Yesterday, for some reason, was a really innovative day for me at grad school. Why, you ask? Well, usually I just go about my business, go to class and work, do homework, hang out, nothing out of the ordinary for a grad student. But yesterday- yesterday was a unique day that started off pretty exciting and didn’t stop until I got home. (and then it was back to the grind of homework mixed with bad tv.)
It started off when I was sitting there by my computer, harmlessly doing some 3D modeling, when a guy with a video camera asked if any students would like to be interviewed. Interviewed for what? Well he was from Medill, a media and journalism school in Chicago that broadcasts news about higher ed online. He was doing a story about the Biomedical Visualization program.
I said no, I would not like to be interviewed. It was too early in the morning, and the last time I was interviewed for a story about the marine biology job I worked out in Oregon, I said something like, “The fish are so happy!” or something stupid like that.
But the director of my program decided to pinpoint me and say that I would be a good person to interview, because I was the only second year student in the room. So I couldn’t say no. The guy brought over a camera and asked a lot of questions about 3D and its applications in medical illustration. I stumbled out some answers. While it was nerve-racking, it was also exciting. I’m gonna be on INTERNET TV!!!
Then I went on a field trip. We went over to UIC’s Innovation Center, where a serious amount of innovation is happening. The reason we were there was to see 3D printing in action. 3D printing is exactly what it sounds like- you can send a digital 3D model over to the printer (in a format called .STL –> like St. Louis) and the printer will create a real-life 3D object by reading the file, and layering thin slices of whatever material is being laid down. In this case, it was a starch powder with a layer of special glue. Here are some pictures.
(Andy the innovator- who works at the center- showing us how to print.)
Basically the process is like printing a document, but layering the “ink” repeatedly to get a 3D object.
Next we went over to the Art and Architecture building on East campus, and saw yet another 3D printer. This one is newer and prints with a liquid plastic that dries so fast that it can produce a small solid object in 10 minutes. Pictures:
The support material is also printed by the printer- this step comes first, so that the printer has something to lay down the plastic onto or INto. It can only make an entire 3D object if the scaffolding to hold the object exists first.
Lastly, I went to a lecture at UIC’s West medical campus. The speaker was Dr. Maria Siemionow, the first physician to perform a face transplant in the US! She spoke about the nuts and bolts of facial transplants- the infrastructure, manpower, knowledge, research and judgment required to perform such a surgery. She showed us pictures of patients who had applied for a facial transplant (only the worst cases were considered) but then told us how she had to be extremely discriminate when choosing recipients of this novel and dangerous procedure.
Not only is the surgery itself invasive, the patient must be forever treated with immune-suppressants after they get the transplant. Basically the point of her lecture was to inform those surgeons at UIC how to open a facial transplant business and run it effectively and safely. I could tell this woman was compassionate, passionate, intelligent and wise. I really enjoyed hearing her speak, and it was a really interesting topic!