Series to Highlight Women in Signal Processing: Dr. Pamela Guevara

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Series to Highlight Women in Signal Processing: Dr. Pamela Guevara

Abhishek Appaji

Pamela Guevara Dr. Pamela Guevera
Universidad de Concepción, Concepción, Chile
Advanced Center for Electrical and Electronic Engineering (AC3E), Chile 

Pamela Guevara received her B.S. with honors in Electronics Engineering from Universidad de Concepción, Chile in 2001. She then received a Master’s degree in medical Imaging and a Ph.D. in Physics, both from the Université Paris-Sud, France, both with honors, in 2007 and 2011, respectively. In 2011 she joined the Department of Electrical Engineering of the Universidad de Concepción and started teaching on the then new undergraduate program in Biomedical Engineering. She is currently Associate Professor at the same institution where she teaches Digital Image Processing, Medical Image Analysis and Computer Programming. She leads a Medical Image Analysis group which focuses on developing methods to study brain connectivity. She has authored more than 60 journal and conference papers. She has led several Chilean R&D projects and since 2018 she is researcher of the Chilean Advanced Center for Electrical and Electronic Engineering (AC3E), leading the Biomedical Systems research line. Since 2018 she serves as an Associate Editor of Biomedical Engineering Online Journal. She is currently a member of the IEEE SPS Bio Imaging and Signal Processing (BISP) Technical Committee. Since 2018 she is advisor of the WIE Student Affinity Group at the Universidad de Concepción.

We approached Dr. Pamela Guevara with a few questions to learn more:

1. Why did you choose to become a faculty in the field of Signal Processing?

Since my undergraduate studies I have been fascinated by the analysis and manipulations that could be performed on signals and images. The applications are numerous in various areas, from mining to astronomy, industry in general, including biomedicine. And now, with machine learning and AI the capabilities of the algorithms, is a lot more powerful. Medical image analysis was particularly attractive to me, given the visual nature of this data and its application to health, and given my knowledge on signal processing and computer graphics. I pursued graduate studies in France in the area of neuroimaging, and decided to became a faculty of biomedical engineering in Chile to contribute to the training of engineering and graduate students in my country. Medical image analysis is highly based on computational analysis, which enables its development from anywhere in the world.

2. How does your work affect society?

I developed my graduate thesis at the Neurospin brain imaging center, under the guidance of Dr. Jean-Francois Mangin, on the development of methods for the analysis of brain tractography. This gave me the opportunity to meet several researchers and work on several interesting projects, which allowed me to appreciate the large number of studies that can be performed to better understand structure and function of the brain, both for normal development and different pathologies.

I think that the contribution of my work to society goes primarily through the training of undergraduate and graduate students, where I have directed more than 60 undergraduate theses, mainly in biomedical engineering, but also in electronics and informatics. I always strive to motivate and enlist the confidence of the students to apply their skills and knowledge to try new things. My research work develops methods for the analysis of brain tractography to study of brain anatomical connectivity which feeds into the scientific community to carry out studies in the areas of neuroscience, psychiatry, and neurology.

3. What challenges have you had to face to get to where you are today?

I think that an important challenge was to live in a country as far and isolated from the rest of the world as Chile was in the 80’s, where even traveling to a neighboring country was still expensive and took several hours. I was lucky to have studies in a bilingual school (Alliance Française) which I think was very important to open my mind and show me that the rest of the world is not so far away after all.

To pursue graduate studies in my area of interest I chose to move to France, due to the progress in more advanced countries in the area. This was not a problem at all, but on the contrary a fantastic experience. Upon returning to Chile, it was complex at first to establish national collaborations, since unfortunately in the country there is only one magnetic resonance equipment dedicated 100% to research and it is not in my city. This meant that I had to concentrate on computational analysis. But gradually I have been able to form collaborations with neuroscience and neurology researchers, in addition to other engineer researchers. Also, the collaborations with researchers from Neurospin has been crucial in the developing of new methods and applying them to various studies. The emergence of good quality public databases such as the Human Connectome Project has also been of great help.

4. What advice would you give to scientists/engineers in the field of signal processing?

First of all, I would say that collaboration is very important, hopefully as multidisciplinary as possible. In addition, it is important to know as well as possible the mathematical and informatics tools we use, to know their capabilities and limitations. And do not think that everything is already solved, because there are always contributions to be made, either by generating new methods, improving, or validating them, or generating new study data. In the different application areas, there are always needs where we can contribute with our knowledge and capabilities. And it is also important to stay as informed as possible of new technologies and methods. Although it is not possible to know in detail the large number of methods and techniques that emerge every year, it is important to know what is being done in the world in the different areas, at least those that are of interest to us. I believe it is essential to never lose curiosity, the capacity for astonishment and the desire to develop new projects.

5. Is there anything else that you would like to add?

I would like to add that working in the signal processing area has been for me a great source of joy and satisfaction, it has also given me the opportunity to meet great people. I think it is our mission as engineers, researchers and/or teachers to make this area known, and to motivate children, to show them what they can do and to encourage them to pursue their dreams.

To learn more about Pamela Guevara, please visit her webpage.

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