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30 August 2023

Dr Tianrui Zhao awarded Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellowship

Dr Zhao has been awarded the prestigious Fellowship for his research into new methods of photoacoustic imaging to improve the diagnosis of breast cancer.

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Research Associate from the School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences, Dr Tianrui Zhao has been awarded a Research Fellowship from the Royal Academy of Engineering for his research into ultra-deep-tissue imaging methods to improve the diagnosis of breast cancer.

The RAEng Fellowship is a pivotal stride in my career journey. It will strengthen my independence and allow me to focus on my proposed projects, improving my innovation skills and technical ability. It will also give me valuable opportunities to improve my leadership, project management, and collaboration skills. I am pleased to be in receipt of such resources that will shape my journey as a future leader within my research domain.

Dr Tianrui Zhao, Research Fellow & recipient of the Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellowship

Dr Zhao explains that current breast cancer diagnosis methods such as mammography, ultrasound, and MRI are not always reliable in discovering whether an abnormality is cancerous or not. With the advent of photoacoustic imaging devices, doctors can see more detailed information that can be particularly helpful in identifying dangerous tumours. However, handheld photoacoustic probes are currently limited by their restricted ability to view tissue at depths greater than 2cm.

Dr Zhao aims to solve this problem by combining photoacoustic imaging with emerging wavefront-shaping technology to create a device that can navigate light delivery more efficiently to tissue in deeper regions of the chest. The developed system will provide clinicians with critical information to aid in breast cancer diagnoses and is also expected to reduce the number of false positives and the need for unnecessary biopsies, ultimately saving medical resources for the NHS.

We are delighted to receive the announcement about Tianrui's Fellowship with the Royal Academy of Engineering. His accomplishment truly reflects our commitment to engineering better health and to affecting positive change in patient care pathways. Tianrui's research is addressing a pivotal area in imaging sciences and we are pleased that the Academy will play a key role in supporting the success of his impactful work.

Professor Sebastien Ourselin FREng FMedSci, Head of School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences

Tianrui is an exceptional researcher, and it is wonderful to see his work recognized by the Royal Academy of Engineering. I am pleased that he has received the support he deserves to advance his studies and look forward to witnessing his continued success within the Fellowship programme.

- Professor Jo Hajnal FREng, Professor of Imaging Scienes, School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences


Dr Zhao says he is looking forward to connecting with academics, biochemists, and roboticists to expand the application of his work into areas such as drug delivery and image-guided surgery.

"I am so happy to hear about Dr Tianrui Zhao’s Fellowship award from the Royal Academy of Engineering. It has been such a great pleasure to work with Tianrui over the last few years and I am looking forward to supporting him among other colleagues in the School", said Senior Lecturer Dr Wenfeng Xia, who worked closely with Dr Zhao on his research.

I am delighted to see the range of backgrounds and experiences represented from within this cohort of Research Fellowships. This breadth and diversity of new thought, scholarship and training will help deliver innovative solutions to meet the needs of our global communities. I am excited to see how these amazing researchers, at the start of their careers, will help to change the world

Professor Jonathan Cooper FREng FRSE, Chair of the RAEng Research Fellowships Steering Group


The RAEng Research Fellowships programme supports outstanding early-career researchers to become future research leaders in engineering. In addition to direct financial support, the scheme provides an opportunity to establish a research track record and benefit from mentoring and networking support from the Academy. The School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences provides pathways to support the journeys of candidates wishing to pursue the opportunity.

In this story

Sebastien Ourselin

Professor of Healthcare Engineering

Jo Hajnal

Professor of Imaging Science

Wenfeng  Xia

Senior Lecturer and School Lead (International)

Tianrui Zhao

Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellow