By Sissi De Flaviis

Recent Carleton University doctoral graduate Fatemeh Zabihollahy has been awarded the University Medal for Outstanding Graduate Work at the PhD level.

Over the last three years, Zabihollahy has spent countless hours developing a computer-aided detection method to identify abnormalities in the body, such as cancer.

“I was really happy, because you realize that your work and all the hard work you have done has been recognized,” Zabihollahy said about winning the medal, which is bestowed annually during convocation to one outstanding student, when merited. “And actually, it doesn’t just represent my work, but all the teamwork.”

PhD Graduate Fatemeh Zabihollahy Wins Prestigious Medal for Medical Imaging Research

Fatemeh Zabihollahy

Her thesis, “Deep Learning Methods for Abnormality Detection and Segmentation in Computed Tomography and Magnetic Resonance Images,” focused on analyzing 3D body images with artificial intelligence.

Her research allowed clinical professionals — including cardiologists and radiologists — to analyze images more accurately and efficiently compared to other studies and methods.

“Advances in technology have increased the number of medical images to interpret,” Zabihollahy explained.

“Imaging studies may now consist of hundreds or thousands of images. Despite the increased size of the medical imaging data, interpretation of medical images is still typically done manually, which is really time consuming.”

PhD Graduate Fatemeh Zabihollahy Wins Prestigious Medal for Medical Imaging Research

A Long and Rewarding Journey

After spending 10 years working as a biomedical engineer in Iran, Zabihollahy moved to Ottawa with her husband and then 11-year-old daughter in 2014. Back then, she was debating between finding a job in the capital or going back to studying.

“When you’re working in engineering fields, you need to update your knowledge and acquire new skills,” said Zabihollahy.

Before making her decision, she came to Carleton’s campus to meet with Aerospace Engineering Prof. Mojtaba Ahmadi. After an hour-long conversation, he told Zabihollahy, “If you come back to school, you won’t regret it.”

After that, she chose to pursue a master’s degree, followed by her recent doctoral studies at Carleton.

“I learned a lot during my PhD studies,” she said, “which is not limited to just technical stuff.”

During her doctoral studies, Zabihollahy published eight journal papers as the lead author, although her first attempt was not successful.

In 2017, she pitched to a top journal, IEEE TMI. After receiving feedback from four different reviewers, Zabihollahy spent seven months addressing and answering all of their comments. When she resubmitted the paper, with all the new edits, the journal decided not to publish her research.

“Still, I am really grateful for those reviewers because I learned a lot,” said Zabihollahy.

“I am also grateful to my supervisor, Systems and Computer Engineering Prof. Eranga Ukwatta, for his continuous support during my PhD studies.”

Zabihollahy is looking into the University of California, Los Angeles or John Hopkins University for a postdoctoral program.

“It’s very important that when people decide to pursue their studies, especially for PhD, they really love their field of research,” she said, “and that they are ready to dedicate a lot of time to their research.”

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Monday, July 27, 2020 in , ,
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