Biomedical engineering students named Outstanding Young Scientists at international conference

Biomedical engineering students Alborz Amir-Khalili (left) and Philip Edgcumbe (right) with their MICCAI Outstanding Young Scientist certificates outside of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Kresge Auditorium.

Philip Edgcumbe and Alborz Amir-Khalili, UBC biomedical engineering PhD students and Engineers in Scrubs, each won an Outstanding Young Scientist award at the 2014 International Medical Image Computing and Computer Aided Interventions (MICCAI) conference for their research papers on minimally invasive surgical software and tools. 

Out of 850 papers, Edgcumbe and Amir-Khalili were two of five students selected to receive the Young Scientist awards. UBC Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Purang Abolmaesumi, Edgcumbe and Amir-Khalili’s graduate advisor, said: “MICCAI is one of the most important conferences in Philip and Alborz’s areas of research. It is a significant accomplishment for one, let alone two, students from the same institution to be selected for this award. This is virtually unheard of in the 18-year history of MICCAI.”

Amir-Khalili received the award for his paper, Auto Localization and Segmentation of Occluded Vessels in Robot-Assisted Partial Nephrectomy. Amir-Khalili and his collaborators have developed a program that helps surgeons find the blood vessels around the kidney that need to be clamped off during minimally invasive kidney cancer surgeries. The vessels can be very difficult to identify because every person has a different number of vessels and many of them are hidden under layers of tissue. The program also effectively grants the surgeons X-ray vision without exposing the patient to harmful ionizing radiation.

For his research, Amir-Khalili collaborated with surgeons at the Qatar Robotic Surgery Centre in Doha, Qatar. Rafeef Abugharbieh, UBC electrical and computer engineering associate professor, supervised his work. 

Edgcumbe won the award for his paper, Pico Lantern: A Pick-Up Projector for Augmented Reality in Laparoscopic Surgery. The Pico Lantern is a miniature projector which guides surgeons during minimally invasive kidney and prostate cancer surgeries. Its miniaturized design allows it to be picked up by the surgeon during surgery and tracked directly in the camera view the surgeon is already using. By using laser projection, different patterns and annotations can be projected onto the tissue surface and the Pico Lantern can be used for accurate surface reconstruction of the surgical scene. Its intended uses are for surgeons to see an overlay of pre-operative CT and MRI scans during surgery and to show the surgeons a map of subsurface blood vessels.

Edgcumbe teamed up with researchers at the Hamlyn Center for Robotic Surgery in Imperial College London in London, UK, to perform his research. Edgcumbe is a MD/PhD student and his co-supervisors are Robert Rohling, UBC electrical and computer engineering and mechanical engineering professor and Dr. Christopher Nguan, UBC urological sciences associate professor.

This year’s MICCAI Conference took place at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts on September 15-17. The MICCAI Conference is considered one of the most prominent conferences in the medical image computing field. The conference consists of oral presentations and poster sessions from professionals and students in the field.