President’s Corner #32: On Richard Ernst, Presidential Lecture and Godfathers


On Richard Ernst, Presidential Lecture and Godfathers

Happy 2022 to all – as well as Happy Lunar (Tiger) New Year!

As we come to 2022 and getting excited about our upcoming 2022 hybrid Annual Meeting in London – only just over 3 months away now! – I’ve wanted to update you about the plans for the Presidential Lecture. This highlight lecture at our Annual Meeting, introduced during Dan Sodickson’s presidency, has been one of the great privileges of each ISMRM President, as we are able to select the speaker for the Annual Meeting during our President year and, compared with our two named lectures (the Mansfield and Lauterbur lectures, which are selected by the Annual Meeting Program Committee from 2 major figures in our field), the President has full liberty on the topic and speaker for this lecture.

This brings me to two pieces of news that I’d like to share with you.

Richard Ernst (14 August 1933 – 4 June 2021), 1991 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

The first one, as I know many of you know, the second half of 2021 saw the passing of Richard Ernst, 1991 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. On 4 June 2021, we lost one of the fathers of our field, who was instrumental to so much of what we do today. I refer you to a thoughtful obituary written by Chris Boesch in Magnetic Resonance in Medicine to remember (or discover) Richard’s life and his many contributions to the field of magnetic resonance.

To honour his passing and the great legacy he left in our field, the ISMRM Board of Trustees has unanimously decided to rename the Presidential Lecture the Ernst Presidential Lecture (or “Ernst Lecture” for short), as an enduring memorial to Richard Ernst and his legacy. It is in this way, that the London 2022 Annual Meeting will see the inaugural Ernst Presidential Lecture on Wednesday, 11 May – something that those with an eagle eye may have already noticed in the preliminary Program-at-a-Glance online.

As you will see in the Program, the Ernst Lecture will be followed by a Plenary Session In Tribute to Richard Ernst’s Legacy: Scientists as “Toolmakers” in NMR & MRI, to further celebrate his impact to our field.

On a personal note, I had the opportunity (privilege!) of meeting Richard Ernst in person. It was in 1998, during my PhD, at a Symposium that the University of Nottingham had organised in honour of Sir Peter Mansfield, and where Richard had been invited to give the Opening Address. During a coffee break in that meeting, a group of PhD students and I, went to talk to Richard. I still have vivid memories of how down to earth a person he was. There we were, a group of young students (I still had plenty of hair! 😊) like ‘groupies’ surrounding a rock star, and he was chatting to us, answering questions, asking questions back, like any other of us, talking not from a pedestal (which he certainly had earned!) but chatting to us and making us all feel so welcome and comfortable (even though we were students talking to a Nobel Prize winner – and someone who has a flip-angle named after him, which is used by all hospitals every day – not many can claim that!). He was a true gentleman. As I knew I wasn’t going to be able to even reach a tiny fraction of what he had achieved scientifically, I did think at the time that I should aim to at least try to match his humility whenever I ended up talking to any student who came to chat with me – it is something I really appreciated on that December morning in 1998.

Yann LeCun (Meta AI – FAIR & New York University), “Godfather of Deep Learning”. Yann will present the 2022 Ernst Presidential Lecture at the ISMRM Annual Meeting in London.

The second piece of news I’d like to share with you is the person I have selected to give our inaugural Ernst Lecture … (drum roll) … I am delighted to announce that Professor Yann LeCun (Meta AI – FAIR & New York University) will give the lecture in London! As most of you know, Yann is best known for his contributions to deep learning and neural networks, particularly the convolutional network model. Among with countless awards and recognitions, he is the recipient of the 2018 ACM Turing Award (with Geoffrey Hinton and Yoshua Bengio) for “conceptual and engineering breakthroughs that have made deep neural networks a critical component of computing”. Yann LeCun, Geoffrey Hinton and Yoshua Bengio are, in fact, often referred to as the “Godfathers of Deep Learning”.

I was so delighted when Yann accepted the invitation. As you very well know, Deep Learning has been nothing short of transformational to MRI and the medical imaging field more broadly. It is playing a role at every aspect of the field, from facilitating automated positioning of patients in preparation for imaging, to accelerating image acquisition and reconstruction, to automating image post-processing, to modelling vast quantities of imaging data in order to develop better diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers of disease.  There is, in fact, no part of the medical image lifecycle that Deep Learning fails to touch, and the amount of deep learning related research at our Annual Meeting has greatly increased dramatically year over year.

I am certain Yann’s Ernst Lecture will be a major highlight in our 2022 Program and an unforgettable experience for our attendees, as well as a tremendous source of inspiration for our large community of trainees, who will be the ones shaping the future of our field.

I truly can’t wait to see you in London this May to welcome you to the 2022 Annual Meeting!

Fernando Calamante
2021-2022 ISMRM President

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Scott Reeder
3 months ago

Thank you for the personal story about your experiences with Richard Ernst. I had a similar experience as a graduate student in Baltimore – he was such a warm and thoughtful person. I am also excited to see Yann LeCun’s lecture in London – what a great choice for the inaugural Ernst Lecture! See you in London!