Summer Spotlight: Michael Kong

Michael Kong

Major: Biomedical Engineering
Expected Graduation: 2025

  • Where is your research opportunity located or who is it in partnership with?

I am participating in the CanSUR (Cancer-focused Summer Undergraduate Research) program on campus, which is a program funded by the NIH and ran by the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center.

  • Explain the details of your research. 

I am currently working in the INVent Lab under Professor Satish Viswanath, where we are developing and researching AI and informatics tools for analysis of routine medical imaging. We work primarily with gastroenterological conditions.

I have been developing a human-informed deep learning framework for automated segmentation of rectal tumors (i.e., labeling of pixels corresponding to tumors) on MRI scans. Among other purposes, segmentation tasks can help a surgeon or oncologist examine the exact extent of tumors for treatment planning. MR scans can either be labeled manually (which is inconsistent and laborious) or automatically (which usually requires many manually labeled scans for training). To improve on this, we have been investigating "human-in-the-loop" learning which uses human refinement of model outputs as feedback for model optimization. This combines the expertise of computers and medical experts and also removes the requirement for images to be prelabeled before training. We've found that our human-in-the-loop scheme is not only ~50% faster than manual labeling but also significantly improves model performance.

This summer, I am putting finishing touches on this framework and looking to expand it beyond rectal tumors. We believe that human-in-the-loop learning can be a very powerful tool, and I hope to see similar results this summer while working with CanSUR!

  • How did you find this opportunity? 

I originally found out about INVent through a posting on the "Undergraduate Research Opportunities List" posted by the Undergraduate Research Office. It seemed like a perfect combination of my interests in computer science and biomedical engineering, and the more I read, the more interested I became in INVent. I later found out about the CanSUR program through friends as well as through my PI.

  • What has your experience been so far?

I have yet to start working with the CanSUR program, but I've had an amazing time with the INVent Lab in the past year. We have a really great team—including graduate students, postdocs, and Dr. Viswanath himself—all of whom have been vital mentors to me (both in and out of the lab). Our research is really rewarding and interesting to me, and computing research has been a great change of pace from the 'wet' lab research I was more familiar with.

  • What are you most looking forward to?

For the CanSUR program, I am definitely looking forward to our 'cancer immersion bootcamp' where we get to learn about the biology of cancer and the wide variety of research surrounding it. I am also definitely excited to work with the other students involved in the program!

  • What's your best advice for students who might be looking for a similar opportunity?

I would definitely encourage other students to keep reaching out and showing interest. I think that being interested in a lab's research and otherwise staying motivated goes a long way.