Illinois MRI Exhibit

Illinois MRI Exhibit

An incredible legacy in magnetic resonance imaging

The Illinois MRI Exhibit at the Beckman Institute highlights the researchers who made this incredible technology possible, dating back to the middle of the 20th century.


The physical exhibit, located off the Beckman Institute Atrium, features the first two human MRI scanners, interesting artifacts, and information shared on interactive screens. The exhibit covers the past, present, and future of MRI research at Illinois.


It's open during the building's public hours.

Big Red--credit Stony Brook University

See Big Red at Beckman

Chemistry Professor Paul Lauterbur is pictured in his lab at Stony Brook University with Big Red, the world’s first human MRI scanner. The machine was delivered in 1975 but was too small to accommodate most people. A larger scanner was delivered in 1977. Lauterbur, along with  physicist Sir Peter Mansfield, won the 2003 Nobel Prize in Medicine.

Both scanners are on display at the Beckman Institute, 405 N. Mathews Ave., Urbana, Illinois.

Current MRI research at the University of Illinois

Biomedical Imaging Center

BIC 165-tmcThe Biomedical Imaging Center at the Beckman Institute is committed to the development of cutting edge techniques that combine magnetic resonance methods with other imaging techniques, including optical imaging, eye-tracking, EEG, and more.

The center houses ultra-high field, molecular, and ultrasound imaging systems, as well as two state-of-the-art 3 Tesla MAGNETOM Prisma human whole-body MRI scanners. These systems include standard and custom head coils, knee coils, body arrays, and even rat and piglet coils. For functional MRI studies, BIC has a full setup to enable investigators to perform high-quality studies.

More recent additions include a Bruker 9.4 Tesla preclinical animal MRI scanner and a shared Siemens MAGNETOM Terra 7 Tesla MRI housed at Carle Foundation Hospital.

9.4 Tesla animal MRI


Bruker 9.4 Tesla preclinical animal MRI system Eighteen University of Illinois colleges, departments, and schools, along with a generous gift from the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust, have funded the purchase of a Bruker 9.4 Tesla preclinical animal MRI system for the Beckman Institute.The under-construction acquisition will further advance Illinois as an innovator in imaging technology.

The new system delivers higher resolution imaging capabilities, enabling researchers to analyze more intricate structures and processes in the brain, and advance their ability to recommend dietary and drug interventions to improve cognition, memory, behavior, and overall brain health.


Carle Illinois Advanced Imaging Center

7T MRI scan sag_1Carle Foundation and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign launched a first-of-its-kind partnership in 2019. One result: The approved purchase of a Siemens MAGNETOM Terra 7 Tesla MRI scanner.

Carle will be one of the few clinical facilities nationwide to offer this advanced technology to patients. The scanner will be located at Carle and represents the first such scanner to be placed in a community health setting. The MRI also will be used by the partnership for translational research.

The scanner will provide the highest magnetic field imaging strength commercially available in the U.S. approved by the Food and Drug Administration for brain and knee scans.

Carle and the University of Illinois also will partner to employ its research capabilities with the scanner’s dual-mode functionality enabling users to switch between clinical and research tasks, while storing clinical and research images on different databases.

“Working together, the two organizations will conduct research at the frontiers of modern neuroscience — discovering new properties of the human brain,” said Tracey Wszalek, the director of the Beckman Biomedical Imaging Center.

Harnessing new technology in biomedical imaging

MRI scan connectivityMagnetic resonance imaging has been an important scientific tool for decades. In recent years, newer biological imaging tools have become increasingly useful in a wide range of disciplines.

These imaging tools provide never-before-seen views of the biological world — both for scientific research and for medical purposes, such as diagnosis and therapy.

Beckman Institute researchers are at the forefront of this imaging revolution.

Beckman researchers both develop and use functional MRI to link neural physiology to cognitive function by measuring blood flow in activated areas of the brain.

The researchers are advancing ultrasound techniques, and using them for things like visualizing the distribution of blood vessels and measure oxygen levels in tumors and understanding ultrasonic communications with implanted medical devices through tissue.

Other institute researchers are developing their own distinct technologies and processes. For example, those working with optical coherence tomography are studying how to use light waves to instantly and noninvasively image tissue. And others work with spatial light interference microscopy, which can measure dynamics in live cells.

Many multimodal techniques — such as simultaneously combining MRI with optical imaging and the electrical signals generated by the brain — were pioneered at Illinois.

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