SFU Computing Science Professor Emeritus Receives Canadian Lifetime Achievement Award in Computing Science

May 13, 2022

By Andrew Ringer

SFU computing science professor emeritus Stella Atkins recently received the CS-Can|Info-Can Lifetime Achievement Award. This prestigious award recognizes her outstanding and sustained contributions in research, teaching and service over her career as a computer scientist.

Atkins joined SFU as an Assistant Professor in 1985 and worked in the School of Computing Science for 25 years before retiring in 2010. After being introduced to medical imaging at SFU, Atkins quickly became interested in the application of this research, forming an interdisciplinary group of computer scientists, engineers and medical professionals to study problems in medical image display and analysis. 

She is especially proud of her work in dermatology, where she and her team performed pathfinding research, looking at how to use computer science techniques like image analysis and machine learning to determine structures of the skin that can then be incorporated into a diagnosis.

She also became interested in researching eyegaze tracking technology for medical applications during her time at SFU. This technology can track how users analyze 3D body parts in 2D images, and Atkins’ team’s research improved the accuracy, efficiency and usefulness for assessing 3D objects from 2D images, such as during radiology scan analysis and for training endoscopic (”keyhole”) surgery.

When asked what receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award means to her, Atkins responded, “I’m enjoying it.”

“I’ve had lots of former colleagues and former students giving me congratulations and I think that they’re pleased that this pathfinding interdisciplinary work is being recognized,” she says.

Now retired, her work in dermatology has left a long-lasting impact. Her former graduate student Dr. Maryam Sadeghi received the top award at the World Congress of Dermatology in Seoul, Korea in 2011. Sadeghi also founded MetaOptima Inc., a Vancouver company that provides smart skin analytics. Atkins is an advisor for the company, serving as a Senior Scientist.

For the future, MetaOptima Inc. is applying for FDA approval for skin diagnostics, and would be the first company to achieve this.