Every day, Case Western Reserve University students transcend limitations as they make significant contributions toward impactful research. Haojia Li, a fourth-year PhD student in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the Case School of Engineering, is no exception. Crain’s Cleveland Business recently selected Li, 25, for its “Twenty in their 20s” award. Announced in June, the honor recognizes 20 individuals in Northeast Ohio who have made early impressions through their work. 

In Li’s case, that impact came through research assessing the aggressiveness of breast cancer—and ultimately, the most appropriate treatment—by analyzing tissue using deep learning, machine learning and imaging processing. Li, who arrived at Case Western Reserve in fall 2016, conducts her research through the Center for Computational Imaging and Personalized Diagnostics, directed by Anant Madabhushi, the F. Alex Nason Professor II of Biomedical Engineering.

Li hopes the findings she and the other members of her lab make will benefit patients in clinical settings by helping physicians more accurately make cancer diagnoses and take personalized approaches to treatment methods. 

Impacting patient health is what inspired Li to enter the field of biomedical engineering in the first place. With interests in physics and mathematics and a passion for using logical reasoning to understand natural phenomena, Li knew she wanted to have a career in medicine or health.

“When I found such a major as biomedical engineering, I realized it was a perfect combination of my enthusiasm in engineering and sense of achievement from helping the patients,” she said.

She decided to pursue artificial intelligence after working with computational algorithms to mine information from biomedical images during her undergraduate education at Tianjin University. With a regarded biomedical engineering department and the focus in Madabhushi’s lab centered squarely where her interests were, Case Western Reserve was a natural fit to continue her education. 

In the future, Li hopes to work in a setting that will allow her to continue her work in the field and translate her findings to positively impact patient care.