DISC Delves into 3-D, Wireless, Databases
Students in the Distributed Information
Systems Corporation (DISC), are delving into 3-D imaging,
wireless communications, and database structures as they develop
products for medical information systems.
DISC is part of Virginia Tech's Virtual Corporation program,
which provides students with the opportunity to participate in
interdisciplinary, faculty-directed, student-run organizations
that develop products and cutting-edge technologies in a corporate
environment. At present, DISC has 60 student members and is planning
to increase to 80 members for the spring semester.
This fall, DISC's successes included an algorithm to more than
double the speed of searching in a relational medical database,
and the development of a prototype software package for conducting
sensory testing trials.
DISC is also developing wireless network site planning skills
for planning indoor wireless networks for use in medical applications.
In addition, DISC students are developing an image-rendering
engine that will construct 3-D medical images from 2-D data on
low-cost computing platforms.
"This spring, we may be able to put together a rudimentary
medical record that contains 3-D images and is active over a
wireless network," said Rick Mills, DISC chief operating
officer and faculty advisor.
The goal of the 3-D imaging group is to create a viewer for
conventional workstations that will (Continued from page 1.)
allow medical personnel to look at DICOM images as 3-D images.
The group, working with Department Head Leonard Ferrari, is working
on algorithms that would combine a series of images from CAT
scans, MRIs, and other sources, smooth the edges between individual
sections and create a 3-D image.
Another product group is working with a hierarchical knowledge
base scheme for storing, searching, and displaying medical information.
In this type of database, the information is stored using relationships
between concepts, such as a gastrointestinal system includes
a stomach, which can contain an ulcer. DISC is working with databases
developed in the Netherlands and by the National Library of Medicine
and is trying to develop methods of speeding up access to the
knowledge. In addition, the group is studying methods where a
data entry screen could automatically self adjust when a new
concept is entered into the database.
Last semester, in trying to speed up data access, a DISC group
devised a method where the database could be searched with just
two disk accesses. "It's more than twice as fast as conventional
methods," said Brian Jaeger, (CS, '98), DISC president.
A third product group has been working with the Department's
Mobile and Portable Radio Research Group (MPRG). This group has
explored where wireless technology can be applied in the medical
industry, such as wireless LANs or transmitting data from hospital
to hospital. The group has also worked with a transmission site-planning
tool developed by MPRG.
The fourth DISC product group has developed a prototype software
package to be used by researchers conducting taste trials and
preference testing. DISC hopes to develop a streamlined package
that will be an affordable alternative to the currently available
commercial packages that cost $6,000-$10,000 dollars, Jaeger
DISC is working with Susan Duncan in Food Science and Technology
to develop the product. "This group has done a fantastic
job," Jaeger said. "Nobody had expertise in food science,
but they did the research and developed the prototype."
Jaeger explained that the software uses a "wizard"
to develop the questions for a new trial, a Scantron machine
for scoring results, and has a data export feature compatible
with most commercial statistics software packages. The group
plans to develop a web-based version.
"We have a lot of things coming together," said Mills.
"Our strengths are that we're producing students who have
worked in these areas, who are getting exposed to issues in medical
informatics - along with the experience of running a company
and participation in strategic planning. These students are having
to address issues they won't encounter in a traditional classroom
serves as chief faculty advisor and chief executive officer of
Ramu heads up the Virtual Corporation program. For more information,