Michelle Heijblom receives doctorate

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On 23rd April 2014, Michelle Heijblom successfully defended her PhD thesis entitled:

Clinical experiences with Photoacoustic Breast Imaging: The appearance of suspicious lesions"

She was guided by Dr. Srirang Manohar, and her promotors were Prof. Dr. Wiendelt Steenbergen and Prof. Dr. Ton van Leeuwen. For this research Michelle worked in the Medisch Spectrum Twente, Oldenzaal using the upgraded Twente Photoacoustic Mammoscope (PAM). She used the instrument in a unblinded study imaging symptomatic and highly suspicious breasts. Her results show that the PAM was able to visualize cancer in 41 of 42 cases. Michelle also studied the appearance of a selected number of benign abnormalities.

Michelle’s studies give new insights into this new field. Two highlights of her thesis are:


Certain cases of lesions occult in x-ray images could be visualized with high contrast in the PAM images. PAM contrast was independent of the mammographically estimated breast density, unlike the decrease in x-ray contrast in lesions in the higher density breasts


A first comparison between PAM images and Magnetic Resonance (MR) images and vascularity stained histopathology slides was made. Three lesion appearances were observed in PAM images reminiscent of enhancement types in MR images.

Michelle impressed the thesis committee with her contributions to the field and manner in which she performed the defence. Much of her doctoral work has been published in peer-reviewed journals, and presented at conferences. Michelle has also presented her work and ideas at the prestigious TEDx event in Geneva in 2013. She also gained recognition with her work with various prizes including:


the 1st prize in the Best Student Oral Presentation competition of the European Conferences on Biomedical Optics (ECBO) Munich, (May 2013);


the 2nd prize in the Best Paper competition of the conference ‘Photons plus Ultrasound: Imaging and Sensing’ Photonics West – BIOS event in San Francisco, USA 2012.

Michelle Heijblom continues at the University of Twente having joined the NeuroImaging group as a post-doctoral researcher.