Tuesday, June 12, 2012

When I Grow Up…



This morning I shared a lane at the Y with another aqua-jogger. Which in itself is enough to make you pause, because you don't see a lot of aqua-joggers around here. (Actually, I saw two this morning, it's like hitting the jackpot!)

I always feel a kind of connection with aqua-joggers, so we started talking. Commiserating about not being able to do the real thing, comparing injuries. I have to say, she made me feel quite fortunate that all I have is a broken pelvis.

She told me her knees were bad. She can run for about two weeks at a time, and then she's back in the pool. She's been told that she just has to live with her knees. Surgery won't make it better.

I didn't even know what to say. Surely there must be something that could allow her to do what she loves. But I guess we just don't have the technology right now to fix the most complex machine of all: the human body.

Sometimes I think I'm in the wrong major. The body, food, nutrition, exercise, even psychology sometimes…it all fascinates me. And I program computers for a living. Computers do not eat, sleep, or injure themselves. They do not have metabolisms or nutritional needs. They do not feel pain. These are all things that I love thinking about (OK, maybe not the pain part) and can relate to.

But--and this is where you discover that my last paragraph wasn't a random tangent--there are so many areas of human health that computer science can be applied to. After meeting my "running" partner this morning, I started wondering if there wasn't some way I could use my skills to help research in that area. Or some other aspect of health. Cancer research. Pacemakers or some other sort of implant.

I bet computer simulations are involved in at least part of the processes in constructing prosthetics. Maybe it's modeling, maybe it's managing production. Computers are everywhere. We use them for everything. Blade Runner didn't make his bid for the Olympics on something someone threw together overnight. There are limb salvage patients who never thought they would walk without pain learning how to sprint again. I would love to give people the ability to once again do what they love.

Then there's the horse care industry. There's so much room for improvement there, too. It always breaks my heart to hear about a horse that died because we still can't reliably heal fractures. It seems wrong, because it's almost second nature when it comes to humans. Horses deserve an equally good prognosis for a comparable injury. We don't shoot people when they break a leg (thank goodness)!

So maybe something like Delta Systems' Equinosis, which uses a computer and algorithms to diagnose lameness in horses. It sounds so awesome I want to get my hands on it right now and look at the code. That is a project I could go to sleep thinking about and wake up ready to tackle every morning!

So there are ways to pursue your outside-of-work interests at work. Which is good news for me. I can't play the "what do you want to be when you grow up?" game forever--I pretty much am "grown up." But I'll be even more grown up in a year when I graduate and start looking for a job. So maybe now is a good time to think about the options.
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