Sarah Nelson, PhD

Department of Radiology
Phone: +1 415 476-6383
Fax: +1 415 514-1028

1700 4th Street, Rm 303B
UCSF Box 2532
San Francisco, CA 94158
United States

What I do

My research aims to improve the way we can “see” physiologic and metabolic activities in the body in real time, so that we can better understand normal physiology and clarify the underlying mechanisms of disease progression and response to therapy. To this end, I focus on developing novel strategies for obtaining and interpreting magnetic resonance data.

My research expertise

Magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy, Mathematical modeling, Signal processing, Algorithm development


Dr.rer.Nat. (PhD), Applied Math/Radiation Biology, Heidelberg Univerisity, West Germany, 1982
BSc, Mathematics, University of Manchester, England, 1975


Sarah J. Nelson, PhD, is a Professor of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging with secondary appointment in the Department of Neurology. She is the Margaret Hart Surbeck Distinguished Professor of Advanced Imaging, Director of the Surbeck Laboratory, and Director of the Brain Research Interest Group at the University of California, San Francisco. She completed her BSc in Mathematics at the University of Manchester in England, and obtained her PhD in Biomathematics at the University of Heidelberg, Department of Mathematics in West Germany. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Biostatics at Fox Chase Institute for Cancer Research in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

As Director of the Surbeck Laboratory, Dr. Nelson is responsible for managing the recharge operations for three research MR scanners, the 3T system at the Center of Molecular and Functional Imaging, and the 3T and 7T systems at the Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3) at UCSF Byers Hall Mission Bay Campus. Her research program is focused on the development of techniques for acquisition, reconstruction, and quantitative analysis of magnetic resonance (MR) imaging and spectral data with the goal of improving the sensitivity and specificity of the data obtained for characterizing human diseases, selecting therapies, and monitoring novel treatment paradigms.

Dr. Nelson has served as Principal Investigator and Co-Principal Investigator for numerous NIH grants, and she has published over 200 research articles.

Bioengineering, Mathematics

Magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy

Professional Interests:
Magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy, image reconstruction, signal processing, algorithm development, quantitative analysis, imaging biomarker discovery, neurological diseases, evaluation of therapy, brain cancer, prostate cancer, multiple sclerosis

Education and Training:
• Bachelor of Science: University of Manchester, England - Mathematics
• Doctor of Philosophy: University of Heidelberg Department of Mathematics, West Germany - Biomathematics
• Postdoctoral Fellowship: Fox Chase Institute for Cancer Research, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - Biostatistics