Few people can say they have turned their favorite childhood hobby into a career. But Weili Lin, Ph.D., still spends his days taking pictures, just as he did as a kid. Only now the images he captures are of the developing brain, not rocks and dragonflies.
Lin, director of the UNC Biomedical Research Imaging Center (BRIC), uses his passion for photography to devise innovative approaches to capture the body’s internal structures.
“There are so many different parameters you can play with, just like when you take pictures you can adjust the parameters to see things in a completely different way,” says Lin.
His own research has used the latest imaging technology to chart the course of brain development in some of the tiniest of research subjects, babies from two weeks old to two years of age. Propelled by funding from the NIH Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) at UNC (NC TraCS Institute), although more studies are needed, Lin has found that several major neural wiring may be present in babies earlier than what have been thought previously.
He plans to conduct similar studies to see how development could differ between normal subjects and those at risk for neurological disorders, such as schizophrenia or autism.
“I spend a lot of time looking at how improvements in technology can help us address fundamental biological questions, and that is fun to me,” Lin says. “It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”