BVIS Students Win Vesalius Trust Awards

About the Vesalius Trust

The Vesalius Trust for Visual Communication in the Health Sciences is a prestigious award granted to students each year by the Vesalius Trust. Grant money from these awards fully or partially fund meritorious student research.  The UIC BVIS program is proud to announce that 5 of our students have received awards this year! We wanted to spotlight their amazing research projects that are pushing the boundaries of our field.

Christina Lorenzo – Vesalian Scholar

Developing Interactive Learning for Continuous Glucose Monitoring.


The newest technology in diabetes management is the continuous glucose monitoring system. This system provides glucose readings roughly every five minutes and allows a patient to see real-time trajectories of their glucose levels. Since this technology is relatively new, there are few associated patient materials available to teach patients how to make lifestyle changes based on their recorded glucose trajectories. Also, the materials available mostly focus on patients with type 1 diabetes, who use insulin to manage their diabetes. Thus there is a need for an educational tool for patients with type 2 diabetes utilizing continuous glucose monitoring.

This research project investigates how to develop an interactive learning tool for patients utilizing continuous glucose monitoring. Through collaboration with Dr. Rasa Kazlauskaite at the Rush University Medical Center, a beta product of the interactive learning tool is being developed. The tool will run real-life scenarios that visualize how meal and lifestyle choices affect glucose trajectories in both healthy patients and patients with type 2 diabetes. It is intended that the tool will be used by the clinician to engage the patient in an educational discussion about continuous glucose monitoring. From this discussion the patient would then apply what they learned to their own CGM data. The effectiveness of this beta product will be first evaluated by health professionals specializing in diabetes and then tested on patients. The product will be revised after each testing phase and will ultimately be made available to patients in the clinic with the physician and as a stand-alone tool through the web.

See more work at Christina’s website,, or check out her Faces of BVIS post here to learn more about her.


Adriana Orland – Research Grant

Animating External Magnetic Guidance of Intrathecally Delivered Gold-Coated Nanoparticles to Treat Intramedullary Spinal Tumors.

Intramedullary spinal tumors (IMSCTs) are rare neoplasms in the central nervous system (CNS), accounting for 2-4% of all CNS tumors (Tobin et al., 2015). Astrocytoma, a common type of IMSCT, is infiltrative, and a clear plane of dissection between the normal spinal cord tissue and the tumor does not exist. The resulting inadequacy of surgical approaches for tumor removal, coupled with adverse effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy make the development of other more effective and potentially less toxic alternatives, imperative. Recently, neurosurgical researchers have proposed the use of external magnets to guide intrathecal delivery of gold-coated nanoparticles to the site of tumors as a less invasive treatment for eliminating astrocytomas (Leushen et al., 2014; Tobin et al., 2015).

Previous surgical research has shown animation as an effective method to introduce new surgical techniques. Several studies have concluded that educational animations are paramount to augment both traditional textbooks and conventional surgical videos to develop mental models of relevant anatomical structures, and to demonstrate the technical skills required to perform the procedure (Flores et al., 2013; Prinz et al., 2005).

This project will create a novel animation to explain the use of magnetic drug targeting (MDT) with a gold-coated nanoparticle system to treat intramedullary spinal tumors. It will serve as a didactic resource for future grant applications and for patient education in anticipated upcoming clinical trials.

See more work at Adriana’s website,, or check out her Faces of BVIS post here to learn more about her.


Christina Sidorowych – Research Grant

Visualizing The Human Embryonic Development of the Heart’s Outflow Tract.

Human embryology provides a logical basis for understanding the overall organization of the human body and offers students the scientific basis for understanding mechanisms underlying both normal and abnormal development. The development of the human heart is one of the most complex processes to study in embryology. The heart is undergoing complex folding and various views and angles are needed to visualize this, making it very difficult to comprehend and learn the developmental process. Visualizing the 3-dimensional changes that include complex twisting and folding during the heart’s outflow tract development is especially difficult.

With the collaboration of both content experts, anatomy professor Dr. Callum Ross from the University of Chicago and anatomy professor Dr. Douglas Cotanche from the University of Illinois at Chicago, this research project will develop a 3D interactive program. This project will investigate how to best visually communicate the formation of the heart’s outflow tact in a concise and efficient manner. Interactives have been shown to significantly advance the quality and effectiveness of learning environments for students.This interactive tool will depict the twisting and folding of the heart’s outflow tract development, in addition users will be able to rotate the object in a 3-dimensinal interface. Modes and tools in the application will allow students to explore the heart’s outflow tract through various cross sections and control the animation of the heart developing. Testing before and after use of the 3D interactive tool, will evaluate medical student’s knowledge on heart development and visual spatial relationships. Results of this project will provide evidence on the effectiveness of three-dimensional interactive visual learning tools for the education of medical students.

See more work at Christina’s website,, or check out her Faces of BVIS post here to learn more about her.


Matthew Cirigliano – Research Grant

Cirigliano graduated from the BVIS program in 2010 and is currently a doctoral candidate at NYU.

Studies in the learning sciences suggest that drawing may prove valuable as a reflective exercise, a learning diagnostic, and a potential cognitive tool. Although studies using art in medical training are existent and interventions allowing for more efficient learning and better retention are desirable, very few strategies explore learner-made drawings as an option. In the present research project, a study has been designed to determine whether the generation of anatomical drawings at different times during the use of a learning app about radiograph interpretation will improve learning. Performance data collected from participants using the app in each of the three groups (and one control group without drawing) will determine which cognitive activities (i.e. critical looking, sense-making, and reflection) are best supported by drawing during deliberate fracture identification practice. Results will also determine what covariates (e.g. visuo-spatial ability, experience, gender, age, etc.) will moderate the effects of drawing during learning.

The present project is progressing smoothly, as I am now in the process of the pilot phase of the experimental protocol’s development, which incorporates “voice aloud” procedures to collect verbal utterances during the experimental task. These qualitative data will not only streamline the experimental procedure, but they will also tell us how and why students draw the way they do during learning. So far, vocal utterances collected have revealed fascinating insights on what value and uses drawing has across all three treatments. Once the main experiment has come to a close, and data has been collected for all 140 participants, I hope to do further statistical analyses on how the act of drawing affects diagnostic accuracy, performance, and cognition during learning and practice in the medical field.

See more work at Matt’s website,


Congratulation to the winners! We would also like to congratulate all the research committee members and BVIS/BHIS faculty for their continued and dedicated contributions to the research of our students. In addition, we congratulate every Vesalius Trust grant applicant, and we wish all of this year’s graduates success and look forward to seeing the impact they make on our field.

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