Collaboration a key to Mun's success at Arlington Innovation Center: Health Research

The Virginia Tech Research Center — Arlington opened  in summer 2011 with one of the world’s leading scientists in medical imaging and informatics at its forefront.

Seong K. Mun joined the College of Science in 2008 as a professor of physics and research fellow at the college’s Institute for Advanced Study. Now Mun is the founding director of the Arlington Innovation Center: Health Research, a college-wide multidisciplinary research hub in Virginia Tech’s National Capital Region.


Seong K. Mun Seong K. Mun says he realized the potential of digital technology in medicine during the 1980s, while a faculty member at Georgetown University Medical Center. He came to Virginia Tech in 2008.

Colleagues describe Mun as an innovative academician who thinks outside the traditional box. “Dr. Mun is a renowned scientist in biomedical research, and we are extremely fortunate to have him with us at the new Arlington Research Center,” said Lay Nam Chang, dean of the College of Science. “His ongoing research in this exploding field of medicine will play a vital role in expanding our research capabilities.”

Working with multidisciplinary teams nationally and internationally, Mun has reshaped radiology and health care practice by making breakthroughs that have merged technology, medicine, and policy.

Health care research

One of those breakthroughs occurred in 2011 when Mun and his research team won a contract from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to establish a nonprofit Open Source Electronic Health Record Agent to facilitate the modernization of electronic health records for veterans affairs and eventually the U.S. Department of Defense and other federal agencies

In addition, the Arlington center developed a Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) program in health system research with faculty from the university’s Department of Statistics and the Department of Systems Engineering. Its goal is to explore ways to improve the quality of health care and reduce care costs. Mun’s team is working with a clinical partner in Texas to design a community-based medical care delivery system targeted to the 5 percent of patients who consume more than 30 percent of the nation's overall medical care budget.

Electronic medical records are key to both projects.

“We envision there will be useful synergy between these two projects,” Mun said. “It’s also worth noting that one of the leaders of the PCMH implementation is the Department of Defense.”


The Virginia Tech Research Center – Arlington is in the Ballston district of Arlington, Va., a short distance from many of the leading science and research agencies of the federal government and many high-technology companies. The Virginia Tech Research Center – Arlington is in the Ballston district of Arlington, Va., a short distance from many of the leading science and research agencies of the federal government and many high-technology companies.

The neuroscience of sleep

Another project at the Arlington center is studying sleep through a partnership with the Neuroscience Research Institute at the Gachon University of Medicine and Science in South Korea. 

Researchers are using powerful magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and high-resolution positron emission tomography (PET) system to study the structure and function of the parts of the brain that were impossible to see previously. They are conducting sleep research by merging high resolution structural MRI images, PET images, and recordings of electrical activity along the scalp.

MRI images are generated by a 7-tesla (the standard measurement of a magnetic field) machine, more than double the typical 1.5- to 3-tesla machines used in hospitals.

This research, conducted by Research Assistant Professor Alpay Ozcan, produces time-dependent biochemical information that can help understand the process of making sleep efficient. In spring 2012, the center plans to expand the effort by convening an international workshop on the use of PEDs and MRIs to better understand neurological stress.

Smarter mobile phones

In another lab, Research Assistant Kenneth Wong is developing a next-generation cell phone capable of disaster relief and battlefield applications. The system will have addresses of multiple communication channels, health status monitors, and be able to access electronic health records. This is a collaborative effort involving the U.S. Army and Seoul National University in South Korea.

Success through collaboration

Collaboration is a key element in Mun’s success at the Arlington center.

“Northern Virginia is a unique metropolitan area with abundant scientific research organization, resources, and human capital, especially in the health services,” Mun said. “We offer innovative solutions to a problem-rich health care sector by harnessing the expertise of the solution-rich College of Science faculty and partners around the world.”

  • For more information on this topic, contact Catherine Doss at 540-231-5035.

About the research center

    The Virginia Tech Research Center - Arlington

The Virginia Tech Research Center — Arlington is a state-of-the-art facility designed to further Virginia Tech's mission to expand its research portfolio in the National Capital Region. The seven-floor, 144,000-square-foot building opened in 2011.

The Arlington Innovation Center: Health Research is a vanguard of integrated applied research that seeks to harness the power of informatics and systems science to meet 21st century health care challenges.

Founded in 2010 under the College of Science, the innovation center aims to establish a  competitive combination of biomedical research, education, and outreach programs in the National Capital Region. 

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