Astonishing things happen in Professor Purang Abolmaesumi’s research meetings. Each week Purang and his students gather to hear about each others’ research, make suggestions and offer criticisms; this, in itself, is not unique, regular meetings are common in most organizations. What is remarkable is the lateral thinking and truly innovative insights that are generated in these meetings.
It was during these team meetings Purang and his students realized that a statistical model they were using to help physicians visualize ultrasound information from the spine could also be applied to magnetic resonance images used to diagnose depression. The result was an 80% accurate diagnosis using only the MRIs, the best result ever reported. In a second burst of insight, Purang’s students saw that a technique used to integrate information about brain function and structure could be used to improve the treatment of prostate cancer. Perhaps more impressive than these insights are the number of innovations Purang’s students have managed to move through clinical trials to be used by physicians or to be scaled-up by companies.
Collaboration is particularly important in biomedical engineering. Prof. Abolmaesumi and his students must use a very interdisciplinary approach to get results. In biomedical engineering, knowledge of a number of engineering subspecialties must be united with medicine and patient care. Purang’s approach to mentorship has benefited the entire Biomedical Engineering Graduate Program at UBC. Working with the curriculum advisory team Purang has helped to integrate three new Engineering in Scrubs courses. These courses provide a unique opportunity for students to become familiar with the medical arena and work with clinicians.
Purang’s approach to mentorship includes the whole person, the student’s education, ambitions, and motivation. The collaborative culture in his lab inspires trust and a collegial atmosphere that extends beyond the student’s time at university. Many of Purang’s students have gone on to become faculty members at leading institutions or have started their own companies. Purang’s network of innovative colleagues continues to grow.
Professor Purang Abolmaesumi has mentored 15 PhD, 32 MSc, and 9 postdoctoral fellows. His former students were invited to write to ECE in support of his nomination for the UBC Killam Award for Excellence in Mentoring. The response was overwhelming. The Department is very pleased that Prof. Abolmaesumi has been recognized with this award. It is clear that Prof. Abolmaesumi’s impact on his field and on the lives of his students will continue to ripple outward.
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