Moving BIC into Beckman

BIC's 3T Allegra headscanner

Moving the Biomedical Imaging Center from its current home on the south end of campus into the Beckman Institute will help to expand the potential of its magnetic resonance imaging magnets and make it more accessible to users on the north end of campus.

The Biomedical Imaging Center (BIC) was founded by the late Paul Lauterbur, Nobel Prize winner for his discoveries leading to the development of magnetic resonance imaging technology, with its own building on the south end of campus. BIC became a Beckman facility in 2002 and will have all of its instruments and personnel located in the Institute by the end of 2009.

BIC associate Director Tracey Wszalek said one advantage of moving to the Beckman Institute will be to make BIC’s capabilities and equipment more visible to a wider audience of campus researchers.

“I think the biggest thing about the move is just to raise the awareness of MR on this campus,” Wszalek said. “Folks just didn’t know about us. I think having us at Beckman changes that for a lot of departments and a lot of users because before it didn’t seem accessible to them. It’s been out of sight, out of mind, and now it’s on people’s radar.”

"I think that was the goal of moving here, to make people aware that these facilities are available to them."
– Tracey Wszalek, BIC Associate Director

All of BIC’s working magnets will eventually be located in the basement, replacing some of the spaces vacated by the move of the Integrated Systems Laboratory. BIC’s 600 MHz Varian NMR system for micro-imaging and spectroscopic measurements is fully operational in the east end of the basement in room B660. In between that space and the Microscopy Suite rooms to the west will be homes for BIC’s 3 Tesla MRI magnets.

One of those is an important new acquisition – a whole-body 3T MRI scanner called the MAGNETOM Trio – will be added to BIC’s state-of-the-art magnet array in July, going into the basement space where the CAVE and the second edition of the driving simulator were located. The 3T Allegra headscanner will be the final piece to be moved from BIC to the basement, taking the area that formerly housed the Cube.

Smith said the Allegra and the Trio will have specially constructed spaces that will ensure safety and prevent vibration effects from the instruments. By cutting through an existing slab and filling in the open space with a polymer bond, Smith said a free-floating slab that is totally disassociated from the concrete slab of the adjoining spaces will be created for the magnets to be placed on, preventing vibration from them from affecting other instruments or people.

Inside of the parent wall each magnet will also be enclosed in a radio frequency (RF) shielded room, preventing RF signals from entering or exiting, and around which an acoustical dampening barrier will be built. The specially built rooms will adhere to the 5 Gauss line threshold for magnets, meaning they are shielded for people with pacemakers or other metal implants that are outside that line.

In addition to the three MRI magnets, two mock magnets – one for the Allegra headscanner magnet and one for the new Trio magnet – were installed in Beckman’s room 1215 in December. Wszalek said the mock magnets are used for training and other purposes.

“We’ll have mock magnets that look exactly like the real ones,” she said. “The mock magnets can be used for people to train their subjects, to see if people fit in the magnet, and to see if they are claustrophobic. The mock magnets will have everything the real ones have as far as sound and a goggle system and a digital presentation. So it will be as though you’re doing an experiment without the magnetic field.”

Wszalek said her full staff probably won’t relocate to Beckman until later this year when the headscanner magnet moves into the building. When they do move, she expects business to be good. Wszalek said the lone magnet installed at Beckman has already increased interest among researchers in using MR technology for their projects.

“There’s so much Beckman traffic that we’ve had a lot of people who have never used the magnet before come to us and say ‘I want to use the magnet,’” she said. “I think that was the goal of moving here, to make people aware that these facilities are available to them.”