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Navigation Bar My project! If you were so good as to visit Prof. Shapiro's web page, then you would have seen that one of her current projects is on medical informatics. (Doubtless the project people matched us because of the common biological informatics interest, even though molecular biology and algorithms don't have much to do with anatomy and databases. But I'm getting ahead of myself.)
A little explanation on medical informatics: it attempts to provide theoretical and scientific basis for the application of computer and automated information systems to biomedicine and health affairs.
So instead of working at Beautiful Sieg Hall I'm stuck in the bowels of the medical building (an interesting rambling building that no one seems know their way around) working for the Structural Informatics Group. Specifically, I'm working in the Digital Anatomist project. All the anatomy people enter tons of anatomy terms in a database, along with anatomical relationships linking the different parts to each other. Then the computer science folk (like me...theoretically) get to work writing neat programs to query the database and enable people to ask it questions that might actually crop up in clinical or educational settings, such as:
Lateral rotation of the humerus is a function of muscles innervated by which of the following nerves?
  • radial
  • suprascapular and axillary
  • axillary and dorsal scapular
  • accessory and thoracodorsal
  • thoracodorsal and dorsal scapular
If you didn't understand that, that's okay: I don't either. But that's why I'm in computer science--not anatomy!
So my job is to take over a graphical user interface another grad student wrote that allows a user to query the database for terms in a certain relation, like: What is a part of the esophagus? And then it displays the answer in such a way as to allow the user to combine queries with logic expressions like AND and NOT. My charge with the program is to expand its capabilities and the complexities of the queries we can ask. It's not all that complex right now (the program essentially does straight data fetching, with some simple data structures to manage it), but the idea is to get it up to a point where it can do some reasoning and be able to handle complicated questions.
For that, I'll have to build something on top of the basic query engine already in place. Yes, it can handle questions on data entered in the database in the form of anatomical entities and the relationships between them, but those aren't interesting questions. So the question becomes: how do you interpret real-life questions and boil them down to the simple data fetches the program can handle?
Get back to me at the end of the summer.

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"So also it is written, 'The first man, Adam, became a living soul'; the last Adam became a life-giving Spirit." 1 Corinthians 15:45