Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common type of heart arrhythmia, which increases the risk of serious heart complications such as stroke and heart failure. Early detection of AF can lead to stroke prevention and generally improve the therapy outcome.
Morteza Zabihi, a biomedical engineer born in Iran and currently working towards his PhD at TUT, might very well be part of the team responsible for it. Biomedical engineering is an interdisciplinary field where specialists draw upon a wide spectrum of knowledge – from mathematics and computer science to human anatomy and physiology – and apply it to medical problems for improved diagnosis and treatment.
Morteza’s field of research is biomedical signal analysis – decoding the signals emitted by the physiological activities of the various organs of the human body – and his specialty is the analysis of heart (ECG) and brain (EEG) signals.
Finding his academic home in Tampere
Talent Tampere and Julia Rigal last met with PhD student Morteza for an interview in the Autumn of 2016. At the time Morteza and his team of professionals were preparing for an upcoming biomedical research challenge at the start of 2017. But quite a large update to that article was due a year later, as Morteza and his team had not only taken part, but also won the challenge in question. But first let's go back a little.
After graduating from his BSc studies in Iran, Morteza wanted to experience something new: "I decided to live and study abroad. Finland was one of the best options since the quality of its education system is well known.“ He went on to complete his MSc in biomedical engineering at TUT and expects to finish his PhD studies at the end of 2018.
TUT turned out to be the perfect choice for Morteza: "I like TUT’s international outlook, the flexibility of the study programme, and the active learning environment. There is a friendly atmosphere and the guidance I receive from my supervisors, Prof. Gabbouj and Prof. Kiranyaz, is excellent.
Fastforward back to 2017 and the start of the upcoming challenge, Physionet's Computing in Cardiology 2017. Physionet is the largest source of free physiological signals and related open-source software. Physionet and the Computing in Cardiology conference host a series of challenges annually with the focus on heart problems. In previous years, Morteza and his algorithms had already placed TUT among the best research institutions in the field by winning the 2nd and 3rd place in PhysioNet Challenge of 2016 and IEEE NER BCI challenge of 2015.
This year Morteza's team consisted of both researchers from Finland and abroad. In addition to Morteza the participants were Postdoc researcher Ali Bahrami Rad, Prof. Aggelos K. Katsaggelos, Prof. Serkan Kiranyaz, Adj. Prof. Susanna Narkilahti, and Prof. Moncef Gabbouj. The challenge was about designing a method to automatically detect atrial fibrillations using heart signals.
And the hard work did pay off. Morteza and his team tied for the first place among 75 international teams, including researchers from Philips Research North America, Philips Healthcare, University of Oxford, and EPFL. Their proposed method is presented in the paper entitled “Detection of Atrial Fibrillation in ECG Hand-held Devices using a Random Forest Classifier”.
Hoping to make Tampere a permanent home
Morteza has greatly enjoyed living in Tampere and wants to stay here after he finishes his studies – if he is able to find a job. "There are many industrial companies in the Tampere area which create great job opportunities", he notes. He hopes to work in a company R&D department some day.
"However, since biomedical engineering is an interdisciplinary field, I think that there are several possible roles for me within the health, finance or other industries."
The work and success in Computing in Cardiology 2017 was the result of international collaboration between Tampere University of Technology and the University of Tampere, the Northwestern University from the US, and Qatar University of Doha,Qatar. Talent Tampere congratulates Morteza Zabihi and his collaborators on their remarkable achievement and wishes them all the best for the future.
For more information you can contact Morteza Zabihi via his LinkedIn, or professor Moncef Gabbouj via email Moncef.firstname.lastname@example.org