On January 17th Dr. Christopher Johnson, director of the SCI Institute, appealed to local information technology business leaders to assist in lobbying the Utah State Legislature for more funding for Engineering disciplines. Dr. Johnson presented an overview of the current research within the Institute with an emphasis on medicine.
He described the history of biomedical devices from EEG to MRI. The talk also included the story of a real patient treated in part with technology developed here at the SCI Institute. Dr. Johnson described the case of Sarah, a child diagnosed with a tumor near the top of her spinal column. In such cases, doctors are only able to see sets of two-dimensional slices generated from an MRI. The physician must then reconstruct a three-dimensional image from those slices. Using technology developed at the SCI Institute, the team of physicians was not only able to see the tumor in full three-dimensions, but they were also able to use stereo glasses to “virtually” maneuver inside of the MRI. The combination of these technologies gave the surgeons a much clearer visualization and persuaded them to alter how they were going to operate.
A member of the audience inquired as to the ease of working within the multiple disciplines of a University infrastructure, to which Dr. Johnson responded that “in the past it has been a real struggle because resources were scarce and competition was fierce. Putting oneself between departments would have made it even more difficult. With changes in the policies and increased amounts of federal grant money, it is getting easier to be multidisciplinary. With more support from the state, we can do more.”
Another audience member asked, “If we [UITA] could give you what you need, what would be on your wish list?”
“Currently all of Engineering is under a space crunch. I know of faculty members who have just been hired and have no office space. That would be my first priority. Secondly, we need more good people. Without the people, the research is nothing. Another important item is infrastructure. Becoming a leader in Computer Science and Engineering requires fast networks, solid support staff, and powerful computers.”
In the end, members of UITA seem genuinely interested in helping to support the growth of high-end computer science research not only in it's medical applications, but also in other disciplines that are yet to be explored.