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Professor Alison Noble - Biography

Extended biography

Professor Alison Noble OBE FREng is the Technikos Professor of Biomedical Engineering (a statutory professorship) in the University of Oxford’s Department of Engineering Science, Director of the Institute of Biomedical Engineering, and a Fellow of St Hilda’s College, Oxford, UK. She is also the current President of the Medical Image Computing and Computer-Assisted Interventions (MICCAI) Society. She was awarded an OBE for services to Science and Engineering in the Queen's Birthday Honours list in June 2013.

Professor Noble received a DPhil in computer vision in 1989 from the University of Oxford. Her thesis made key contributions to the theory of (nonlinear) morphological filters and image segmentation. During this period she held a Dee scholarship (1986-7) and IBM scholarship (1987-89) from St Hugh's College, Oxford.
From 1989-1994, Professor Noble was a research scientist at the GE Corporate Research and Development Center, Schenectady, NY, USA - now the GE Global Research Center, Niskayuna, NY, USA) where her research interests were in manufacturing applications of image understanding for industrial inspection and process monitoring, principally using visual and X-ray imaging. During this 5 year period, she filed several patents, and was involved in 3 major technology transfer projects to GE Divisions, for which she received 2 Whitney Gallery awards for technical achievement (the highest technical honour given to a research scientist at the Center).

She joined the Department of Engineering Science in the University of Oxford as a University Lecturer in January 1995 and quickly moved up the ranks to become a Professor of Engineering Science in 2002 (at that time the youngest electee in the department). Early achievements also included being the first biomedical engineer in the UK to receive a 5yr MRC Career Establishment award.

Professor Noble has held tutorial fellowship at St Hugh's College (1995) and Oriel College (1996-2004), and Governing Body fellowships at Wolfson College (2005-11) and St Hilda’s College (2011-current).

She became Director of the Oxford Institute of Biomedical Engineering in 2012, and other senior level university responsibilities include membership of the university’s Research Committee and Academic Committee (from Oct 2013) that both report to Council, and the university's Conflict of Interest Committee.

Professor Noble heads large research activities in cardiovascular image analysis, cancer image analysis, women's health imaging, and microscopy image analysis. A particular research strength is ultrasound image analysis (segmentation, registration and RF-signal analysis), with current activities including ultrasound-based biomechanical property estimation, and machine learning for ultrasound segmentation. Recent research highlights include the group's publications on fusion echocardiography, multi-modality cardiac image analysis, elasticity and slip imaging for breast cancer diagnosis, and fetal ultrasound image analysis. Much of her group's research is motivated by the need to extract quantitative functional information from spatio-temporal acquisitions (movies of moving objects) and longitudinal studies (eg looking at growth). The group also has a strong tradition of clinical translation of new engineering methodologies via strong collaborations with clinical partners and a growing interest in global health (with a maternal/fetal healthcare focus).  To find out more about her research activities see the laboratory Research webpages.

Professor Noble has published around 300 publications. A list of her recent publications can be found at the BioMedIA website Publications webpages. She has supervised 37 PhD students to successful completion, with 17 further DPhil students currently under her sole or co-supervision.

Professor Noble has played a significant role in setting up the Biomedical Engineering educational programmes at Oxford University over the last decade. She led setting up and was the first Course Director of the 1yr Oxford MSc in Biomedical Engineering (Director 2006-7 and 2008-9), also playing a key part in introducing biomedical engineering into the MEng in Engineering Science during 2002-6. From 2002-8 she was on the management committee of the EPSRC Life Sciences Interface Doctoral Training Centre postgraduate DPhil programme at Oxford, and the Department of Engineering Science co-ordinator for that programme. In 2008 she led the successful bid for the RCUK Centre for Doctoral Training in Healthcare Innovation which is pioneering a new model of  training postgraduate doctoral research students in healthcare innovation and translational in biomedical engineering. She stepped down as the founding Director in 2012 when she became the Director of the Institute of Biomedical Engineering but remains a very active proponent of early career development initiatives (for postgraduate students and postdoctoral research fellows).

Professor Noble has been a Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (FIET) since 2000. She was the Chair of the IEE 1998 Health Engineering Network "Engineering in Health week" event at the Royal Institution, and gave one of the schools lectures in the 2001 series held at Savoy Place in London.

She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2008 (FREng) and has served on its Awards committee (2009-12), postdoctoral fellowship panel (most years since 2005), the 2012 Research Review Committee and the sift panel for the inaugural Queen Elizabeth Prize. Her current involvement in the Academy includes membership of the External Affairs and the Enterprise committees and as a mentor to two RAEng postdoctoral fellows.

Professor Noble is the current President of the Medical Image Computing and Computer Assisted Interventions (MICCAI) Society which is an international organisation set up to promote medical image computing and computer assisted interventions research, education and practice and which also oversees the major international conference series in her field. She was elected a Fellow of the MICCAI Society in 2012.  She also co-chaired the First UK Medical Image Understanding and Analysis meeting (MIUA97) held in Oxford in July 1997, the 2003 Information Processing in Medical Imaging Conference (IPMI03) held in Ambleside, UK, in July 2003, and was Workshop Chair for the MICCAI 2009 International Conference held in London.

Professor Noble is a current member of the EPSRC Peer Review College (since 2000) and the Wellcome Trust Affordable Healthcare Committee. She is on the Journal Editorial Advisory Boards of Medical Image Analysis (Elsevier), Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology (Elsevier), and the International Journal of Computer Vision.

A chartered engineer, Professor Noble has been actively involved in technology translation for approaching twenty five years. In addition to her period of work in industry she has had collaborations with many of the top medical imaging/healthcare companies including Siemens, GE, Philips, Toshiba, and Microsoft. At the other end of the scale, she was involved in the early development of Mirada Solutions Ltd, a university spin-out, which was subsequently bought by Siemens. She is a founder and CTO of Intelligent Ultrasound Ltd, a spin-out company from her laboratory, which focuses on software solutions that aim to make ultrasound a simpler technology to effectively use in existing and new areas of clinical medicine