James A. Zagzebski

Credentials: Ph.D.

Position title: Emeritus Professor, Medical Physics

Email: jazagzeb@wisc.edu

Phone: 608/265-4929

1151 WIMR


B.A., Physics, St. Mary’s College, Winona, MN

M.S., Physics, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Ph.D., Radiological Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Department Affilations

Medical Physics


Human Oncology


  • 1972-1975, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Departments of Human Oncology & Radiology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI
  • 1975-1977, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Human Oncology & Radiology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI
  • 1977-1981, Assistant Professor, Department of Human Oncology & Radiology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI
  • 1981-1986, Associate Professor, Department of Medical Physics, Human Oncology, and Radiology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI
  • 1986-present, Professor, Department of Medical Physics, Human Oncology, and Radiology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI
  • 1998-2013, Chair, Department of Medical Physics, University of Wisconsin, School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, WI
  • 2007-2015, Adjunct Professor, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI
  • 2013-Present, Professor Emeritus, Department of Medical Physics, University of Wisconsin, School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, WI

Research Interests

Quantitative ultrasound imaging for improved detection of breast masses, thyroid nodules, and focal and diffuse liver disease

Estimations of speed of sound using pulse-echo imaging devices>

Ultrasound contrast agents

Performance specification and acceptance testing of gray scale and Doppler ultrasound imaging systems.

My research is in ultrasound imaging and ultrasound tissue characterization. I am interested in the fundamental physics of ultrasound B-mode image production, relating the tissue microstructure to texture and other features on these images.

Current ultrasound imaging machines depict the amplitudes of echoes and are only qualitative because of operator and system dependencies. However, by processing the frequency dependencies of the backscattered echo data, and by careful standardization using known reference objects, it’s possible to measure backscatter coefficients and attenuation coefficients precisely. We can also form images of the “scatterer-size” by comparing backscatter vs frequency data from the tissue with expected backscatter vs. frequency data from scattering models.

Examples of applications of these techniques being explored in our group are in breast tumor diagnosis and in thyroid imaging. We have an NIH supported, Bioengineering Research Partnership with the University of Illinois to determine whether we can use quantitative image data – such as of the scatterer size – to differentiate benign from malignant masses in the breast. If this is possible, we believe we can significantly reduce the number of unnecessary biopsy procedures currently done for “suspicious” masses, and we are in the second year of this 5-year grant. Similarly, in the thyroid, suspicious nodules are seen in increasing numbers as a result of secondary findings from other medical imaging procedures. We hope to reduce the number of necessary biopsies and even unnecessary surgical procedures by providing greater specificity on the ultrasound image that that provided by amplitude images alone.

Awards and Honors

  • Fellow, American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine
  • Journal of Clinical Ultrasound, Best Paper Award, 1992
  • Joseph H. Holmes-Basic Science Pioneer Award, American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine, 1996
  • Fellow, American Association of Physicists in Medicine, 1997
  • Member, First Scientific Advisory Council of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, 2002-2005


  • Chen Q, Zagzebski JA, Wilson TA. Pressure Dependent Attenuation in Ultrasound Contrast Agents Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology. 2002; 28(8): 1041-1051.
  • Varghese T, Zagzebski JA, Chen Q, Techavipoo U, Frank G, Johnson C, Wright A, Lee FT Jr. Ultrasound monitoring of temperature change during radiofrequency ablation: preliminary in-vivo results. Ultrasound in Medicine & Biology 2002; 28(3): 321-329.
  • Wilson TA, Zagzebski JA. A test phantom for estimating changes in the effective frequency of an ultrasound scanner. Journal of Ultrasound in Medicine 2002; 21(9): 937-945.
  • Varghese T, Zagzebski JA, Frank G, Madsen EL. Elastographic Imaging Using a Handheld Compressor. Ultrasonic Imaging. 2002; 24(1): 25-35.
  • Varghese T, Zagzebski JA, Lee Jr., FT. Elastographic Imaging of thermal lesions in the liver in-vivo following radiofrequency ablation; Preliminary Results. Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology. 2002; 28(11-12):1467-1473.
  • Techavipoo U, Varghese T, Zagzebski JA, Stiles T, Frank G. Temperature dependence of ultrasonic propagation speed and attenuation in canine tissue. Ultrason. Imaging 2002; 24(4): 246-260.
  • Waller KR, Knipp BS, O’Brien RT, Zagzebski JA. The effect of body wall on video signal analysis measurements. Veterinary Radiology & Ultrasound 2003; 44(2): 222-225.
  • Varghese T. Zagzebski JA. Rahko P. Breburda CS. Ultrasonic imaging of myocardial strain using cardiac elastography. Ultrasonic Imaging. 2003; 25(1): 1-16.
  • Gerig A, Zagzebski J, Varghese T. Statistics of ultrasonic scatterer size estimation with a reference phantom. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 2003; 113(6) 3430-3437.
  • Zagzebski J, Madsen E, Chen Q, O’Brien RT. Phantom for Assessing Contrast Perfusion Imaging. Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology 2003; 29: S220.
  • Ziegler LE, O’Brien RT, Waller KR, Zagzebski JA. Quantitative contrast harmonic ultrasound imaging of normal canine liver. Veterinary Radiology & Ultrasound. 2003; 44(4): 451-454.
  • Varghese T, Techavipoo U, Liu W, Zagzebski JA, Chen Q, Frank G, Lee FT Jr. Elastographic measurement of the area and volume of thermal lesions resulting from radiofrequency ablation: pathologic correlation. AJR. American Journal of Roentgenology. 2003; 181(3): 701-707.
  • Mitchell C, Pozniak MA, Zagzebski J, Ledwidge M. Twinkling artifact related to intravesicular suture. Journal of Ultrasound in Medicine. 2003; 22(12): 1409-1411.
  • Tu H, Varghese T, Chen Q, Madsen EL, Zagzebski JA. Ultrasound Attenuation Imaging Using Compound Acquisition and Processing, Ultrasonic Imaging, 2003; 25(3): 245-261.
  • Li Y, Chen Q, Zagzebski J. Harmonic ultrasound fields through layered liquid media. IEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics Ferroelectrics & Frequency Control.2004; 51(2):146-152.
  • Gerig AL. Varghese T. Zagzebski JA. Improved parametric imaging of scatterer size estimates using angular compounding. IEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics Ferroelectrics & Frequency Control. 2004; 51(6):708-715.
  • Techavipoo U, Chen Q, Varghese T, Zagzebski JA, Madsen EL. Noise Reduction Using Angular Compounding For Elastography: Experimental Results. IEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics, and Frequency Control 2004; 51(4): 510-520.
  • Liu Wu, Zagzebski JA, Varghese T, Dyer CR, Techavipoo U. “Automated Thermal Coagulation Segmentation of Three-Dimensional Elastrographic Imaging using an Active Contour Model. 50th Anniversary Conference, IEEE Ultrasonic Symposium (pages 36-39) International Ultrasonic Ferroelectrics and Frequency Control. (2004).
  • Gerig A, Chen Q, Zagzebski JA, and Varghese T. “Optimization of angular compounding in ultrasonic scatterer size estimation, Journal Acoustic Society America. 116(3): 1832-1841, 2004
  • Tu H, JA Zagzebski, A Gerig, Q Chen, EL Madsen, TJ Hall. “Optimization of angular and frequency compounding in ultrasonic attenuation estimations, J Acoust Soc Am. 117(5): 3307-3318 (May, 2005).
  • Chen Q, AL Gerig, U Techavipoo, JA Zagzebski, and Tomy Varghese. “Correlation of RF Signal in Angular Compounding, IEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics Ferroelectrics and Frequency Control. 52(6): 961-970 (June, 2005).
  • Mistretta C, DeLuca P, Sorenson J, DeWerd L, Zagzebski J, “John Roderick Cameron, Physics Today. 58:69-70 (August, 2005).
  • Görig C, Varghese T, Stiles T, van den Broek J, Zagzebski JA, Murphy CJ. “Evaluation of Acoustic Wave Propagation Velocities in the Ocular Lens and Vitreous Tissues of Pigs, Dogs, and Rabbits, American Journal of Veterinary Research. 67(2): 288-295 (February, 2006).
  • Tu HF, Zagzebski JA, Chen Q. “Attenuation estimations using envelope echo data: Analysis and simulations, Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology. 32: 377-386 (March, 2006).
  • Wu Liu, James A. Zagzebski, Tomy Varghese, Charles R. Dyer, Udomchai Techavipoo, and Timothy J. Hall, “Segmentation of Structures on Elastographic Images using a Coarse-to-Fine Active Contour Model, IEEE Trans on Medical Imaging. 32:397-408 (March, 2006).
  • Wilson T, Zagzebski JA, Varghese T, Chen Q, Rao M. “The Ultrasonix 500RP: A Commercial Ultrasound Research Interface, IEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics Ferroelectrics, and Frequency Control. 53(10):1772-1782 (October, 2006).
  • Liu W, Zagzebski JA, Varghese T, Gerig AL, and Hall TJ, “Spectral and scatterer-size correlation during angular compounding: simulations and experimental studies, Ultrasonic Imaging. 230-244 (October, 2006).
  • Pareek G, Wilkinson ER, Bharat S, Varghese T, Laeseke PF, Lee FT Jr, Warner TF, Zagzebski JA, Nakada SY. “Elastographic Measurements of in-vivo Radiofrequency Ablation Lesions of the Kidney, Journal of Endourology. 20(11): 959-964 (November, 2006).
  • Varghese T, Chen Q, Zagzebski JA, Rahko PS, Breburda CS. Two-Dimensional Ultrasonic Imaging of Myocardial Strain. IEEE Transactions Ultrasonics Ferroelectrics Frequency Control. (Front cover) 53(4) (2006).
  • Wilson T, Chen Q, Zagzebski JA, Varghese T, VanMiddlesworth L. “Initial Clinical Experience Imaging Scatterer Size and Strain in Thyroid Nodules, J. Ultrasound in Medicine. 25(8): 1021-1029 (August, 2006).
  • Kiss MZ, Hobson MA, Varghese T, Harter J, Kliewer MA, Hartenbach EM, Zagzebski JA, “Frequency-dependent complex modulus of the uterus: preliminary results, Physics in Medicine and Biology. 51(15): 3683-3695 (August, 2006).
  • Jiang JF, Varghese T, Chen Q, Hall TJ, Zagzebski JA. “Finite element analysis of tissue deformation with a radio frequency ablation electrode for strain imaging, IEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics Ferroelectrics and Frequency Control. 54(2): 281-289 (February, 2007).
  • Rao M, Chen Q, Shi H, Varghese T, Madsen EL, Zagzebski JA, Wilson T. “Normal and shear strain estimations using beam steering on linear array transducers, Ultrasound Medicine Biology. 33(1): 57-66 (January, 2007).
  • Waller KR, O’Brien RT, Zagzebski JA. “Quantitative Contrast Ultrasound Analysis of Renal Perfusion in Normal Dogs, Vet Radio Ultrasound. 48(4): 373-377 (July-August, 2007).
  • Hobson MA, Kiss MZ, Varghese T, Kliewer MA, Zagzebski JA, Hall TJ, Harter J, Hartenbach EM, Madsen EL, “Uterine Strain Imaging: Preliminary Results, Journal of Ultrasound in Medicine. 26(7): 899-908 (July, 2007).
  • Daniels MJ, Varghese T, Madsen EL and Zagzebski JA, “Ultrasound-Based Temperature Imaging for Monitoring Radiofrequency Heating – Phantom Results, Physics in Medicine and Biology. 52(16): 4827-4823 (August, 2007).
  • Kim H, Zagzebski JA and Varghese T, “Estimation of Ultrasound Attenuation from Broadband Echo-Signals using Bandpass Filtering, EEE Transactions on Ultrasonics Ferroelectrics and Frequency Control, May;55(5):1153-9 (2008).
  • Liu, W, Zagzebski JA, Hall TJ, Madsen EL, Varghese T, Kliewer MA, Panda S, Lowery C, Barnes S. Acoustic Backscatter and effective scatterer size estimates using a 2D CMUT transducer. Phys Med Biol 53(15): 4169-83, 2008.
  • Kim H, Zagzebski JA, Varghese T. Estimation of ultrasound attenuation from broadband echo-signals using bandpass filtering. IEEE Trans Ultrason Ferroelectr Freq Control. 2008 May;55(5):1153-9.
  • Shi H, Varghese T, Dempsey RJ, Salamat MS, Zagzebski, JA. Relationship between Ultrasonic Attenuation, Size and Axial Strain Parameters for ex vivo Atherosclerotic Carotid Plaque. Ultrasound Med Biol. 2008 May 17.
  • Bharat S, Fisher TG, Varghese T, Hall TJ, Jiang J, Madsen EL, Zagzebski JA, Lee FT Jr. Three dimensional electrode displacement elastography using the Siemens C&F2 Foursight Four-Dimensional ultrasound transducer. Ultrasound Med Biol 2008.


  • 4,277,367 “Phantom Material and Method, EL Madsen, JA Zagzebski, RA Banjavic, MM Burlew. Madison, WI (July, 1981).
  • 4,843,866 “Ultrasound Phantom, EL Madsen, JA Zagzebski, GR Frank. Madison, WI (July, 1989).
  • 5,574,212 “Automated System and Method for Testing Resolution of Ultrasound Scanners, EL Madsen, JA Zagzebski, GR Frank, JJ Rownd. Madison, WI (November, 1996).
  • 5,670,719 “Automated System and Method for Testing Resolution of Ultrasound Scanners, EL Madsen, JA Zagzebski, GR Frank, JJ Rownd. Madison, WI (September, 1997).
  • 6,749,571 “Method and Apparatus for Cardiac Elastography, T Varghese, CS Breburdan, JA Zagzebski, PS Rahko. Madison, WI (June, 2004).
  • 7,166,075 “Elastographic Imaging of In Vivo Soft Tissue, T Varghese, JA Zagzebski, U Techavipoo, Q Chen. Madison, WI (January, 2007).
  • 7,275,439 “Parametric Ultrasound Imaging Using Angular Compounding, JA Zagzebski, T Varghese, AL Gerig. Madison, WI (October, 2007).
  • 7,297,116 “Method and Apparatus for Imaging the Cervix and Uterine Wall, T Varghese, MA Kliewer, JA Zagzebski. Madison, WI (November, 2007).
  • 7,331,926 “Ultrasonic Elastography Providing Axial, Orthogonal, and Shear Strain, T Varghese, U Techavipoo, Q Chen, JA Zagzebski. Madison, WI (February, 2008).
  • Provisional “Method for Producing Highly Constrained Ultrasound Images, JA Zagzebski, CA Mistretta. Madison, WI.


  • American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM)
    • Past chair, General Medical Physics Committee
    • Past chair, Ultrasound Committee
  • American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM)
    • Past member, AIUM Board of Governors
  • Commission for Accreditation of Medical Physics Educational Programs
    • Member, Graduate Education Program Review Committee
  • Quantitative Imaging Biomarker Alliance
    • Member, Volume Flow Committee
  • Past member, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering Ultrasonics Society
  • Past member, American College of Radiology
  • Past member, International Veterinary Ultrasound Society
  • Past member, Society of Directors of Academic Medical Physics Programs
  • Past member, American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
    • Advisory Board; chair of ultrasound physics exam committee