Student story: Sebastian from Health Technology and Informatics
I always found it fascinating that computers enable us to reveal correlations that we wouldn’t see without smart algorithms and computational power. In medicine we can use this technology to assess trends and to make better diagnosis and treatments. We can support medical staff and find better individual solutions by comparing a single case with millions of other cases in a blink of an eye. We can save enormous effort, inspire new perspectives, and create more space for medical experts to focus on helping people. If we want to keep and establish public Healthcare at the highest standards, I think Health informatics plays a key role in creating a future that provides good Healthcare for everyone, a future I want to be part of and dedicate my work for.
Why did you choose this programme and Tampere University?
A few years ago, I had the chance to participate at the SPARK Global Biomedical-Innovation and Entrepreneurship Training Course. Among course members from 17 different countries, I had the privilege to work in a small team of astonishing people on the solution of a freely chosen unmet medical need. Those two weeks had a huge impact on my perspective according to the environment I want to work in, an international and multidisciplinary environment of passionate people with different backgrounds and a diversity of knowledge. This was the moment I became aware, that I want to have the chance to study a master’s degree in Biomedical Science and Engineering at Tampere University, as I heard about it as a place, that is dedicated to innovation and education in order to enhance health and wellbeing, inter alia, by encouraging students to unfold their potentials.
How has it been studying here?
When I arrived at Tampere University I was overwhelmed by its facilities. Everything is well designed by the motivation to unfold human potential. There are plenty of spaces for people to work, study and connect in an open and inspiring atmosphere. You can instantly see that Finland invests a lot resources in public education. Rather than telling you what to do, teachers ask you what you want to do and help you to accomplish your goals. The teachers I met during the programme gave me the feeling, that they really care about their students, though they have a lot of other things to deal with. I never felt left out or helpless, I always knew who to contact. Teachers ask their students almost every week for feedback and they are constantly working on concepts to improve knowledge transfer and course experience. Depending on the courses you are going to choose, your studies will contain a fair amount of project work. You will work on Kaggle competitions, in research groups or in small interdisciplinary teams on the development of your own product. You will encourage and push each other and eventually pitch your ideas in front of industry experts and scientists. You will leave your comfort zone and grow from it. You will meet people from tech companies and start-ups who will share their experiences and invite you to discussions about future possibilities.
What kind of experience have you gained while studying?
During my second year I had the opportunity to work as a research assistant under the guidance of Prof. Antti Vehkaoja and Milla Juutinen at Tampere University. Imagine you go to a public place and find an unconscious person. There is an external defibrillator nearby and you might use it to save the person’s life. But you don’t know if the person has a shockable condition, so the device should evaluate the situation and do its job. There are conventional algorithms on the market that are implemented in the defibrillator. With this project we wanted to try a new approach involving machine learning. You might have heard of Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs) which are more and more frequently used for automated object detection on images, which helps machines to categorize the physical world and to make semantic conclusions. CNNs are constantly developed further and reach better performance levels, while it becomes applicable to implement them in small, wearable devices. Compared to conventional heart rhythm detection algorithms CNNs have a potentially meaningful advantage: Instead of telling the computer manually which features or parameters are relevant to solve a detection or classification problem, CNNs have the ability to learn by themselves which features of an object are relevant and expedient to focus on.
The idea was to transform ECG signals, which are annotated by medical experts, into spectrograms. The spectrogram is an image representation of the ECG signal that shows the frequency components of the signal and their intensities over time. The spectrograms were then used to train a CNN which classifies if a certain heart rhythm is shockable or not. With this method we have the opportunity to improve the automated detection of heart rhythms especially in situations where is no time and/or medical expertise around.
How do you like Tampere and Finland?
Tampere is a beautiful place to live in. It is rich of culture and things to explore, though it’s not overcrowded, which makes it a place to relax and to enjoy nature as well. Näsijärvi, the lake that bounds the town in the North, is that big that it feels like you’re at the seaside.
The most impressive thing about Finland are the people and how they live together. People trust each other. Maybe because of the climate and the long distances the people in Finland have realised quite early that it is crucial to cooperate with your neighbours, to encourage and to trust them rather than to lie to them and to steal from them, in order to survive and to have a decent future perspective. The Finns implemented this concept very thoroughly in their education system and ensure that people learn from the beginning to trust and to believe in each other. The society believes in you and counts on you. You are valuable, you are respected, and you are equal. I think living these values makes Finland to one of the most advanced and successful societies in the world. Politicians in my country argue a lot about welfare state principles versus economic success. It’s the classical dispute between liberalism and socialism. It seems that Finland is beyond that. The Finns have built a society that spends a lot of its resources on free education, public healthcare and social services and which is likewise innovative and economically successful. From my point of view, many countries could learn a lot from Finland to provide a better future for their people.
If your way leads you to Finland, I hope you will have a fulfilling time in this beautiful country.
All the best!