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Mr. Needles and Me

I know the title of this post is a bit tongue in cheek, but I seem to leave a lot of people thinking this way when I tell them what my current research work entails. I think the sentiment started earlier this year upon telling my parents and med school friends what kind of work I do in the entrails of the North Engineering Campus. But the feeling solidified for sure about two weekends ago at the annual MD/PhD retreat. Every year, at the end of July, the participants in the MD/PhD program go on a retreat for the weekend, where part of the less-fun activities entail each member of the program presenting their current research. Most of my peers’ work is done in the biological and biomedical fields, though there are some of us left outfielders whose research is in Public Health, or, gasp, one cooky guy whose work is in Mechanical Engineering. He’s way out there.

I’m not the only one who feels this way about the work I do. At this year’s retreat I presented the baby steps of what is supposed to become the development of an educational tool whose purpose is to teach novices the fine art of suturing. But, at this stage in my work, I am stuck with characterizing how a standard foam suturing pad deforms as it is penetrated by a circular surgical needle. Well, it all has to start somewhere I suppose. It was either presenting this project or my proof of concept design for a rat chariot, which the rat can control with signals from brain or muscle. I am looking for someone to actually fund this, if there are any takers.

Anyway, during my presentation, I tried to get everyone excited about repeatedly impaling a suturing pad with a needle. The excitement nearly proved contagious, but mostly for myself; I could tell this was the case as I started going off on tangents during my presentation about the joys of solid mechanics and elastic deformations…

Needless to say, going off script was not the best idea. Despite, or because of my enthusiasm, I had lost just about everyone during the talk, including myself and whatever salient points I was trying to make by minute 5 or so.

Later that night, there is a tradition that the senior graduating fellows give a series of awards and gifts to their colleagues in the program as well as to the faculty advisers.  And this is where the title of my blog post was born. Indeed, Saturday July 29th I became the winner of the first ever offbeat “Someone actually funds this insert expletive here?!?” award!!! More of these to come in the coming years, I’m sure of it!