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Shiva Abbaszadeh: New Faculty

Electrical and Computer Engineering
Undergraduate Institution: 
Nedaye Azadi
Graduate Institution: 
University of Waterloo

Shiva Abbaszadeh is our new assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering. She specializes in building instrumentation for imaging and is currently working on three separate grant-funded projects, including an NIH project to build instruments for radiologists that will help them more accurately determine the extent of tumors. As a former post-doc at Stanford, Shiva has already made industry connections in the Bay Area, and is looking for more collaborations with industry, faculty, and students. 

How did you first become interested in electrical and computer engineering? 

So basically, that goes back to when I was kid. I was in love with what was inside all the boxes, those green electronic boards that they were inside everything. I used to open everything to see what was inside, and then later I became a kind of designer of those boards. 

What are your current research projects? 

My research interests are to build instrumentation for imaging, with applications for medical imaging and also security and high-energy physics. 

I'm very excited about a grant that I received from NIH to use detector technology and novel instrumentation in order to improve the special resolution and sensitivity for positron emission tomography (PET). Then I have a Department of Defense grant that I'm collaborating with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on to make a large area detector for isotope identification, which has more of a security application. I'm also really excited to be part of a CITRIS family here. For that one, I'm building a water sensor, to do real monitoring of any pollution that is in the water. 

How will the instruments you are building to improve PET help patients? 

I spent many years in the reading room when radiologists were reading and looking at the patient images and observing what their struggles are. Sometimes they look at the image and they are not able to know what decision they have to make, especially for head and neck. That is an area close to my heart because in the head and neck the tissue is very thin and the patient may lose their taste or their voice- so it's all about the quality of patient life after treatment. 

I think that [my device] could be very instrumental in helping a radiologist to improve head and neck cancer management... It's really important to be able to know what the extent of the tumor is, or the extent of the spread of lymph nodes that are cancerous. Current available PET for the whole body has a spatial resolution of four to six millimeters. In the head and neck, the tissues are very thin, so it requires almost like a magnifying glass to give a better image. I'm hopeful that I can provide a tool that will allow the radiologists to see the image better, with higher spatial resolution. They will be able to define the area for radiation therapy better, or based on the spread of the lymph nodes, even the decision of whether they want to send the patient for surgery or first to chemotherapy could be different. 

What are your long-term goals for the lab?

This is just the beginning. I'm very excited because at Baskin Engineering we are going to have a custom made thermal evaporator and electron beam evaporator attached together, which will allow us to make many devices that  we couldn't before. This is going to be almost a half-million dollar investment, and then it's going to be very important for us to dream and be innovative and fabricate new devices. The other thing is that the NIH is providing us with the opportunity to build a system, which after we build it, is going to be one of a kind. And it's just the beginning because it gives us a tool to answer some questions that before we couldn't answer, or even discover new questions that we hadn’t thought to ask. 

What class are you most excited to teach?

I'm teaching ECE 80B, which is on innovations for medicine and biology. We are going to cover many imaging modalities and variables and cool technology that engineering is developing to help medicine and biology… It’s a general entry-level course, and we made it very exciting! I also have a course that is Advanced Imaging tailored towards graduated students, in which we will be talking about how to design the hardware and verify how the system is working.

What mentoring are you involved in?

I'm doing lots of mentorship because I'm involved with a SPIE scholarship for optics for undergraduate and graduate students, and I'm like a chair in SPIE medical imaging for physics in medical imaging. Most important to me, I am the faculty advisor for I-EEE HKN, a group for cultivating collaboration and scholarship and career development for both undergraduate and graduate students. Basically every month we have an event where we get together and we have food and discuss how to improve our CV and prepare ourselves for the job market after graduation. If there are undergrads out there who would like to join us, please send me an email.

What is your advice for students on finding a job?

Start early. In order to get to your dream job, you have to plan in advance. I understand that is kind of hard, but I would like everybody to think about what their dream job is, and figure that out by tinkering and reflecting. Over time you can figure out more precisely what you really want to do, and it gives you plenty of time to get involved in the research and courses that you have to take to make you prepared. This is not something to start thinking about only at your fourth year.

Do you have any connections to industry in the area?

I'm really excited to be in Bay Area. While I was doing my postdoc at a Stanford, I started doing consulting for a startup company working in x-ray imaging, and I was also doing some work with Thermo Fisher. For the NIH grant, since it requires lots of detectors, we are collaborating with Kromek, which is a detector company. I'm very interested to use this connection to send a student for an internship and involve them in their research, because that will provide the student with more opportunity to see how the industry is functioning and learn what the requirements are to be successful in industry. 

What else do you want the UCSC community to know about you? 

Collaboration is very important, and for me it doesn't come easy. I hope people will get to know me. I was building relationships at Urbana-Champaign for three years and then I had to move, so I'm hopeful that I can build relationships with faculty members and students here so that we can collaborate further and do great things together.