Kalina Polet Slavkova, Ph.D.

Physicist | Computational Oncology + Deep Learning for MRI | Exploring the Intersection of Physics, Biology, & AI


I am a Postdoctoral Researcher at The University of Pennsylvania exploring the intersection of Physics, AI, and cancer imaging.


I received my B.A. in Physics (with honors) and Biology from the University of Pennsylvania in 2017.  I worked with Dr. Vijay Balasubramanian and Dr. Ann Hermunstad for my honors thesis titled Local Statistics of Natural Images Inform Visual Segmentation and Gist Perception with Foreseeable Applications in Scene Analysis and Art Characterization. My summers of 2016 and 2017 were spent at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the Theoretical Biology and Biophysics division, collaborating with Dr. William Hlavacek on rule-based modeling of protein pathways in energy metabolism and, subsequently, Boolean modeling of these pathways.

After graduating from Penn, I began a PhD program in Physics at the University of Texas at Austin under the guidance of Dr. Thomas Yankeelov in the Center for Computational Oncology and (informally) Dr. Jonathan Tamir in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.  My PhD thesis work consisted of 3 aims with an overall theme of advancing data acquisition and analyses methods for fast, multi-contrast quantitative MRI. These three aims are described below.

Aim 1 results featured on the 7th issue of the journal Tomography
  1. Aim 1: Characterizing errors in pharmacokinetic model parameters from analyzing abbreviated dynamic contrast-enhanced (DCE) MRI of the breast. 
    • Collaborators: Dr. Julie DiCarlo, Dr. Anum Kazerouni, Dr. Anna Sorace, Dr. John Virostko, Dr. Thomas Yankeelov, Dr. Debra Patt, Dr. Boone Goodgame
    • Publication: Slavkova KP et al. Tomography. 2021 (featured as issue cover!)
  2. Aim 2:   An untrained deep learning method for reconstructing dynamic magnetic resonance images from accelerated model-based data.
  3. Aim 3: Mathematical modelling of the dynamics of tumor habitats in a murine model of glioma.
Starting September 2022, I will continue my training as a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Department of Radiology at Penn's Perelman School of Medicine under the guidance of Dr. Despina Kontos. My work will continue exploring AI for cancer imaging in the field of radiomics. 
Please take a look at  my CV and publications for more details on my academic journey and research findings.


Summer at the Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria
I was born in Sofia, Bulgaria in a neighborhood called Boyana, located right at the base of Vitosha mountain. When I was 3 years old, my parents and I moved to the USA to join the Clyde Beaty Cole Brothers circus with the encouragement of other Bulgarian immigrants. A few years later, we settled permanently near Orlando, FL.

Having been around animals all my life, I developed a strong interest in Biology, which generalized to an interest in how the world around us works. It turns out that the field of Physics addresses this topic. I was lucky to be able to cultivate this curiosity through summer schools during high school, like SSP and the Perimeter Institute's ISSYP. Ultimately maintaining a love for both sciences, I opted for a double major in college, which brought me to my biology-themed Physics PhD.

These days, my interests include reading, weight lifting, vegan baking, amateur photography, and teaching my cat tricks and taking her on adventures. I am also working on learning my 4th language! Before the global pandemic, I would enjoy visiting Bulgaria in the summers and traveling in general. 
Zara visiting my parents' yard in FL