Kalina P. Slavkova, PhD

Physicist | Exploring the Intersection of AI, Physics, & Imaging


I am a Postdoctoral Research Scientist at the Columbia University Medical Center leveraging Radiomics and AI for breast cancer risk stratification.


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 Dr. Jonathan Tamir in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.  My 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.
  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.
    • Collaborators: Dr. Jon Tamir, Viraj Wadhwa, Dr. Thomas Yankeelov, Dr. Julie DiCarlo
    • Publication: Slavkova KP et al.  Magnetic Resonance in Medicine. 2022
  3. Aim 3: Mathematical modelling of the dynamics of tumor habitats in a murine model of glioma.
    • Collaborators: Dr. David Hormuth II, Dr. Thomas Yankeelov, Dr. Anum Kazerouni
    • Publication: Slavkova KP et al. Scientific Reports. 2023
Click the figures below for a summary of each aim:
In September 2022, I became a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Department of Radiology at Penn's Perelman School of Medicine under the guidance of Dr. Despina Kontos. My work focused on radiomic feature extraction from breast MRI for improving breast cancer risk stratification as well as leveraging deep learning techniques for MRI analysis.

As of January 1st, 2024, I am a Postdoctoral Research Scientist at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center, continuing work with Dr. Kontos as she begins her directorship role of the brand new Center for Innovation in Imaging Biomarkers and Integrated Diagnostics.
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 the natural world, 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 Harvard SSPSSP and the Perimeter Institute's ISSYP. Ultimately maintaining a love for both sciences, I opted for a double major at Penn, which brought me to my medical imaging-themed Physics PhD at UT Austin.

These days, my interests include weight lifting, climbing (indoors and outdoors sometimes), going to diners with my husband, amateur photography, reading science fiction, and teaching my cat (Zara) tricks. I am also working on learning my 4th language! I enjoy visiting Bulgaria in the summers and traveling in general (often for conferences in interesting places). 
Zara visiting my parents' yard in FL

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