Tuesday, June 28, 2005


Woo-hoo! I just scored big.

I don't often get over there, but this morning, I went over to the biology building to meet my PI on the bear project. On the way in, they have a table where people dump journals, flyers, conference announcements, etc.--anything they don't want anymore is left there, free for the taking.

Today, I got there to find someone had cleaned a whole lot of monographs and journals out of their library and left them on the free table. As I've mentioned, my medical informatics research is in representing comparative anatomy in an information system. But a big problem in developing my system is getting a lot of data for it--much of the information doesn't exist online, but in the old journals and other print sources.

Back in the golden age of gross anatomy, people would record their findings in loving detail in these sources--they are actually a joy to read, not only for the information, but for the effort they put into the presentation. I had a bad inferiority complex when I took comp anat, and compared my pathetic squiggly renderings of what I observed to some of the old work. That is, I did until I found out that a lot of the old guys used camera obscura, tracing, and other technical drawing techniques to make their work look better--they were, after all, scientists, not artists.

Much of this work, as important as it is, has not been digitized, and so with a generation of practitioners who use mostly or only online sources, access to a great deal of the anatomical knowledge of the past has been effectively cut off. One of the purposes of my intended research is to bring it online, and standardize it so that we don't have one source for human, and a totally unrelated source for mouse, but rather that we can go seamlessly back and forth between any number of species.

So when I found these monographs just put out for the taking, it was like coming across a treasure! The only downside, and it is a minor one, is that I am currently working on mouse and rat, and none of these sources are about those species. Instead, they are all about different species of fish.

Never mind--I am a patient woman, and I am dealing with species that took millions of years to evolve. I will focus on the mouse and rat for now, and keep these precious written sources for the day that I actually do model the alewife.


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