Dr Hilary Barrett about a new paradigm in the detection of cardiovascular disease

Hilary Barret
Dr Hilary Barrett

Leiden University, TU Delft, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Leiden University Medical Center and Erasmus Medical Center are collaborating to attract international scientific talent through the LEaDing Fellows postdoc programme.

Dr Hilary Barrett is one of the talents selected for this programme. Originally from Ireland, she completed her PhD in Biomedical engineering on cardiovascular diseased tissue characterisation, and is now based at the Biomedical Engineering Department of Cardiology and collaborating with the Radiology & Nuclear Medicine in the Erasmus Medical Centre, Rotterdam. We asked her some questions about her motives and ambitions.

‘I am a scientific researcher working in the Biomedical Engineering division at the Department of Cardiology and collaborating with the Radiology & Nuclear Medicine in the Erasmus Medical Centre, Rotterdam since October 2017. I am a dynamic Biomedical Engineer with a great interest in innovative medical device technologies.'

'I guess I developed this interest from my dad who is an electronics engineer and worked for many years in medical device design. As a result, I was exposed to the world of biomedical engineering from a very young age.’

‘Originally from Limerick, Ireland, I completed my PhD studies there, under the supervision of Professor Michael Walsh (University of Limerick), focusing on the area cardiovascular diseased tissue characterisation, working very closely with vascular surgeons and radiologists. Following on from this, I applied for the LEaDing Fellows programme hoping to fulfil my dream of working in a clinical research setting.’

    I am really lucky to be working with true experts in image-based biomechanics and nuclear medicine

‘This fellowship has provided me with a unique opportunity to work at this leading medical research centre to solidify my vision which is to establish a new paradigm in the detection of high-risk patients with cardiovascular disease.’

‘I get to develop new technical skills and work with true experts within two specialised research areas of image-based biomechanics and nuclear imaging. In this regard, I am really lucky to be working with professor Ton van der Steen (co-founder of the  Medical Delta) and dr Frank Gijsen (supervisor at Erasmus MC) both who possess specialised expertise in image-based biomechanics as well as professor Marion de Jong and dr Monique Bernsen, who are experts in the nuclear medicine space.’

Erasmus MC Rotterdam

‘Making the decision to move to the Netherlands has been an extraordinary life adventure. I have really enjoyed getting to know my Dutch colleagues and experiencing the Dutch culture. My favourite thing about living here has to be cycling. It is a really unique way to commute to work, not thinkable in many other cities! Also, the location of the Erasmus MC is great, situated right in the middle of the vibrant city of Rotterdam.’

A novel integrated molecular imaging approach of cardiovascular disease detection

‘My main research project addresses a critical challenge in cardiovascular disease detection using a novel integrated molecular imaging approach. Specifically, linking characteristics of vulnerable atherosclerotic vessels with the presence of inflammation derived from nuclear imaging using a state-of-the-art hybrid scanner developed by MILabs. By using this approach, I establish quantitative inflammation metrics for identifying arterial plaques with vulnerable phenotype, which could be used as a guide for decision making in clinical intervention and stroke prevention.’

Eric Meester, Dr Hilary Barrett and Dr Ali Akyildiz

‘Working at the Erasmus MC has provided me with an excellent integrated research-training experience and also opportunities to grow my professional network. I have gotten the chance to work with international vascular clinicians and industry collaborators including professor Freek Beekman CEO/founder of MILabs, who also has a lab facility at the TU Delft campus.’

   The combination of a medical school, research departments and hospital is quite unique.

Research departments in a clinical setting and medical doctors working together with engineers

‘The combination of a medical school, research departments and hospital is quite unique. It means medical doctors are working together with engineers, in a clinical setting as well as in the lab. On a daily basis I get the privilege to be part of a truly multidisciplinary team of engineers, biologists, radiologist, physicians, physicists and chemists where we work together to achieve our research goals.’

‘The LEaDing Fellows programme offers a broad range of research training and personal development courses. I have participated in a number of motivating workshops and courses helping me to develop skills in leadership, supervision, effective communication and grant proposal writing.’

Barret lab erasmus MC
Dr Hilary Barrett

‘Upon completing this LEaDing Fellows programme, my next career step will involve transitioning into a research and development role within the medical device industry. I plan to pursue my engineering career designing and developing new treatment solutions in the area of cardiovascular disease. In such a role, I will get to continue working in close collaboration with the vascular clinicians and researchers in this field.’

The project of Dr. Hilary Barret has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska Curie grant agreement No 707404.

More information:
LEaDing Fellows Postdoc Programma
Department of Biomedical Engineering Erasmus MC