Computing Science

Maryam Sadeghi wins honourable mention for thesis

June 27, 2013

Computing science PhD graduate Maryam Sadeghi was awarded the Doctoral Dissertation Award 2012 Honourable Mention from the Canadian Image Processing and Pattern Recognition Society (CIPPRS) for her thesis “Towards Prevention and Early Diagnosis of Skin Cancer: Computer-Aided Analysis of Dermoscopy Images.” The award is given annually to the top thesis completed at a Canadian institution in the areas covered by the Canadian Conference on Computer and Robot Vision (CRV), which include computer vision, robot vision, robotics, medical imaging, image processing or pattern recognition.

With the knowledge that one in seven Canadians gets skin cancer, yet there is a 90% cure rate with early diagnosis and treatment, Sadeghi’s goal is to empower individuals with the knowledge and tools to detect it in its early stages. She is currently working on developing a low-cost professional imaging device that people can use at home. This diagnostic tool will enable easy image capture of suspicious-looking moles, for example, which can then be analyzed by doctors and, if necessary, followed up with specialist evaluations. Sadeghi emphasizes the importance of intersecting disciplines like computing science and dermatology, as well as an authentic understanding of the patient’s experience, when it comes to developing the most effective product.

The device builds on the success of UV Canada, a free public health iPhone app developed by Sadeghi and a team of friends in 2011. Aiming to raise awareness of UV hazards, the app uses information uploaded directly from Environment Canada and provides up-to-date UV index, weather forecast, and sun safety information. Users can set their own UV maximum, depending on personal factors like skin complexion, and be notified when this maximum is reached in their current location. With the newly added Time to Burn feature, users can indicate their skin type, the SPF level they are wearing, and their current environment—water, snow, urban setting—to find out within how much time they risk becoming sunburned.

Sadeghi also studied computer-aided diagnosis of skin cancer during her PhD studies at SFU, which she started in 2008 in the Medical Image Analysis Lab, under the supervision of professor emeritus Stella Atkins—winner of a 2011 Dean of Graduate Studies Award for Excellence in Graduate Supervision. Applying her passion for computer vision and image processing, Sadeghi focused her research on early detection and prevention of skin cancer, using dermoscopic images to segment, visualize and analyze malignant features of skin lesions. Throughout this time, Sadeghi also had clinical observerships with the B.C. Cancer Agency (BCCA), the Skin Care Centre at Vancouver General Hospital, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Skin Research Training Centre. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at SFU.