Rui Carlos Pereira de Sá is a biomedical engineer and physiologist. Throughout his career, he developed, validated and deployed computational techniques able to produce quantitative insight on the human lung in health and disease. He is an Engineer in Physics (Instituto Superior Técnico, Lisbon, Portugal); his Ph.D. work (Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium), focused on understanding the impact of gravity on respiratory mechanics during sleep, through human studies on earth and in two space shuttle flights. Attaining this goal required developing algorithms using artificial neural networks for breath detection during sleep and wavelet analysis.
Prior to joining the NIH, Dr. Sá was an Assistant Professor of Physiology, Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, Sleep Medicine, and Physiology at the University of California, San Diego. Since 2008 his main research tool was functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the lung, namely a proton MR technique – Specific Ventilation Imaging - capable of quantifying ventilation in the human lung. Specific Ventilation Imaging uses inhaled oxygen as a T1 contrast agent, to create quantitative map specific ventilation. The SVI technique is now available at several centers on three continents, and is used to further out understanding of asthma, cystic fibrosis, and other respiratory diseases.
Dr. Sá first joined NIH and NIBIB as NIH Data and Technology Advancement (DATA) National Service Scholar (2020-2022), on detail from the University of California, San Diego. His profound knowledge of lung physiology, combined with years of experience in developing, validating and translating quantitative analysis software tools directly applicable to the lung were aligned with and necessary for addressing the immediate and urgent need for Covid-19 imaging processing tools. Accelerating the deployment of AI/ML image processing tools is the priority for NIBIB’s Medical Imaging and Data Resource Center (MIDRC) project, a project he actively supported for the duration of his National Service Scholarship. Dr. Sá rejoined the NIH as a Program Director in 2023.