Back in 1997, at the end of my tenth grade year, my chemistry teacher explained the principles underlying magnetic resonance imaging. I’m sure it wasn’t a very in-depth explanation, but I still remember thinking, “Wow, that’s complicated. I’ll never understand it.”
Well, a lot has happened since then. I got a bachelor’s degree in physics and math. I worked as a teacher for seven years, five of which were spent in China. Then I went back to graduate school to get a master’s degree in applied physics.
The topic of my research? Magnetic resonance imaging.
As I began studying MRI in graduate school, I still worried that I might not be able to understand it. But I once again rediscovered a truth that I keep finding myself rediscovering: namely, that if you invest enough time and hard work in studying a topic, you’ll eventually get it, no matter how daunting it may at first seem.
In the end, I didn’t just learn the basics of MRI, but I published a thesis on my own contribution to the field: an improved method for distinguishing between fat-based and water-based tissue in magnetic resonance images.
If you’re curious about how MRI works, I offer you this (click the link to download the PDF):
It’s a chapter from my thesis that explains the basic physics of MRI — from how the tissue in your body is magnetized when you are placed in a magnetic field, to how images are obtained with the desired contrast between different tissue types.
I hope you’ll find it to be puddles of fun. Please splash around to your heart’s content.
NOTE: Anyone familiar with medical imaging will immediately notice that the Homer Simpson image at the top of this post is not an MRI. But hey, it’s already a fictional image of a fictional character, and it’s really funny, so please give me a break.