AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Kirsty Earley

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Read Kirsty’s paper via THIS LINK

 

What first interested you in medical visualisation?

Medical visualisation is such a new and interesting field, and it caught my attention while I was a Bachelors student in Anatomy at the University of Glasgow in 2013. I was in my final year, and had already planned to take a year out after I graduated, but I was made aware of the joint Masters programme in Medical Visualisation and Human Anatomy between the University of Glasgow and the Glasgow School of Art. So, after graduating and taking a year out, I realised I wanted to remain in the science field and decided to do the Masters course. It was a perfect combination of my passion for anatomy and art. I had always doodled when I was younger and loved to draw the human body, so a job in medical visualisation just made sense!

Tell us a bit about your background and education.

I’ve always had a passion for both science and art. With regards to science, it was the workings of the human body that fascinated at the most. The fact that our bodies are incredibly complex systems that we know relatively little about was enough to get my attention! I decided to study anatomy after watching a BBC documentary presented by one of my anatomy heroes, Professor Alice Roberts. On her show, “Don’t Die Young”, she made learning about the body so much fun and used simple experiments and visual art to explain her points. I was hooked. I wanted to do that, I wanted to have a career in anatomy. I graduated with First Class Honours in Human Anatomy from the University of Glasgow in 2013, receiving the William Hunter medal for distinction in systemic anatomy. I then graduated from the Glasgow School of Art with a Masters in Medical Visualisation and Human Anatomy in 2015. After receiving my masters, I worked for two years at the University of Glasgow as a graduate teaching assistant in anatomy, as well as developing my own medical communications company, M3dvis Ltd.

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As a Digital Heritage and Visualisation Project Officer, what does your job entail?

I am currently working as the Digital Heritage and Visualisation Project Officer at the Heritage Department of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. My position involves researching the museum collection within the College, which contains a variety of medical instruments and devices from history, and digitising them for presentation online. As an accredited museum, we have a responsibility to display and communicate the history of the College and the importance of our collections. However, since we are part of an institution that primarily functions to provide post-graduate training to healthcare practitioners, there are limited time frames in which the public can physically enter the museum and access the collections. Hence, my role is crucial in bringing the museum and College into the current age of technology, and providing the public with interactive digital access to medical history any time and anywhere.

What tools or software do you use in your work?

At work I use a variety of design software packages, from Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, and Illustrator to Autodesk 3DSMax and Unity.

 

Can you briefly tell us about the project “Digital curation and online resources: digital scanning of surgical tools at the royal college of physicians and surgeons of Glasgow for an open university learning resource“?

This project was undertaken while I was a Masters student at GSA. The aim was to create interactive digital models of items within the museum college at the RCPSG. A group of six medical instruments were selected from the collection and scanned via photogrammetry. The set up was very simple and inexpensive, only requiring a Nikon DSLR camera and photogrammetric software. Images were taken in a 360 degree fashion, edited through Adobe Lightroom, and processed through Agisoft Photoscan and Autodesk Memento. Due to the reflective surfaces of the instruments and specular materials that they were composed of, generating 3D digital models proved to be difficult. 3D models were incomplete and malformed due to the fact that specularity disrupts the matching of reference points between images in photogrammetry. However, it was possible to develop 2D Virtual Reality models of the instruments through Garden Gnome Object 2VR as the visualisation pipeline does not rely on matching reference points and is not affected by object specularity. These 2VR models were implemented into an online learning resource for students studying, “Medicine and Society in Europe, 1500-1930”. This project proved that it was possible to create interactive digital models of museum collections at a cheap and affordable price that could be used alongside the physical items themselves.

Did you need to learn any new skills during the project?

During the project and subsequently my time working at the College, I gained several skills in photography, photogrammetry, and 3D model design. I hadn’t had much experience in photography before this project, thus it was up to me to train myself in photography. This proved to be challenging, but ultimately incredibly rewarding because I was in charge of my learning experience. These skills I have continued to use in the Heritage department at the College and are always improving with practice!

What was most rewarding about the project?

The most rewarding thing about the project was discovering my interest for medical history. As a scientist, I always saw history as something worth knowing about, but not a reliable career option. I didn’t understand the crucial role that history played in society. Thank goodness my views were changed! We constantly look from history to humble ourselves and learn lessons that can be applied to current and future situations. It has given me a new respect for the current healthcare system- it’s not perfect, but it is far better than the state of medicine 150 years ago! Through doing the project I realised that I didn’t have to go into clinical practice to make my anatomy degrees worthwhile. I could use my passion for anatomy to teach the public about medical history and communicate to them through medical visualisation. The project truly changed my life.

What are you working on right now?

At the College we are working on several medical visualisation projects through the new funded post of Visualisation Project Officer that I have obtained. This post is funded by Museum Galleries Scotland, who previously funded a 9 month digitisation project at the College, and aims to develop a variety of medical visualisation products on the heritage of the College, as well as run outreach events to members of the public. One such event is working with author, E.S. Thomson, who wrote the medical history novel, “Beloved Poison”. A creative workshop is being put on in November to show how creative writing and medical visualisation can work together to explain medical history.

Is there another project you would like the opportunity to undertake?

I have previously worked as a researcher for a medical documentary on the BBC, and would love to develop digital products for another medical documentary. It would be great to work on a show that focuses on the medical history of Glasgow!

READ MORE about Kirsty and her work here:

See more of M3dvis Ltd: www.m3dvis.co.uk

Follow M3dvis Ltd on Twitter: @MedVis3d

Follow M3dvis Ltd on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/m3dvis/

Learn more about Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow Heritage: www.rcpsg.ac.uk/library/home

Follow Kirsty on Twitter: @earleywurly

Follow Kirsty on Instagram: @earleywurly

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