Kristen Maitland receives NSF CAREER Award

Maitland, KristenCOLLEGE STATION, Texas, March 20, 2013 – Kristen Maitland, assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Texas A&M University, has been awarded a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

As a recipient of the prestigious award, Maitland will receive $400,000 throughout the next five years for her research, which aims to develop an innovative optical sensing and imaging platform for basic science and translational research applications to improve public health.

Specifically, Maitland is developing optical fiber-based technology to increase sensitivity in whole-animal imaging by bringing a novel diffusing fiber excitation source closer to the pathogen in the lungs; enable high-resolution imaging in vivo in the lung co-registered with whole-animal imaging using an innovative miniaturized fiber microendoscope; and sense fluorescent bacteria at unprecedented levels using a diffuser-based probe for excitation with integrated fibers for fluorescence collection.

The fiber sensor will be developed to exploit the recent development of near infrared reporter enzyme fluorescence probes that have potential to be used for sensitive, real-time detection of tuberculosis in humans.

The development of this sensing and imaging technology, Maitland says, is expected to have a transformational impact on the understanding of early stage bacterial infections and on detection of bacteria in vivo, which will greatly benefit society.

Maitland completed her undergraduate studies and master’s degree at California Polytechnic State University in 2002, and earned her Ph.D. at The University of Texas at Austin in 2006.

At Texas A&M, Maitland’s research focuses on the design, construction and testing of multi-modal, multi-scale, multi-dimensional and high-speed optical imaging systems for preclinical and clinical, in vivo and in situ imaging. Due to the multidisciplinary nature of this research, her laboratory works in close collaboration with clinicians and biologists to understand the fundamental basis of biomedical problems to drive the design of optical systems.

Her specific projects include FLIM and reflectance confocal microscopy for early cancer detection, large-area confocal imaging to investigate inflammation and cancer pathogenesis, fiber-based fluorescence imaging to study bacterial pathogenesis, and head-mounted fluorescence imaging to investigate neural coding in songbirds.

The CAREER Award was established to support junior faculty within the context of their overall career development, combining in a single program the support of research and education of the highest quality and in the broadest sense. Through this program, the NSF emphasizes the importance on the early development of academic careers dedicated to stimulating the discovery process in which the excitement of research is enhanced by inspired teaching and enthusiastic learning.