Getting out for a science night

Last week the Morgridge Institute for Research had an open house and some short talks to show off some of their work.  It was one of those high society fancy pants things, where there was a sizable “suggested” donation, but you couldn’t not pay it to go.  Really a mandatory donation.  But that’s okay, I was curious to at least tours the labs and one of the talks was on 3D printing.   As it was technically a fundraiser, there were a lot of suits and graduate students talking about their work.

It’s always interesting to see how well people can explain their scientific work in terms that sufficiently describe it without losing an audience that doesn’t have the same background.  For example, there was a couple of posters and I went to talk to the authors.  One was on MRI deformable registration, which is a big topic in radiation therapy circles these days.  Imaging is very important to know where to treat the tumors, and CT has been the imaging mode of choice.  However, CT still uses radiation to image and is best for bony structures whereas MRI does not use radiation and is good for soft tissues.  The poster was on some imaging subtraction method, and the graduate student was pretty good at explaining it.  (Note: if you ever want to appear smart at these sorts of things, you can always ask “Does the analysis use a Fourier Transform method?”  I know just enough science about things I don’t know to be dangerous. :))

Poster #2 was on near infrared tomography, though that’s about all I understood about it.  This one was explained by a very smart professor who I think must not talk anyone less than a graduate student these days.  I got nothing on that one, except they are looking to incorporate it into mammography.

Then I went to the talks.  One was on a new phosphorescence imaging technique, which unfortunately had a large powerpoint of a  zebrafish embryo that had been cropped to look like the torso of porn star.  I don’t know how no one did not notice that it looked like a pair giant boobs, I can’t believe I am the only juvenile who was sniggering on the inside.  The poster had the same pic, but rotated 90 degrees and it showed the tail, so it really did look like a fish with bulbous eyes–like it should.  There was a talk on giving free cell phones to people in the slums of Rio de Janeiro in exchange for anonymized health info.  So to get the phone to work, you input health data, such as your blood pressure for that day.  Then they would have a collection of health parameters to do studies on, I believe for epigenetics?  Don’t know how I feel about that, even anonymized. The third talk was on 3D printing and that was cool.  They were using stereolithography to make prosthetics.

But the most fun I had was the mini-blimp they had floating around the lab.  It was about 6 feet long and connected to a PlayStation controller and apparently was difficult to control.  I watched other people drive it aimlessly and bump into things.  However, I got the award for best blimp pilot, I could make that blimp do anything.  Anything slowly of course, there is no fast speed for the blimp.  Probably because a) I have a fair amount of experience with a PlayStation controller and b) you just have to empathize.  Become one with the blimp and all that.  Too bad my apartment’s too small, I think it would be fun to have one.

Author: ~R

I write about life, people, and the things that interest in me. Which often includes death, sex, friendship, and the future of humanity. I hope for the best in people and I prepare for the worst. But no matter what happens, change is constant and everything will be ok.

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