Moghaddam selected for Cancer Center TiMe program

9/4/2020 Maddie Yang

Written by Maddie Yang

Amir Moghaddam
Amir Moghaddam
Doctoral student Amir Ostadi Moghaddam recently began work with the Cancer Center at Illinois’ (CCIL) Tissue Microenvironment (TiMe) Training Program. Graduate students in this program enroll in specific courses to grow their understanding of tissue microenvironments. They also have access to mentoring, extracurricular activities, and career development related to their field of study. Moghaddam was chosen as one of nine students this year for the two-year program, which is supported by a T32 grant from the National Institutes of Health. 

Moghaddam came to Illinois in January of 2017 and has been working with Professor Amy Wagoner Johnson to study mechanical properties of the cervix. Their research has applications in predicting preterm birth, which can cause major health problems later in life.

However, Moghaddam’s research for the TiMe program is a little more broad. While his PhD research focuses on cervical tissue, many of the techniques he is studying through the TiMe program can be applied to additional soft tissue microenvironments. 

He has been working on characterizing the biophysical parameters of soft tissues, collecting data on the biomechanical properties, composition, and microstructure which affect the tissue function. But the tissue function also affects these properties, making the relationship between the two a subject of interest for Moghaddam. These properties can also be used for diagnosis and monitoring of tissue condition.

The techniques he uses are on a fairly small length scale, including nanoindentation, second harmonic generation (SHG) microscopy, and ultrasound. Nanoindentation is done by pushing a probe against the surface of the sample and measuring the force and displacement of the probe. By doing this, the mechanical properties of the entire cross-section of the tissue can be mapped. SHG microscopy allows them to image the collagen fibers while keeping the tissue in its natural condition. The images are then used to quantify the tissue microstructure. They are currently working on identifying the correlations between quantitative ultrasound, SHG, and nanoindentation measurements. 

“By joining the TiMe program, I aim to put myself in a culture that encourages interdisciplinary teamwork ... because in this kind of environment, when people from different backgrounds interact and exchange their thoughts, creativity and novel ideas can emerge,” said Moghaddam.

“I can learn more about different aspects of the tissue microenvironment and look into my research questions from new perspectives. I can also contribute to new research areas that I have not considered before. By joining this program, I hope to broaden the areas that I am exploring!”

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This story was published September 4, 2020.