IT can be challenging, but is it brain surgery?

According to a group leader and research officer with the National Research Council’s Institute for Biodiagnostics (Atlantic), the winner of ComputerWorld Canada’s first IT Rookie of the Year award in the Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise division, Sujoy Ghosh Hajra, was a key driver in the development of NeuroTouch, which the organization used to perform the world’s first patient specific neurosurgery simulation prior to the actual brain surgery for removal of a tumour.

The NRC-IBD develops next generation non-invasive diagnostic technologies, or medical devices intended to improve the lives of patients who have brain diseases and disorders like tumours, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s disease. Hired as a systems analyst, Ghosh Hajra’s efforts helped ensure the quality and reliability of the data management, data processing, data analysis, and data reporting that these kinds of devices depend on.

“Before Sujoy joined the team, the efforts had focused on the installation of advanced technologies (like magnetic resonance imaging and magnetoencephalography). However, there was no efficient means of handling the complex and large data sets that these technologies produce,” said the NRC-IBD’s Ryan D’Arcy in his nomination submission. The organization had spent a lot of money on technology, but network problems and computer issues were getting in the way of progress.

“Sujoy’s ability to understand the needs, the solutions, and the IT vision has enabled the organization to accelerate to top speed. He has, without exaggeration, built the Institute’s IT capacity from the ground up and continues to oversee day to day operations along with optimizing our current hardware and processes,” D’Arcy added. “Sujoy’s contributions have allowed us to drastically increase research publications and record revenue generation.”

A typical MRI data set used to take 24-48 hours to process, for example, but streamlining the processes and adopting advanced data centres now allow the process to take no more than 30 minutes, according to Ghosh Hajra. The NRC-IBD has seen a five per cent revenue increase in part due to his work and has attracted $3 million in additional funding.

Although he’s managed to establish himself quickly in the industry, Ghosh Hajra sees a lot more work ahead to attract others young professionals to the field. A big part of it, he said, involves becoming better ambassadors.

“What we need to demonstrate is that ICT is much more than keeping computers running,” he said. “We need to demonstrate the relevance of the field by providing concrete examples – like the role ICT played in making social media possible. Moreover, we also need to tie it to the diverse range of areas (from international development to finance to R&D among others) that the target audience might be interested in where ICT can make a difference.”

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