Researcher Spotlight: Ferdinand Schweser, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Neurology, Radiology, and Biomedical Engineering at the University at Buffalo, Ferdinand Schweser, Ph.D., is a member of BNAC’s leadership team and continues to make significant contributions to the field of neuroimaging. His expertise lies in the MRI technique called quantitative susceptibility mapping (QSM) and its application in studying the relationship between brain iron and MS.
QSM measures the interactions between the strong magnetic field of an MRI and the iron present in brain tissues. This technique calculates the distribution of iron in the brain by analyzing the magnetization effect caused by iron as it reacts to MRI. Dr. Schweser has explored the method’s application in parallel with other brain components, such as myelin, for improved lesion characterization in MS.
Dr. Schweser's journey with BNAC began when he was working on his Ph.D. in Germany, focusing on the development of QSM. He came across a paper written by a former BNAC researcher who utilized a related brain iron measurement technique. The technique in the paper relied on the same raw data that Dr. Schweser needed for QSM.
Raw imaging data of this type is rarely available so he knew he needed to connect with the BNAC team. Intrigued by the potential of utilizing BNAC's extensive collection of clinical data, Dr. Schweser reached out to BNAC Director Dr. Robert Zivadinov.
“When I saw the paper I said wow,” said Schweser. “BNAC has an extensive repository of long-term MS data available nowhere else in the world. We had no relationship with BNAC prior to that. Everything changed when I read the BNAC paper.”
This initial contact led to a collaborative effort, during which Dr. Schweser traveled to Buffalo and partnered with Dr. Michael Dwyer, BNAC’s Neuroinformatics Director. Jointly, they later published several papers documenting their findings, including “Effect of Age on MRI Phase Behavior in the Subcortical Deep GM of Healthy Individuals” and “Impact of Tissue Atrophy on High-Pass Filtered MRI Signal Phase-Based Assessment in Large-Scale Group-Comparison Studies: A Simulation Study.”
Years later, Dr. Schweser seized the opportunity when a faculty position opened up at the University’s Department of Neurology. He was named Assistant Professor and his family relocated to the Buffalo area. Now, as a scientist, Associate Professor, and Director of Sequence Development for BNAC, Dr. Schweser's motivation stems from his passion for working with students and shaping the next generation of scientists. “Witnessing students’ growth and helping them become proficient researchers brings me immense satisfaction,” explains Dr. Schweser.
Moreover, he finds inspiration in high-impact research and innovative discoveries that challenge established paradigms. Dr. Schweser’s work has significantly influenced our understanding of the role of brain iron in people with MS. It suggests iron deficiency may be a catalyst for neurodegeneration with certain cell types. This hypothesis is contrary to a previous theory that the presence of iron promoted disease progression. Dr. Schweser recently shared the results of his research at the 2023 International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine Annual Meeting (see a list of his ISMRM contributions below).
When he's not engrossed in his scientific pursuits, Dr. Schweser dedicates his time to his wife and three daughters. He enjoys cycling, reading, and has a passion for baking traditional German breads.
Dr. Schweser's contributions to neuroimaging research, particularly in the field of brain iron and QSM, have been nothing short of remarkable. His work with BNAC has not only advanced our understanding of MS but also paved the way for further innovations in MRI techniques.