Dr Aida Brankovic is an engineer and scientist working at the cutting edge of biomedical innovation. In her role as a Research Scientist with the Australian e-health Research Centre at CSIRO, and Adjunct Fellow at the University of Queensland (UQ), Dr Brankovic is applying her expertise in complex algorithms and machine learning to the development of new medical devices and decision support tools, improving the provision of healthcare and changing the lives of patients. In the four short years since she arrived in Australia, Dr Brankovic has developed machine learning-based algorithms for deployment across the major public hospitals in Queensland, contributing to better patient outcomes and reducing healthcare costs across the system. She has contributed to the development of groundbreaking new medical imaging technology which has the potential to save thousands of lives, while also contributing to Australia’s reputation as a world leader in medical innovation.
Dr Brankovic knew from a young age she wanted to be some kind of scientist, and also that she wanted to make a difference. Growing up as a Bosnian refugee, facing discrimation and isolation in Croatia during the war of aggression against Bosnia and Herzegovina in the early 90s, she was inspired by her mother to look beyond the hardship she experienced and seek a life of purpose, where she might be able to improve the lives of others. When she completed her schooling, she enrolled in a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering at the University of Sarajevo, followed by a Master’s degree. In 2013, she received a scholarship from the Italian Ministry of Education for outstanding foreign students, to undertake her PhD in Information Technology at the Polytechnic University of Milan. There she discovered the potential of applying her technical knowledge to the field of biomed, contributing to the development of new life-saving technologies. This eventually led to her being offered a Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Australia with the University of Queensland, developing algorithms for anomaly detection such as stroke and fatty liver.
Dr Brankovic and her team at UQ have created a novel microwave-based portable head scanner for stroke detection and classification, which has the potential to revolutionise the detection and treatment of stroke. While current detection tools for stroke – such as MRIs and CT Scans – are expensive and require large and cumbersome technologies, the scanner Dr Brankovic has helped to develop is portable, affordable and accessible. The technology has already passed through clinical trials and is now in the second stage of prototype development with the project’s industry partner. After joining CSIRO’s Health intelligence team, Dr Brankovic led the development of novel machine learning-based algorithms for clinical decision support tools. Some of the developed algorithms aim to reduce the incidence of patient deterioration while others aim to prevent unplanned hospitalizations. These clinical decision support tools play an important role in addressing the growing demand for hospital care and they have the potential to transform the day-to-day functioning of the health care system.