Meet your new SPIE President: Maryellen Giger from the University of Chicago

The 2018 SPIE President shares her career path, education, and other interests with the members of SPIE.

27 January 2018

SPIE Fellow Maryellen Giger, the A.N. Pritzker Professor of Radiology and chair of the Committee on Medical Physics at the University of Chicago (USA), is the 2018 SPIE president. Giger is also cofounder and scientific advisor of Quantitative Insights.

SPIE Fellow Maryellen Giger, University of ChicagoFor 30 years, Giger has conducted research on computer-aided diagnosis, quantitative image analysis (radiomics), and deep learning in the areas of breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and bone diseases. Her NIH-funded research in machine-learning, image-based analyses of breast cancer for risk assessment, diagnosis, prognosis, response to therapy, and biological discovery has yielded various translated components, and she is now using these image-based phenotypes in imaging genomics association studies.

An SPIE member since 1995, Giger is the inaugural editor-in-chief of the Journal of Medical Imaging and was one of the founding chairs of the Computer-Aided Diagnosis Conference at the SPIE Medical Imaging symposium. She served on the SPIE Board of Directors from 2012 to 2014.

Her first President's Letter for SPIE Professional discusses how light-based discoveries and technologies affect our lives.

We asked Giger to discuss her career path, education, and other interests with the members of SPIE.

Tell us about where you grew up, your family, and your childhood hobbies and interests.
I grew up outside of Chicago, IL (USA), with four brothers. My parents instilled in me a love of learning and constantly encouraged me to do my best. My academic pursuits were always in math and science, while my extracurricular activities were in dance (ballet, tap, jazz) and piano, as well as in Girl Scouts and 4-H. Even as an adult, for a while, I continued in Girl Scouts, serving as a leader for my two daughters' troop.

What interested you in a career in science and what led you to the field of medical physics?
From childhood, I was strongly encouraged to stick with math and science. My older brother Larry had also majored in physics and we still enjoy learning together. My math and physics teachers in high school and college also influenced me.

During my undergraduate years at Illinois Benedictine College (USA), I was fortunate to receive summer jobs at Fermi National Accelerator Lab where I worked on the beam diagnostics team and in the neutron therapy facility. After college, I received a Rotary Fellowship to Exeter University in England and investigated digital signal analysis on electrocardiograms for my MSc in physics. These experiences led me to the field of medical physics, which I then pursued at University of Chicago (UC), earning a PhD in 1985.

What was your role in the development of computer-aided detection (CAD)?
In the mid-1980s at UC, I was one of the main investigators who developed, patented, and licensed CAD methods and software to R2 Technology Inc., which subsequently developed the first computer-aided detection (CADe) system cleared by the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

Tell us about the founding of Quantitative Insights.
During the 2009-2010 academic year, my UC lab, along with MBA students from the UC's Booth School of Business, entered our Breast MRI Computer-Aided Diagnosis (CADx) workstation in the New Venture Challenge, a startup launch program run by UC.

Out of more than 100 teams, we made it to the finals with eight other teams. After that, we formally created Quantitative Insights, Inc., which today offers QuantX, the first FDA-cleared CADx platform incorporating machine learning in the evaluation of cancer abnormalities.

Who has made an impact on your career success?
Over the years, I have been extremely fortunate to have had multiple mentors and advisors, who have been very generous in their time and advice. These include my math and science teachers in high school; Professor Rose Carney at Illinois Benedictine College; Dr. Michael Shea at Fermi Lab; Professor Vernon Wynn at University of Exeter; and Professors Charles Metz and Kunio Doi at UC.

How did you first get involved with SPIE?
I started attending SPIE Medical Imaging when I was a student in the 1980s and became a member in 1995. That involvement has been continuous as I have participated in presentations, courses, and workshops and served as conference program and symposium chairs.

SPIE Medical Imaging served as a route to the SPIE Board of Directors and to becoming the editor-in-chief of the SPIE Journal of Medical Imaging (JMI).

What are your priorities for your year as president of SPIE?
As president of SPIE, I hope to continue to serve the SPIE members and support the SPIE mission, especially in areas in which I have expertise and/or passion. For example, I am a strong advocate for supporting science education in the early years, and thus, I will continue to encourage SPIE to continue its impactful contribution to the education of future generations. I am always grateful to SPIE for spending around $4 million a year in altruistic programs.

Another priority is to have SPIE focus on the role of big data and artificial intelligence (AI). This technology can be used for improving the organization and, with data mining, to further the understanding across the fields of optics.

Also important is SPIE's dedicated responsiveness to its members and constituents, including a continued focus on diversity.

And, of course, I will work with SPIE leadership and staff to help ensure a smooth transition to a new CEO as Eugene Arthurs retires. As president of SPIE, as well as a long-time member, I thank Dr. Arthurs greatly for his inspiring and impactful leadership to both SPIE and, in general, the field of optics.

-Karen Thomas is a senior editor at SPIE.

This article was originally published in the January 2018 edition of SPIE Professional magazine.

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