On 19 – 20 May 2022, the CDT community got together for a residential retreat in the illustrious surroundings of Wotton House Country Estate in Dorking, Surrey. The event provided a chance for students to share their research, learn from renowned speakers at a talk and a panel discussion and socialise with their peers.

The first day started with “Totally Wiped Out!”, a team building activity involving inflatable obstacle courses, bouncy challenges and blow-up fisticuffs. The academic programme began after lunch, when students shared their research with each other during eight talks and two poster sessions (with a total of twenty-four posters exhibited).

As a result of the high quality of submissions, the jury decided to share the best poster prize between Mariana Da Silva and Hugo Barbaroux. The award for the best talk was won by Alina Schneider, who presented her work on the development of an efficient T2-mapping MR method, which allows free-breathing whole heart imaging and has the potential to improve the diagnostic accuracy of cardiac sarcoidosis (an inflammatory condition affecting the heart muscle).

Alina said: “The CDT is a unique programme, with multidisciplinarity being one of its greatest strengths. This retreat has allowed us, students with different backgrounds, to learn from each other and encouraged us to work together on making advances in medical imaging.”

On the second day, attendees were invited to a panel discussion about public and patient participation in research, led by the CDT’s Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) Officer, Dr Christine Aicardi. Panellists included Alero Dabor (Public and Patient Trainer/Facilitator for the Biomedical Research Centre at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and the NIHR Research Design Service London), Prof Wendy Tindale OBE (Director of Innovation, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust) and Aishwarya Mishra (Public Engagement Officer, CDT in Smart Medical Imaging), who each brought different and complementary perspectives to the debate.

Speaking about the choice of topic for the panel, Dr Aicardi said: “RRI is about opening up research to a wide range of social and ethical questions and perspectives, to help it become better aligned with societal needs. This responsibility is collective, and it is important that all concerned have their voice heard – crucially, this includes patients in the case of health research and health care.”

The discussion was followed by a talk by the CDT’s former Director, Prof Julia Schnabel (Professor of Computational Imaging and AI in Medicine, Technical University of Munich/Director of a new Institute of Machine Learning in Biomedical Imaging, Helmholtz Center Munich) on the subject of AI-enabled medical imaging. 

Prof Schnabel said: “It was really great catching up with CDT students and a nice change talking to the them about my own research. This was the nicest send-off as the previous CDT director that I could have imagined, and I would like to thank Alistair, Nick, Valeria, and all the students for making this a real (re)treat.”

Prof Julia Schnabel with Prof Alistair Young, Prof Nick Long and Dr Valeria De Marco following her talk

The event ended with the annual meeting of the CDT’s External Advisory Board, who complimented the CDT team on their efforts and provided helpful feedback for the year to come.

It was wonderful to see so many people in real life, in such a peaceful setting. Many thanks to everyone who helped make the retreat a success, including of course all the poster and talk presenters. Good to see such high quality science being performed across the CDT.

Prof Alistair Young, CDT Director