Vanderbilt’s Will Grissom Joins Foundation Fellowship Program


Will Grissom, PhD, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Vanderbilt University, has joined the Foundation team as our newest Fellow. Grissom, who works at the Vanderbilt University Institute of Imaging Science (VUIIS), will be consulting remotely from Nashville, Tennessee, on a number of translational projects to validate existing methods and enable clinical adoption.

GrissomGrissom has been in the MR-guided focused ultrasound field for nine years and has developed several MRI temperature image reconstruction algorithms, pulse sequences for temperature imaging, and methods for autofocusing ultrasound through bone using MR imaging feedback. During his postdoctoral work, he collaborated with Stanford University interventional MRI and MR-guided focused ultrasound pioneer Kim Butts Pauly, PhD, to develop methods to treat liver, prostate, and brain tumors. He continued this work as a research engineer at GE in close collaboration with Israeli manufacturer Insightec.

At Vanderbilt, Grissom works with collaborators Charles Caskey, John Gore, and Li Min Chen on focused ultrasound neuromodulation projects and advises a group of four graduate and four undergraduate students in focused ultrasound and related interventional MRI research projects.

During this Foundation fellowship, Grissom will work to improve the quality of the MR brain images used to monitor temperature during focused ultrasound neurosurgery.

“One of the big challenges we face is monitoring temperature over the whole brain with a high frame rate to make sure we are heating just the targeted tissue while sparing tissues farther away,” explains Grissom. “My group and several others have proposed new MR scan techniques to meet this need, but they have never been compared in a fair way to determine which method is superior. Making that comparison is the first task I’ll complete.”

Grissom will also work to reduce MR image degradation due to the presence of the water bath that is used to cool the skull during focused ultrasound neurosurgery. A third project will test a new MR scanning approach to increase the volume of brain tissue that can be monitored for temperature.

“The Foundation staff has invaluable firsthand knowledge of the technical challenges in focused ultrasound as well as a great sense of what projects will and won’t have an impact on the field,” says Grissom. “One of the most exciting things for me about this Fellowship is that I have the opportunity to work with the Foundation and manufacturers. Getting the companies’ input with my projects helps ensure that the imaging tools I’m building will make it into clinical use, where they can improve patient outcomes and enable new kinds of treatments.”

Grissom began his fellowship work with the Foundation in August and is expected to complete his projects over the course of 12 months. He will work primarily from Vanderbilt University but will travel to the Foundation’s offices periodically to work directly with the team.