Student Spotlight: Jennifer Hellar, Rice University
“Working on this project with Dr. Razavi and the rest of the team at the Texas Heart Institute has been a terrific experience in all regards. Our conversations and brainstorming sessions are always fun, insightful, and educational; I really couldn’t ask for better collaborators!”
Jennifer Hellar is a second-year graduate student in the Electrical and Computer Engineering department at Rice University. There, she works with researchers at the Texas Heart Institute to develop cutting-edge signal processing tools for cardiac applications.
One such tool developed by Hellar is a novel method for increasing the efficiency of cardiac mapping procedures, such as local activation time (LAT) mapping. Such procedures are commonly performed by electrophysiologists in the catheter lab to create three-dimensional electro-anatomical maps of the heart’s interior that can show clinicians not only the dimensions and geometry of the heart but also how electrical signals propagate through the tissue. In particular, LAT mapping of cardiac chambers is used to locate the focal point of cardiac arrhythmias, such as atrial fibrillation, so that treatments can be targeted to those precise locations.
Hellar’s algorithm, dubbed “MAGIC-LAT” (short for Manifold Approximating Graph Interpolation of Cardiac Local Activation Time), is capable of dramatically increasing the efficiency of the map-generating process, which can take up to an hour using standard methods. In addition to speeding up the procedure, MAGIC-LAT also generates more accurate cardiac maps than standard methods do.
“Jennifer’s approach to quickly and efficiently computing activation times can significantly reduce mapping times during inpatient procedures,” said Mathews John, MBE, a research engineer with the Electrophysiology Clinical Research and Innovations Laboratory at THI. “For the patient, this implies less time spent under anesthesia, as well as a better outcome.”
“This work paves the path for safer and more efficient electrophysiology procedures,” said Dr. Mehdi Razavi, director of Electrophysiology Clinical Research and Innovations at THI. “Implementing MAGIC-LAT in the clinic will speed up numerous operations, which in turn will reduce medical costs and improve patient outcomes.”
In recognition of her work on MAGIC-LAT, Hellar was awarded second place in the student paper contest at the 55th annual Asilomar Conference on Signals, Systems, and Computers. More than 120 papers from students around the country were submitted for the competition.
Before enrolling in her Ph.D. program, Hellar graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Rice University, where she is involved with numerous honor societies including Phi Beta Kappa, Tau Beta Pi, and Eta Kappa Nu. Additionally, Hellar is a co-founder of the RISC-V at Rice Lab (RVR Lab at Rice), where she works to bring together engineering students and industry leaders to design and learn at the forefront of computer engineering technology.