Spotlight: Meet our Scientist, Sam Hurley!

Samuel Hurley, Ph.D. (he/him)

Hometown: Waukesha, WI, USA

Lab Position: Scientist

What is your current research area?

My background is quantitative neuroimaging, so sequences to map parameters like T1, T2, etc. as well as more advanced techniques to model the microstructure of the brain. A lot of that work focuses on ways to make the methods more accurate through optimization of parameters.”

My current research area and lab responsibilities involve the PET/MR program here at the Wisconsin Institutes for Medical Research (WIMR), with a focus on the neuro projects we do with PET/MR such as imaging functional and metabolic connectivity, modulation of the dopaminergic system, neuroinflammation, etc. A lot of this is focused on working with investigators to set up and optimize protocols, and tools to perform analysis of data and improve image quality.

Why MIMRTL? What do you like the most about the lab?

Before returning to UW-Madison, I was working at a startup company building a low-field low-cost MRI system. The work was fascinating and I enjoyed the team I was working with, but in industry a lot of what you do is driven by customer demands rather than research questions. I wanted to be back in the academic environment.

Working on PET/MR and learning things that were new to me (such as PET reconstruction and analysis) was an exciting opportunity. It turns out that quantitative PET analysis is very similar to quantitative MR, so it was a natural fit for me.

What I like most is how many different areas of work and research our lab covers. The name says it all – molecular imaging, magnetic resonance, and “technology”. In the new crazy world of AI, you can’t be limited to just being experts at one thing — you need to be able to leverage tools across many disciplines to solve problems. So it is great that we members of the team working on everything from building new hardware to people with experience in the latest machine learning and GPU-accelerated computing techniques.

What are your hobbies?

Oh gosh, where do I start? I have been playing music since elementary school, and play acoustic guitar, string bass, electric bass, percussion, and a number of other things. I’m currently in a 90’s cover band with several doctors from UWHealth: Aaron Field from Neuroradiology, Steve Garlow from Psychiatry, and B. Dustin Pooler from Dr. Scott Reeder’s research group. We are called Fringe Field, named after the peripheral magnetic field of the MR scanner (and also Dr. Field’s last name 🙂 ).

I am a motorcycle enthusiast, and ride to/from work every day that the weather permits, which for me is any day above freezing (30 F) where there is no snow or ice on the road to slip on. I have a whole set of clothes for winter riding and electric hand warmers, so the 15-minute ride is not too bad!

I also love airplanes, and have a private pilot’s license (ASEL – airplane single engine land) [technically it is called an “airman’s certificate”]). I am starting to study for my instrument flight (IFR) exam next. If I ever retire from MRI research, I want to become a flight instructor. I fly a ‘vintage’ 1964 Cessna. It is a 4-seat airplane that can carry about 600 lbs of useful load with full fuel, travels at about 115 mph, and can go about 400 nm (460 statute miles) on a 39 gallon tank of gas. (That’s about 12 mpg fuel economy, if you’re doing your math…).

Tell us an unique fact about yourself:

My uncle (dad’s brother) is a famous rock star!

Contact Information:

Email:, Twitter: @halfSpinDoctor, LinkedIn: samuelhurley