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April Khademi

#iAmBiomed because I create new technologies that positively impact the health and well-being of society
April's Biography

April Khademi is Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Guelph, and Director of the Image Analysis in Medicine Lab (IAMLAB), which specializes in the design of algorithms for Pathology and Radiology images. April holds a Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Toronto and has had previous roles in research at GE Healthcare, PathCore Inc., Sunnybrook Research Institute and Toronto Rehab Institute. Her research and academic excellence has been acknowledged through several awards: Governor General Gold Medal, NSERC CGSD, L’Oréal UNESCO for Women in Science and Google Anita Borg Scholar. She is a licensed Professional Engineer in Ontario and Senior Member of IEEE.

I am Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering, and the Director of the Image Analysis in Medicine Lab (IAMLAB). I teach courses in medical image processing, medical imaging, biomedical signal processing and engineering design. In my research lab, we are designing algorithms that extract insights from medical images, to help radiologists and pathologists quantify disease in a new way. We are particularly interested in neurological disease precursors in magnetic resonance images, and breast cancer diagnosis through digital pathology images.

I love both the research and teaching aspect of my job. Through research, we can be creative and design new technologies that have a real impact on patient care and society as a whole, which is immensely rewarding. Research is truly my creative outlet. I also love teaching young minds, and finding new and innovative ways of explaining complex material. It is most gratifying when I see what I have explained allows students to grasp the difficult concepts of engineering.

I have a Bachelor’s, M.A.Sc. and Ph.D. all in Electrical Engineering, which focused on the design of novel algorithms for radiology images. My degrees in engineering have allowed me to approach complex problems from a place of logic, and to apply methodological problem solving skills to find optimal solutions that have real clinical impact. Engineers are paramount in creating new technologies for medicine because of our ability to understand the problem, solve it, and to innovate in a way that practitioners cannot.

To be honest, as I entered the field of electrical engineering, I thought that mainly I would be working in communications, power systems or electronics. Although I received training in these subjects, I soon became aware that electrical engineering encompasses many more fields and applications, including biomedical engineering. Additionally, I was surprised at how engineering gives me the tools to solve almost any problem analytically and I can apply these tools in my day-to-day life.

The most enjoyable project I have been involved in surrounds the development of algorithms for MRI of the brain over the last 10 years or so. These algorithms allow us to quantify and measure properties of the brain on large patient databases in an objective and efficient manner. The potential of these algorithms to uncover disease correlations, understand their causes and to model the progression of disease can revolutionize the way neurological disease is treated and diagnosed. The prospects of this truly excite me and motivate me every day

The answer to this is three-fold. Firstly, my father and brothers are engineers, and from their passion towards their work, and the positive encouragement I received from them, I could tell that this was a valuable and important field. Secondly, I truly love mathematics. Engineering is based on the application of math in a practical way; and I appreciated the prospect of this. Lastly, I have always been fascinated with medicine and the technologies that are needed to diagnose, treat and help people in a real and meaningful way. The marriage of electrical engineering and medicine was a perfect way to satisfy all these desires.

My dream is that women are equally encouraged to pursue careers in engineering as men. Typically, because of societal influences, women sometimes do not think engineering is for them. I hope to continue to influence and support change in these perceptions through mentoring and outreach activities. Hopefully, in 25 years, we won’t be having these discussions!

Women are detailed-oriented, organized and excellent multi-taskers. All are attributes that ensure success in engineering. Therefore, we are inherently built to be great engineers and just need to be made aware that engineering is a viable career for us to choose. Sometimes, young women may lack confidence when they begin pursuing a degree in engineering, as it can be difficult and challenging at times. But I promise you, if you endure with fortitude, focus, work hard and don’t give up, you will gain the confidence and succeed beyond your wildest dreams. Always dream big!

Through outreach and professional development activities, research, partnerships, thought leadership and online initiatives, we work with industry and academia to educate on the value of diversity for innovation, to inspire women to thrive and to celebrate the contributions of women in science and engineering.
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