Why I Joined Q Bio: Katerina Kotrotsou, Lead Image Processing Engineer

In the beginning of high school in Athens, Greece (my hometown), I had to decide which path I should focus on, which was easy. I had always been good at mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology — I didn’t need to study a lot, and could easily grasp the ideas. But in history and literature, I would spend hours studying to achieve a high score. The last year of high school, after taking the National Exams, I was required to rank the schools based on my preference. That was one of the hardest decisions for me; all the good students were selecting either Medicine or Engineering. I knew I couldn’t be a Medical Doctor, as I’m scared of blood, and Electrical or Mechanical Engineering was not very interesting to me.

A new school, the School of Applied Mathematics and Physics, had been founded a few years earlier within the National Technical University of Athens. It was not a typical engineering school, but was rather teaching an array of basic scientific fields and their applications. Against the advice of many teachers, who insisted there would be no clear career path after such a program, I proceeded and put it on my list. I graduated with a Masters of Engineering in Applied Mathematics and Physics. During the fourth year of my studies, I took an introductory course in medical physics, and this was the “aha” moment. 

So Much More Than Pictures

I left Greece in 2009 to come to the US to pursue PhD studies in biomedical engineering, and I immediately joined an MRI lab. Since then, medical images have been my focus. I strongly believe that images are more than pictures; they are the shades of gray which uniquely describe the underlying biology. After completing my PhD, I joined MD Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC) and worked on radiomics/radiogenomics for brain tumors. During my first days at MDACC I realized that the clinical evaluation to determine treatment effectiveness of lesions or tumors is primarily based on the use of a pair of calipers across the vertical and horizontal axes in order to determine whether the lesion is growing or not. I struggled with the fact that it was so myopic; to me, we were only looking at the top of the iceberg. Since lesions, tumors, and organs in general have multiple dimensions — structural, functional, and phenotypic features that characterize them, all of which are non-invasively captured by medical imaging, I knew we needed to leverage that data and find the unique links to the underlying biology. At MDACC, I focused on radiomics, hoping to develop models that would lead to individualized therapies.

After speaking with Jeff Kaditz, Thomas Witzel, and the Q Bio team, I realized there was an opportunity to work on something even bigger: what if we offered the whole-body scan and image-derived data to everyone? As Lead Image Processing Engineer, I’m excited to see not only cancer patients benefiting from this technology, but everyone. I was hesitant to leave academia, because I mistakenly thought that in industry research was defined by marketing goals. This is not true at Q Bio, whose mission is to make proactive, individualized, accessible healthcare available to everyone. I’m excited to work on this mission. Last but not least, I’m excited to interact with a multidisciplinary team and learn every day.