Justin Klein

Justin Klein
A new imaging modality to detect tumors

Justin Klein is Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and president of the Optics, Photonics and Imaging Society at UC Davis. His current research focuses on developing new biomedical imaging technology, and he recently received a two-year award from the Society for Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging.

Klein is also highly interested in harnessing advances in medical imaging to address tasks in security and defense areas such as surveillance, threat and contraband detection.

Outside of academics, he is a rock climber and (occasionally competitive) dancer.

What’s important about your research—and where do you hope to take it? 

I am doing research in the area of medical imaging, which is the field centered on using technology to peer inside the human body. Imaging has been transformative in medicine and allows clinicians to noninvasively detect and diagnose conditions and diseases ranging from broken bones to cancer to Alzheimer’s. Presently, I am working with a new modality, called Cerenkov luminescence imaging, that appears promising for improving a clinician’s power to detect small (and ordinarily undetectable) tumor remnants during resection surgery. This is important to patient health because outcomes are strongly correlated with how completely a surgeon can resect the tumor.

What are you most passionate about in your work?

As a scientist/engineer/nerd at heart, I get a real thrill out of building new things, tinkering or understanding the math that made some physicist famous. Alone, these activities are satisfying and appealing. As a romantic/artist/dreamer, building and tinkering are not enough. I am passionate about working on problems that matter. These are the human problems that shorten life or make it unbearable. Biomedical engineering is the sweet spot that allows me to combine my interests and my passion.

How will in the Business Development Fellows program help you to change the world?

My training as a biomedical engineer has empowered me to understand and tackle medical problems using engineering, physics and mathematical tools. Thus far, I have not been equipped to judge the viability of any solution I invent. I realize that a solution that can’t sustain itself is not very useful. I am already learning that solving problems that change the world requires a holistic approach: the engineered solution must be designed from the start to be economically viable and with the world in mind.

Now at midpoint in the program, what is the most important thing you have learned—and the most critical connection you have made?

I can already tell that I am beginning to think more like an entrepreneur. The program began with the UC Entrepreneurship Academy, which was a great and intense introduction into the process of starting a new business venture. We’ve had classes on forming new ventures, innovation and technology. I can say that now I have an good idea of what it looks like to start a company. The most important thing I have learned is to view the formation of a business as not a huge daunting task, but a series of numerous little tests that inch you closer to creating and marketing a viable product.

I can’t say there is any one most critical connection. Having attended many of the networking events I can say that I have made numerous critical connections with faculty and staff at the business school as well as MBA students.