In this QUSTom interview series, you will meet Torsten Hopp, a dedicated researcher whose journey in computer science began at Mannheim and Heidelberg in Germany. During his studies, he became an integral part of the Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT) research group on Ultrasound Tomography, progressing from a cooperative student to a student assistant, and eventually to a research fellow. Torsten completed his PhD in collaboration with the University of Mannheim and has since dedicated over a decade as a senior scientist to the Ultrasound Tomography project. Discover Torsten’s passion and expertise, and learn how his contributions are advancing the QUSTom project.

Why did you choose this profession and what motivated you to pursue it?

I was always keen on technology development, and working in science hooked me at some point during my studies. I enjoy working with students and young researchers a lot. It has always been a great opportunity for me to learn, develop, and try out new things, which in the best case can help improve medical issues.

What does QUSTom mean to you?

QUSTom is a great collaboration of experts from different fields. Combining this expertise can have a dramatic impact on establishing a new diagnostic tool. The technologies we all have been working on individually for several years are finally coming together now. And hopefully, this will result in a breakthrough for Ultrasound Tomography, which could help a lot of women worldwide.

What is your contribution as part of KIT’s team in the QUSTom project?

At KIT, our team has developed a prototype 3D Ultrasound Tomography device, which is being used in the QUSTom project for a feasibility study. It provides input data for image reconstruction with new algorithms developed by Imperial College, Frontwave, and BSC. In the research group at KIT, I have been working on developing imaging algorithms that provide a starting model for the new algorithms tested during the QUSTom project. Additionally, I have been involved in data management, planning the feasibility study at Vall d’Hebron hospital, and the regulatory pathway to prepare the device for testing with volunteers.

Why is 3D ultrasound computer tomography considered a superior option compared to current technologies?

Ultrasound Tomography has great potential as it surpasses many aspects of current technologies: ultrasound is very safe as it does not expose the patient to ionizing radiation; USCT is expected to be relatively inexpensive, comfortable for the patient, and fast, while providing high-quality 3D images by integrating new algorithms and multiparametric information in a single imaging step.

Do you think that QUSTom and the solution it proposes can contribute to areas beyond cancer? In this sense, what do you hope QUSTom can achieve beyond the life of the project?

The technology we are developing could potentially be applied to other parts of the body in the future, such as the brain or joints. I believe that, once successfully introduced, this could evolve into a general imaging modality for diagnosing various diseases. I hope that with the QUSTom project, we are laying the foundation and will continue collaborating in this team beyond the project’s lifespan.

What has been the biggest challenge faced in the QUSTom project so far?

Though it seems relatively straightforward at first glance, the devil lies in the details. All of the research done so far individually is at the edge of what is possible nowadays. The technology is complex in many aspects, from system design to hardware development and wave modelling. Not forgetting the immense amount of data and the computational complexity of the new reconstruction algorithms. Making all of this work together smoothly is, in my opinion, the biggest challenge of this project.

Do you have any advice for young researchers who would like to follow in your footsteps?

Working in science is a great opportunity to contribute to tomorrow’s technology, benefiting society. Keeping this vision in mind can help you along the sometimes long and winding road to success. Be patient! Failures are allowed! Be creative! It’s also rewarding to work in science, collaborating and contributing to scientific communities. Hard and thorough work pays off, and over time, you can be proud of leaving your mark in your research field and for the benefit of society.