of Medicine of USC as an associate professor with the departments of radiology and radiation oncology of radiology, starting Nov. 2, 2020.

Previously, he served as associate professor of biomedical sciences at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where he was also technical director of the 3-Tesla MRI in its Research Imaging Core.

Fan is an internationally recognized magnetic resonance imaging physicist, with a focus on developing new techniques to see within the body using magnetic fields and then translating those advances to improve patient care. At the Keck School of Medicine, he seeks to help cultivate further excellence in biomedical science.

“There are unique opportunities at USC,” he said. “While building my own lab, I also want to take the lead in developing a state-of-the-art, nationally recognized MRI research program that is a national leader.”

Applying his innovations for early detection of cardiovascular disease, Fan has created methods to identify narrowing of the arteries, thickening of vessel walls and blood clots in the veins — without administering a contrast agent, which can trigger allergies in some patients. For hardening of the carotid artery, Fan devised a 3D technique that produces results within 5 minutes.

One of Fan’s current projects pushes forward stroke care with the first-ever system for whole-brain imaging. He and his colleagues are gathering information about the MRI-based technology’s benefits in managing stroke patients through a multicenter clinical research registry. Other studies relate to imaging the structures and dynamics in the brain involved in multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Fan sees himself as well-positioned to collaborate widely with his peers at USC, thanks both to MRI’s many applications and to his own experience spanning basic and translational investigations.

“As a physicist, I know how MR imaging can help answer basic questions, but I also aim my research at solving clinical problems,” he said. “I look forward to being the person who can bridge that gap, at the Keck School and on the University Park campus.”

Robert Ryu, MD, professor and chair of Radiology, echoed this sentiment.

“We are all delighted to have Dr. Fan join the Department of Radiology,” he said. “Zhaoyang is a renowned imaging scientist who will help promote and cultivate scientific inquiry, not only within the department but across the entire institution. We are also very fortunate to have his unique expertise to optimize our clinical magnetic resonance imaging program.”

Alongside USC associate professor of clinical radiation oncology Wensha Yang, Fan is pursuing ways for using MRI technology to aid in targeting radiotherapy for gastrointestinal cancers, as well as evaluating the success of chemotherapy.

“Dr. Fan is a highly talented imaging researcher who will bring a wealth of expertise in the application of novel MR sequences in radiation therapy as a new research area in medical physics,” said Eric Chang, MD, professor and chair of Radiation Oncology. “All radiation therapy is currently image-guided, so any novel imaging technique that will enhance our ability to ‘see the tumor’ should lead to better targeting of the tumor, with potentially improved patient outcomes.”

Fan has published nearly 100 peer-reviewed journal articles and more than 200 conference abstracts. His inventions have garnered four patents, with four more pending. He is the principal investigator or co-PI on three active grants from the National Institutes of Health totaling more than $4 million.

He first joined Cedars-Sinai as a postdoctoral fellow in 2011, becoming an assistant professor there in 2013 and receiving a promotion to associate professor earlier this year. Since 2017, Fan has also been an assistant professor-in-residence at UCLA, with appointments in medicine and bioengineering. He earned his doctoral degree in biomedical engineering from Northwestern University in 2010 and a master’s degree in medical physics from McMaster University in Canada in 2006.

Fan has been elected a fellow of the Society for Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance and a junior fellow of the International Society for Magnetic Resonance Imaging in Medicine. He has served as a distinguished reviewer for Magnetic Resonance Imaging in Medicine and the Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging.