Beckman Institute has calendars on the brain

By Kristen Sackley

The public will now be able to look into the heads of some important people on the University’s campus, thanks to the Biomedical Imaging Center’s brain calendar, which will be available for sale in November.

The Biomedical Imaging Center, 2100 S. Goodwin Ave., is a division of the Beckman Institute and is marketing the first-ever brain calendar that holds magnetic resonance images of brains, giving an artistic look inside some people’s heads.

Pierre Wiltzius, director of the Beckman Institute, said the main goal of the calendar is to raise awareness of what the Biomedical Imaging Center and the Beckman Institute can do.

“It was intended to showcase the kind of things that Beckman is capable of doing and to highlight the things Beckman can do in addition to the kinds of things this campus should be proud of,” said Tracey Wszalek, associate director of the Biomedical Imaging Center.

Wszalek has spearheaded the project since it began about a year ago. Wsazlek said a group from the Biomedical Imaging Center was talking about how great it would be if people on campus realized what great studies and cutting-edge technology were occurring at the center and at Beckman Institute, and when someone mentioned the movie “Calendar Girls.” The idea sprang from there.

“We thought, ‘wouldn’t it be great; we should do a brain calendar,’ and it grew from there,” Wszalek said.

The calendar will have a different person featured each month, with an image of their brain and an explanation of the highlighted part of the brain and how it correlates to the person. Some months include Chancellor Richard Herman, Head Coach of the University’s women’s basketball team Theresa Grentz and two seniors from the Campus Honors program, Jennifer Gover and Meena Babu, Wszalek said.

Wszalek said that originally Dee Brown was to be included in the calendar, but since the calendar has quickly gained so much national and international attention and inquiries to buy it, the center had to look into NCAA policy.

“NCAA restrictions require that we don’t sell it anywhere except directly from Beckman, and we’re not sure that we could have limited it that much,” Wszalek said.

Wszalek said that in order to make sure the calendar was a success, they needed to have an artistic designer and marketing coordinator because people at the Beckman Institute are primarily dedicated to research and science. This was a little hard to organize at first because Beckman is in the process of hiring a new external affairs and publications coordinator, Wszalek said.

“(University spokeswoman) Robin Kaler has been an enormous help to us, out of the Chancellor’s office, to help us put a lot of things in place,” Wszalek said.

Emily Wee, assistant director of the Biomedical Imaging Center, said that it was necessary to promote the center in a fun way.

The idea for the center came from Nobel Prize winner Paul Lauterbur, whose work at the University helped him develop magnetic resonance imaging technology. Lauterbur was one of the first scientists to use nuclear magnetic resonance in collaboration with medicine. He eventually ended up creating the first magnetic resonance imaging scanner, according to the University’s Department of Chemistry.

Wszalek said all of the candidates got their scans through a 3T Siemens Magnetom Allegra MR Headscanner at the center.

Nancy Dodge, an MRI technologist at the center, said she prepares the client and runs the scanner throughout the series. Each MRI session for the purposes of the calendar takes about 30 minutes total, with three sets of 10 minutes each, Wiltzius said.

Wee said that in order to make the participant more comfortable during the session, they are usually able to watch a movie or listen to music while inside the machine.

Wszalek said the calendar would be available for about $12 to $15 online at the Beckman Institute Web site, locations around campus including bookstores and in some places in Chicago.

“It’s easy to be on this campus and not realize what kind of cutting-edge science goes on; this was a fun way to shine the light on cutting-edge science,” Wszalek said.