Rutao Yao PhD

Rutao Yao

Rutao Yao

Professor, Interim Chair

Department of Nuclear Medicine

Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences

Specialty/Research Focus

Biomedical Imaging; Molecular Imaging Techniques; Nuclear Medicine

Professional Summary:

[February 20, 2024] Nuclear medicine imaging technology development postdoctoral associate position opening. To learn more about the project, read this paper.

My research focus is on advancing the technology of nuclear medicine imaging, a non-invasive, in vivo, functional molecular imaging modality. The goal is to provide accurate and cost-effective imaging solutions to support biomedical applications such as early disease diagnosis, early treatment assessment, and a short development cycle of new drugs.

My research projects are in three areas. One is about improving the quality of nuclear medicine imaging systems, namely positron emission tomography (PET), and single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), through accurate modeling, and therefore compensating, of the physical factors involved in the radiation signal detection process. One example is that we developed a probability density function-based PET system matrix derivation method, and implemented the method through Monte Carlo simulation on UB’s high-performance computing clusters. The method provides a systematic and comprehensive scheme for modeling any nuclear medicine imaging system.

The second area of my research is about developing multiple imaging functionalities on top of existing nuclear medicine imaging systems or on a platform with shared system components. The advantage of this strategy includes the synergetic benefits of a multiple modality system, and the cost saving from sharing resources. An example project is that we developed an add-on SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) on an existing PET (positron emission tomography) scanner. This allows the PET detector system be used for performing both PET and SPECT imaging studies with the combined libraries of PET and SPECT radiopharmaceuticals.

My third research area is about developing effective imaging protocols for applications using animal PET and other imaging systems. This usually involves collaboration with researchers in other specialties.

Education and Training:

  • Radiobiology, University of Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada (1997)
  • Engineering Physics, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China (1987)
  • BS, Engineering Physics, Tsinghua University, Beijing, P. R. China (1985)


  • Interim Chair, Nuclear Medicine, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (2024-present)
  • Director of the Animal PET Lab, Nuclear Medicine, State University of New York at Buffalo
  • Professor, Biophysical Sciences, University at Buffalo, SUNY Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (2013-present)
  • Professor, Nuclear Medicine, University at Buffalo, SUNY Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (2013-present)
  • Professor, Pharmacy Practice, University at Buffalo, SUNY School of Pharmacy (2013-present)
  • Associate Professor, Nuclear Medicine, University at Buffalo, SUNY Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (2008–2013)
  • Assistant Professor, Nuclear Medicine, University at Buffalo, SUNY Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (2002–2008)
  • Scientist, Digirad Corporation (1999–2002)
  • Post Doctoral Fellow, Nuclear Medicine, National Institutes of Health (1997–1999)
  • Lecturer, Engineering Physics, Tsinghua University (1990–1993)
  • Instructor, Engineering Physics, Tsinghua University (1987–1990)
See all (1 more)

Awards and Honors:

  • Prix d’Excellence, d’Innovation et d’Implication du Regroupement des Étudia (1997)

Research Expertise:

  • Medical Imaging System Development: SPECT (Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography) and PET (Positron Emission Tomography) system modeling, simulation, development, and statistical image reconstruction.

UB 2020 Strategic Strengths:

  • Information and Computing Technology
  • Molecular Recognition in Biological Systems and Bioinformatics

Grants and Sponsored Research:

  • June 2022–February 2025
    Self-collimating Single Photon Emission Breast Tomography System with Three-Dimensional Sparse Position-Sensitive Detectors
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • March 2008–January 2014
    Multifunctional Photosensitizers for Image Guided Brain Tumors
    Role: Co-Investigator
  • October 2010–September 2011
    Computing Infrastructure to Advance Biomedical Research
    NIH National Center of Research Resources
    Role: Co-Investigator
  • October 2010–September 2011
    Development of a Small Animal Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT) and Computed Tomography (CT) Dual Function Imager with an X-ray Detector
    Buffalo Clinical and Translational Research Center
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • May 2008–April 2010
    Investigating the utility of the tri-functional agents for imaging (PET/SPECT) and phototherapy with a newly developed hybrid PET and SPECT system
    Roswell Park Alliance Foundation Grant
    Role: Co-Principal Investigator
  • July 2007–July 2009
    Quantitative High Resolution Human Brain Imaging
    Role: Co-Investigator
  • October 2006–October 2007
    Quantification and correction of non-annihilation coincidences in I-124 and Y-86 PET imaging
    Siemens Medical Solutions USA
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • October 2004–September 2005
    Model the Line-of-Response Spread Function of HRRT
    CPS Innovations
    Role: Principal Investigator

Journal Articles:

  • Colin Hanna, Rutao Yao, Munawwar Sajjad, Mark Gold, Kenneth Blum, Panayotis K. Thanos. (2023) Exercise modifies brain metabolic response to chronic cocaine exposure inhibiting the stria terminalis. Brain Sciences (Nov), 13(12): 1705.
  • Debin Zhang, Zhenlei Lyu, Yaqiang Liu, Zuo-Xiang He, Rutao Yao, and Tianyu Ma. (2023) Characterization and assessment of projection probability density function and enhanced sampling in self-collimation SPECT. IEEE Transactions on Medical Imaging (Feb), 42(2): 2787 – 2801.
  • Hongfan Zhang, Rong Zhou, Rutao Yao, and Chaowen Yang. (2022) A study on a nonlinear least-squares fitting method for 3D positioning of gamma rays based on a monolithic crystal and SiPM array. Radiation Detection Technology and Methods (Aug)
  • Richer K, Delis F, Hamilton J, Martin C, Fricke D, Yao R, Sajjad M, Blum K, Hadjiargyrou M, Komatsu D, and Thanos PK. (2022) Unpredictable chronic mild stress differentially impacts resting brain glucose metabolism in fatty acid-binding protein 7 deficient mice. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging (Jul)
  • Eliz Arnavut, John Hamilton, Rutao Yao, Munawwar Sajjad, Michael Hadjiargyrou, David Komatsu, Panayotis K. Thanos. (2022) Abstinence following intermittent methylphenidate exposure dose-dependently modifies brain glucose metabolism in the rat brain. Synapse (Jun)1–14.
  • Cecilia Rapp, John Hamilton, Kaleigh Richer, Munawwar Sajjad, Rutao Yao, Panayotis K Thanos. (2022) Alcohol Binge Drinking Decreases Brain Glucose Metabolism and Functional Connectivity in Adolescent Rats. Metabolic Brain Disease (May), 37: 1901–1908.
  • Panayotis Thanos, Kaleigh Richer, John Hamilton, Foteini Delis, Connor Martin, Dennis Fricke, Rutao Yao, Munawwar Sajjad, Kenneth Blum, Michael Hadjiargyrou, David Komatsu. (2022) Chronic Treatment and Abstinence from Methylphenidate Exposure Dose-dependently Changes Glucose Metabolism in the Rat Brain. Brain Research (Apr)
  • Tianyu Ma, Qingyang Wei, Zhenlei Lyu, Debin Zhang, Hongyang Zhang, Rui Wang, Yaqiang Liu, Jiahong Dong, Rutao Yao, and Zuo-xiang He. (2021) Self-collimating SPECT with multi-layer interspaced mosaic detectors. IEEE Transactions on Medical Imaging (Aug), 40(8): 2152–2169.
  • Xiao Liu, Hui Liu, Li Cheng, Tainwei Bao, Jing Wu, Rutao Yao, and Yaqiang Liu. (2021) A 3-Dimensional Stationary Cascade Gamma Coincidence Imager. Physics in Medicine and Biology (Jul), 66
  • Avinash Srivatsan, Paula Pera, Penny Joshi, Aimee J. Marko, Farukh Durrani, Joseph R. Missert, Leslie Curtin, Sandra Sexton, Rutao Yao, Munawwar Sajjad, and Ravindra K. Pandey. (2020) Highlights on the imaging (nuclear/fluorescence) and phototherapeutic potential of a tri-functional chlorophyll-a analog with no significant toxicity in mice and rats. Journal of Photochemistry & Photobiology, B: Biology, (Jun), 211: 111998.
  • Marko AJ, Dukh M, Patel NJ, Missert JR, Ohulchanskyy T, Tabaczynski WA, Ohkubo K, Fukuzumi S, Yao R, Sajjad M, Pandey RK. (2019) A Pyropheophorbide Analogue Containing a Fused Methoxy Cyclohexenone Ring System Shows Promising Cancer-Imaging Ability. ChemMedChem (Jul).
  • Cheruku RR, Cacaccio J, Durrani FA, Tabaczynski WA, Watson R, Marko A, Kumar R, El-Khouly ME, Fukuzumi S, Missert JR, Yao R, Sajjad M, Chandra D, Guru K, Pandey RK. (2019) Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor-Targeted Multifunctional Photosensitizers for Bladder Cancer Imaging and Photodynamic Therapy. J Med Chem (Mar), 62(5): 2598-2617.
  • Xu Z, Yao R, Podgorsak MB, Wang IZ. (2017) Effects of collimator angle, couch angle, and starting phase on motion-tracking dynamic conformal arc therapy (4D DCAT). J Appl Clin Med Phys (Sep), 18(5): 54-63.
  • Wei Q, Bai R, Wang Z, Yao R, Gu Y, Dai T. (2017) Surveying ionizing radiations in real time using a smartphone. Nuclear Science and Techniques (May), 28(5): 70-74.
  • Xu Z, Yao R, Podgorsak M B, Wang I Z. (2017) Effects of Collimator Angle, Couch Angle and Starting Phase on Motion-Tracking Dynamic Conformal Arc Therapy (4D DCAT). Journal of Applied Clinical Medical Physics (Jan).
  • Wang S, Ma T, Yao R. (2016) Axial Movement Parameter Optimization on Slit-Slat SPECT. IEEE Transactions on Nuclear Science (Jan), 62: 84-89.
  • Fan P, Ma T, Wei Q, Yao R, Liu Y, Wang S. (2016) Choose Crystal Surface Finishing for a Dual-ended Readout Depth-of-Interaction (DOI) Detector. Physics in Medicine and Biology (Jan), 61: 2041-2056.
  • Yao R, Deng R, Wei Q, Dai T, Ma T, Lecomte R. (2015) Multi-pinhole SPECT helical scan parameters and imaging volume. Medical Physics (Jan), 42: 6599-6609.
  • Jian Y, Yao R, Mulnix T, Jin X, Carson R. (2015) Applications of the line-of-response probability density function resolution model in PET list mode reconstruction. Physics in Medicine and Biology (Jan), 60: 253-278.
  • Gupta A, Wang S, Marko A, Joshi P, Ethirajan M, Chen Y, Yao R, Sajjad M, Kopelman R, Pandey R. (2014) Polyacrylamide-Based Biocompatible Nanoplatform Enhances the Tumor Uptake, PET/fluorescence Imaging and Anticancer Activity of a Chlorophyll Analog. Theranostics (Jan), 4(6): 614-628.
  • X. Deng, J.-F. Beaudoin, J. Cadorette, C. Naaman, R. Lecomte, and R. Yao. (2013) PET imaging based geometrical calibration for a dual-modality PET/SPECT animal scanner. Physics in Medicine and Biology (Apr), 58: 2011-2025.
  • Y. Xia, R. Yao, X. Deng, Y. Liu, S. Wang, and T. Ma. (2013) A Hybrid Rotation-Translation Scan Scheme for In Vivo Animal SPECT Imaging on a Stationary Scanner. Physics in Medicine and Biology (Jan), 58: 965-983.
  • Yao R, Lecomte R, Crawford ES. (2012) Small-animal PET: what is it, and why do we need it?. J Nucl Med Technol (Sep), 40(3): 157-165.
  • M. Sajjad, U. Riaz, R. Yao, M. M. Abouzeid, D. A. Erb, R. J. Bernacki, N. D. Chaudhary, J. M. Veith, G. Georg and H. A. Nabi. (2012) 3’-(3-[123, 124I]iodobenzoyl)-3’-debenzoylpaclitaxel as radio-tracers to study multidrug resistance in vivo. Applied Radiation and Isotopes (Aug), 70: 1624-1631.
  • R. Yao, R. M. Ramachandra, N. Mahajan, V. Rathod, N. Gunasekar, A. Panse, T. Ma, Y. Jian, J. Yan, R. E. Carson. (2012) Assessment of a Three-Dimensional Line-of-Response Probability Density Function System Matrix for PET. Physics in Medicine and Biology (Jan).
  • A. Jain, A. Panse, D. R. Bednarek, R. Yao, and S. Rudin. (2012) Evaluation of the Micro-Angiographic Fluoroscope as a High Resolution, Single-Photon Counting and Energy Integrating Imager for Transmission and Emission Imaging. IEEE Transactions on Nuclear Science (Jan).
  • R. Yao, X. Deng, J.-F. Beaudoin, T. Ma, J. Cadorette, Z. Cao, and R. Lecomte. (2012) Initial Evaluation of a Lab-PET/SPECT Dual Modality Animal Imaging System. IEEE Transactions on Nuclear Science (Jan).
  • R. Yao, R. Lecomte, and E. S. Crawford. (2012) Small-Animal PET: what is it and why do we need it. Journal of Nuclear Medicine Technology (Jan).
  • X. Deng, T. Ma, R. Lecomte, and R. Yao. (2011) Optimization and calibration of septa-to-crystal position for a SPECT with slit-slat collimator and pixelated crystals. IEEE Transactions on Nuclear Science (Oct), 58: 2234-2243.
  • Ma, T, Miao, Y, Yao R, Dai, T, Deng, X. (2010) Quantitative Accuracy Assessment and Optimization of SPECT Geometrical Calibration. Tsinghua Science and Technology (Jan), 15: 96-101.
  • Yao R, Ma T, Shao Y. (2009) A SVD-based method to assess the uniqueness and accuracy of SPECT geometrical calibration. IEEE Transactions on Medical Imaging (Dec), 28(12): 1929-1939.
  • Yao R, Ma T,and Shao Y. (2009) Derivation of system matrix from simulation data for an animal SPECT with slit-slat collimator. IEEE Transactions on Nuclear Science (Oct), 56(5): 2651-2658.
  • S. K. Pandey, M. Sajjad, Y. Chen, A. Pandey, J. R. Missert, C. Batt, R. Yao, H. A. Nabi, A. R. Oseroff and R. K. Pandey. (2009) Compared to Purpurinimides, the Pyropheophorbide Containing an Iodobenzyl Group Showed Enhanced PDT Efficacy and Tumor Imaging (124I-PET) Ability. Bioconjugate Chemistry (Feb), 20(2): 274-282.
  • S. K. Pandey, M. Sajjad, Y. Chen, X. Zheng, R. Yao, J. R. Missert, C. Batt, H. A. Nabi, A. R. Oseroff and R. K. Pandey. (2009) Comparative PET Imaging and Phototherapeutic Potential of 124I- Labeled Methyl- 3-(1’-m-iodobenzyloxyethyl) pyropheophorbide-a vs. the Corresponding Glucose- and Galactose-Conjugates. Journal of Medicinal Chemistry (Jan), 52(2): 445-455.
  • Y. Shao, R. Yao and T. Ma. (2008) A novel method to calibrate the DOI function of a PET detector with a dual-scintillator-ends readout. Medical Physics (Dec), 35: 5829-5840.
  • R. Yao, T. Ma and Y. Shao. (2008) Lutetium oxyorthosilicate (LSO) intrinsic activity correction and minimal detectable target activity study for SPECT imaging with a LSO-based animal PET scanner. Physics in Medicine and Biology (Jan), 53: 4399-4415.
  • M. D. Jones, R. Yao, C. P. Bhole. (2006) Parallel OSEM Reconstruction Speed with MPI, OpenMP, and hybrid MPI-OpenMP Programming Models. IEEE Transactions on Nuclear Science (Jan), 53: 2752-2758.
  • Rutao Yao, Jurgen Seidel, Jeih-San Liow and Michael V. Green. (2005) Attenuation Correction for the NIH ATLAS Small Animal PET Scanner. IEEE Transactions on Nuclear Science (Jan), 19(8): 664-668.
  • Yao R, Seidel J, Johnson CA, Daube-Witherspoon ME, Green MV, Carson RE. (2000) Performance characteristics of the 3-D OSEM algorithm in the reconstruction of small animal PET images. IEEE Transactions on Medical Imaging (Aug), 19(8): 798-804.
  • Yao R, Msaki P, Lecomte R. (1997) Pre-processing variance reducing techniques in multispectral positron emission tomography. Phys Med Biol (Nov), 42(11): 2233-2253.
  • R. Yao, M. Bentourkia and R. Lecomte. (1997) Study of multispectral frame-by-frame convolution scatter correction in high resolution PET. IEEE Transactions on Nuclear Science (Jan), 44: 2489-2493.
  • R. Yao, P. Msaki, M. Bentourkia and R. Lecomte. (1996) Effects of energy space smoothing and projection space normalization on multispectral PET image quality. IEEE Transactions on Nuclear Science (Jan), 43: 1988-1994.
  • R. Lecomte, J. Cadorette, S. Rodrigue, D. Rouleau, M. Bentourkia, R. Yao and P. Msaki. (1996) Initial results from the Sherbrooke avalanche photodiode PET scanner. IEEE Transactions on Nuclear Science (Jan), 43: 1952-1957.
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Professional Memberships:

  • IEEE Society of Plasma and Nuclear Science (1996–present)


  • "Derivation of the system matrix for an animal SPECT scanner with rotational collimator and stationary ring detector" IEEE Medical Imaging Conference; IEEE; Small animal imaging (2010)
  • "Development of SPECT Imaging Capability on LabPET-8" IEEE Medical Imaging Conference; IEEE; Small animal imaging (2010)
  • "Geometrical Optimization and Calibration for an Animal PET Converted to SPECT" IEEE Medical Imaging Conference; IEEE; Small animal imaging (2010)
  • "Optimization of Image Object Helical Movement Scheme for an Animal SPECT with Slit-Slat Collimator" IEEE Medical Imaging Conference; IEEE; Small animal imaging (2010)

Service Activities:

  • ; Interim Chair (2024–present)

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Phone: (716) 829-2585