DEVELOPING PERSONALISED MEDICINE FOR BREAST CANCER - WITH THE HELP OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
Hamid Behravan first joined the University of Eastern Finland to study in the Master’s degree programme in Information Technology (IMPIT), then he continued towards PhD – and now we are happy to see him continue working at the university as a senior Artificial Intelligence (AI) researcher at the Institute of Clinical Medicine, Pathology, and Forensic Medicine. He is developing machine and deep learning techniques on biological and clinical data from healthy controls and breast cancer patients to predict the risk of breast cancer and to assess the patient outcome. What a groundbreaking, innovative research topic which could have a significant impact on breast cancer personalized medicine and on people’s lives – and one example of the many directions that the IMPIT programme can take you!
Hamid Behravan has a 10-year experience of living in Finland, and during that time, he has achieved a lot. Already when he was pursuing his Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering in his home country Iran, he knew he wanted to aim at Master’s and PhD studies, preferably abroad. He found the IMPIT programme – partly thanks to a lucky coincidence.
–Back in 2010, I took part in an International Conference on Pattern Recognition (ICPR) in Turkey, where I met a researcher from the UEF School of Computing. He was my initial contact to the UEF. Then, I found another Iranian student, who was already studying in the IMPIT program, so I arranged a meeting with him in Iran and obtained more information about this degree and the university itself.
Apparently the introductions were good, since Hamid started to consider the UEF and particularly the IMPIT program as one of his alternatives to continue his studies – and he applied and got in. Now that a few years have passed, Hamid can see clearly that the IMPIT programme laid a solid foundation for his path towards PhD.
–The IMPIT programme offers up-to-date and diverse courses in the field of computer science. What I really appreciate is that students can choose courses freely based on their interests. In my case, the courses related to machine and deep learning as well as digital image and signal processing motivated me to continue research in these areas.
SKILLED PEOPLE & INTRIGUING RESEARCH
Hamid wrote his Master’s thesis on dialect and accent recognition, where he developed Gaussian Mixture Models (GMMs) to automatically identify accents and dialects from speech signals (voices). It required learning different techniques to extract features from speech signals and then feeding them to GMMs to perform automatic accent/dialect identification.
–The topic then became my PhD research topic, where I researched how to develop state-of-the-art foreign accent recognition technology using AI. It would not have been possible without my supervisors, who were always available to give comments and support me on my research, which is crucial for a PhD student.
As Hamid points out, it is not only the academic content that matters when you choose a Master’s degree programme. It’s also the people.
–One great thing about the IMPIT programme and the UEF School of Computing is the people: the professors, the senior researchers and research group members, who are competent in different areas of computer science, ranging from digital speech processing to machine and deep learning, software development, eye tracking, computational color and spectral imaging, algorithmic data analysis and educational and interactive technologies. The versatility is crucial so that students can get to know many areas of research and to choose what to focus on in their Masters’ thesis and possible future PhD studies.
Hamid has experience studying at both UEF campuses, Joensuu and Kuopio.
–I lived in Joensuu during my Master's and PhD studies and moved to Kuopio for my post-doc. I have really enjoyed the international atmosphere at the university. Joensuu is a bit smaller city, but the Student Union organizes many kinds of events for students, such as international food and music events, welcoming parties for new students, and other fun activities, which make students’ life very dynamic. On the other hand, Kuopio offers more opportunities for researchers, who are more interested in doing multi-discipline research, especially in health and biology related topics.
After completing his PhD, Hamid decided to stay in Finland and started applying his in-depth AI expertise in a new field: health.
‒I started working as a senior AI researcher at Institute of Clinical Medicine, Pathology, and Forensic Medicine at UEF. My tasks include applying and developing machine and deep learning techniques on the biological and clinical data, such as genetic and imaging data from healthy controls and breast cancer patients, to predict the risk of breast cancer and to assess the patient outcome.
He also gets to share his expertise to others.
‒I’m also supervising a PhD student, whose research focuses on developing deep learning techniques to analyze breast cancer histopathology and breast mammographic screening imaging data, so that we could better predict the risk of breast cancer and identify breast tumor characteristics.
While Hamid is currently firmly rooted in academia, he has seen how many of his fellow IMPIT students have also stayed in Finland and found intriguing job opportunities.
‒There are quite many IT-related companies in Finland that hire freshly graduated computer scientists. Both in Joensuu and in Kuopio, students have a chance to do their Master’s thesis in collaboration with companies, which is a good opportunity to get hired by those companies later on. I remember there were some events during the Master’s studies, where different companies introduced themselves to the students, presented potential thesis topics, and offered open positions. Quite a few of my IMPIT colleagues are actually currently working in IT related companies in Finland, if not continuing towards PhD either at UEF or at other universities.
Hamid’s future plans are clear.
‒I see myself becoming an independent researcher, running my own research group and supervising more Master and PhD students, and I think that the University of Eastern Finland is the place to do just that.