The Principal's Research Seminar
This seminar celebrated the work and achievements of St Hilda's inspirational female engineers, Professor Alison Noble and Dr Ana Namburete. Professor Alison Noble was recently elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society. Dr Ana Namburete has been awarded a five-year Royal Academy of Engineering Fellowship. Professor Noble and Dr Namburete talked about their groundbreaking work in medical imaging.
Professor J. Alison Noble OBE FRS FREng spoke on Changing Perceptions of Medical Ultrasound Imaging
Ultrasound imaging has undergone a transformation over the last 20 years. Medical ultrasound is now the most widely used imaging modality in clinical practice worldwide, significant progress continues to be made in understanding the physics of ultrasound imaging, and ultrasound technology is now smaller, and lower cost, thanks in a large part to advances in consumer electronics. However, the untrained eye may find ultrasound images difficult to interpret, and the trained eye may not always fully appreciate the rich content of ultrasound images. As a result ultrasound is perceived as a technology for the expert user.
Professor Noble's group’s research aims to change this perception through engineering solutions. Much of their recent work has focussed on bringing machine learning to ultrasound to advance the state of knowledge in automatic analysis of clinical 2D, 3D and video sweep ultrasound scans achieved by performing powerful automated acoustic pattern recognition. Their approach is inter-disciplinary, working at the interfaces of computational science, biomedical engineering and clinical medicine. The design of the resulting computational solutions utilises knowledge of clinical sonography, large databases of real-world ultrasound images and video, and machine learning to build interpretation models of specific tasks. Examples include ensuring that ultrasound scans are “fit-for-purpose” as they are acquired in real-time, describing the content of ultrasound video to support clinical referral, and recovering image-based biomarkers from acoustic patterns within 3D ultrasound scans.
Ultimately, the group's is to ensure that, regardless of training and frequency of use, anyone, anywhere, can perform ultrasound-based decision making.
Professor Alison Noble OBE FREng FRS is the University of Oxford Technikos Professor of Biomedical Engineering, an Associate Head of the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences (MPLS) Division acting as academic lead of the divisional strategy on corporate partnerships and innovation, and a Professorial Fellow at St Hilda’s College. She is also a European Research Council Advanced Research award holder.
Internationally, Alison is best known for her group’s research on ultrasound image analysis much of which has involved inter-disciplinary collaborators with clinical partners. Throughout her career she has had an interest in the commercialization of scientific research as a pathway to realizing impact of academic research. In 2012 she co-founded Intelligent Ultrasound Ltd, a spin-out from her research laboratory, which recently became a Division of the AIM listed Medaphor Group Plc.
Alison is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (2008) and a Fellow of the Royal Society (2017). She is a Trustee of the Oxford Trust, and of the Institution of Engineering Technology (IET), and was awarded an OBE for services to science and engineering in 2013.
Dr Ana Namburete spoke on Beyond the Cranial Vault: Imaging the Fetal Brain with Ultrasound
Ultrasound (US) imaging is one of the first steps in a continuum of pregnancy care. During the fetal period, the brain undergoes dramatic structural changes, many of which are informative of healthy maturation. The resolution of modern US machines enables us to observe and measure brain structures, as well as detect cerebral abnormalities in fetuses from as early as 18 weeks. Recent breakthroughs in image analysis techniques introduce opportunities to automate routine clinical measurements, and develop new metrics to track spatial and temporal patterns of fetal brain development. My work focuses on the design and development appropriate data-driven techniques to extract this information from standard ultrasound data.
Dr Ana Namburete is a Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) Research Fellow in the Department of Engineering Science at the University of Oxford and an Associate Research Fellow at St. Hilda's College (Oxford). She is the Principal Investigator of the Ultrasound NeuroImage Analysis Group. She studied Biomedical Engineering at Simon Fraser University (Canada) and moved to Oxford for a doctorate degree on a Commonwealth Scholarship. In 2011, she completed a doctorate under the supervision of Professor J. Alison Noble OBE, FRS.
In collaboration with clinicians at the John Radcliffe Hospital (Oxford, UK) and in Kilifi (Kenya), Dr. Namburete was awarded a Grand Challenge Explorations Grant (Round 14: Exploring New Ways to Measure Brain Development and Gestational Age) from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She served as the Principal Investigator on that project, which was geared towards the development of a computational tool that identifies physical features of the fetal brain from a routine ultrasound image to automatically, and more accurately, estimate gestational age at any stage of pregnancy.
In 2016, Dr. Namburete was awarded a Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellowship to pursue machine learning-based methods for analysing neurosonographic data, at which time she started the Ultrasound NeuroImage Analysis Group. She has also been awarded funding from the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) to work on research themes of relevance to developing nations.
The seminar was attended by members of St Hilda's and their guests, as well as visitors from other Colleges and members of the public.