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Inventors of the Year 2017
Within the space of only nine years, the Healthineers team comprising Edgar Mueller, Mariappan Nadar, Michaela Schmidt and Michael Zenge managed to take basic mathematical research and turn it into a new and radically faster image acquisition technology for MRI scans.
It normally takes several decades before a new mathematical model is actually used in an industrial application. But this was not the case with compressed sensing. After an outstandingly short development period, this mathematical model is now the reason why the time needed for MRI scans has been slashed from six minutes to less than 25 seconds. Before this, patients were forced to hold their breath for long periods in order to obtain sharp images, especially when scanning a beating heart.
Edgar Mueller studied physics in Stuttgart, joining Siemens Healthineers immediately after graduation in 1983 as part of the first large intake of employees for the newly opened MRI research center. Mueller's original plan was to stay in this sector until he had completed his doctorate, and then move on to the pharmaceuticals area. But developing MRI proved to be so exciting that Mueller has remained true to this technology for more than three decades. After initially working on general system development tasks, from 1991 onwards he spent 12 years developing neurofunctional imaging (fMRI, functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging), a technique that makes it possible to map brain activity. Since 2005, he has been working on the further development of cardiovascular MRI, involving compressed sensing. From 2016 onwards, he has been responsible for innovation and technology management at MR.
Michaela Schmidt trained as a medical radiology technician at the University Hospital in Erlangen. Later on, she worked at the University Hospital in Zurich as a research assistant in the MRI area. She returned to Erlangen in 1999 to work for Siemens Healthineers MR. She has remained there to this day, working as an application developer in R&D projects for cardiovascular imaging. Schmidt's focus lies on developing workflows for MRI scans, collaborating with clinical partners, and evaluating and enhancing image quality.
Mariappan Nadar studied electrical engineering in Mumbai, India before gaining his Master's degree in the USA. His doctoral thesis dealt with super-resolution techniques in computer-aided imaging. He was been working in Princeton, New Jersey since 1995, carrying out research into medical imaging methods, initially for Corporate Technology and now for Siemens Healthineers. Nadar developed neurofunctional imaging in collaboration with Edgar Mueller before switching his attention to compressed sensing. His current research work focuses on the use of artificial intelligence in imaging.
Michael Zenge studied electrical engineering in Aachen, specialized in signal processing, and gained his doctorate in Essen with a thesis on angiography. Honored for this thesis with the "Young Investigator Award" from Siemens, he started his career at Siemens Healthineers at the end of 2006. Zenge worked on advance development topics in cardio imaging as part of Edgar Mueller's team, and immediately recognized the potential for using compressed sensing in MRI. On completing the research project, Zenge took up a three-year position as collaboration manager at the University of New York, working with radiologists and engineers who partner with Healthineers. He is now back working in Erlangen.
The collaboration was the best we have ever experienced, with an extremely successful end result. The fact that we all come from completely different areas meant each of us was able to make an important contribution and learn from the others.