The last post concluded with how I ended up working in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Riley Hospital for Children, Indiana University Medical Center, Indianapolis.
Research: Infant Pulmonary Function
After I’d been working in the NICU for about four years, a research position was created to work in the newly opened Infant Pulmonary Function Laboratory at Riley. I was encouraged to apply for the job, in part because of my NICU experience. I didn’t know exactly what I’d be doing, since it was a new position. I didn’t have much experience in medical research at that time although I did learn about medical engineering when I spent the summer before my Senior year at Scattergood working with Don Laughlin in his medical electronics lab at the University of Iowa Hospitals in Iowa City.
I taught myself the FORTRAN computer language at Scattergood. Studying calculus at Earlham College was also very valuable.
It would be a real financial hardship in that the salary was half of what I was earning in the NICU. That was because the position was paid from research grants. Despite that, and not knowing exactly what the position would involve, the Spirit left no doubt that I should apply for that position. I had finally found my career path. It was part of the plan that I had the prerequisites for the position.
I wrote the computer software and engineered the hardware systems that allowed us to perform lung function measurements in infants. About fifteen years ago we developed a system that would measure lung diffusion in babies. That was a complex system that involved switching a number of valves at various times in the respiratory cycle, and using a mass spectrometer to measure gas concentrations of as little as hundredths of a percent. It took three years to get the system to work correctly. Ours was the only lab in the world able to perform such measurements in infants.
This editorial was about that research done by our lab with the lung diffusion system combined with molecular biology to identify the cells involved with the development of the pulmonary parenchyma in babies.