Niloufar Saharkhiz SEAS'23: Combatting Cancer and Nurturing Personal Growth

May 01 2023


Niloufar Saharkhiz has developed an ultrasound-based clinical system for the characterization of different breast tumors. She graduated in 2023 with her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering (BME) and reflected on her time at Columbia BME. Saharkhiz advises other students that “things do not go as planned during your studies and research. Be ready to challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone as needed.”

Saharkhiz is from Tehran, where she grew up surrounded by her all-engineering family. During her undergraduate studies, when she majored in electrical engineering, she developed a love for biomedical engineering. Upon graduating from the Iran University of Science and Technology in 2014, she moved to London to pursue her master's degree in biomedical engineering at Imperial College London before finally coming to New York to pursue her M.Phil. and Ph.D. at Columbia Engineering, where she further developed her ultrasound-based clinical system with Professor Elisa Konofagou, a leader in the field of medical ultrasound.

Apart from her research work, Saharkhiz led two clinics as the lead engineer and collaborated closely with clinics in the departments of surgery, oncology, radiology, and pathology at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC). Her studies aim to develop more accurate methods for identifying different types of breast tumors using ultrasound technology.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women worldwide, and early detection is crucial for improving survival rates. Saharkhiz's studies are part of a broader effort to develop more effective and accessible tools for breast cancer screening and diagnosis.

Saharkhiz's work has already yielded promising results, including successfully imaging a patient with a breast tumor using her ultrasound device. With Saharkhiz's leadership and collaboration within the medical community, her clinical studies hold great promise for improving breast cancer detection and, ultimately, saving lives.

Through it all, though, some of Saharkhiz’s favorite memories from her time in the Ph.D. program have been with her labmates and the time they spent together both at Columbia and at the conferences they often traveled to. Saharkhiz says, “As an international student, it feels great to know that you can always count on good friends sitting right next to you in the same lab.”


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