No Shortage of "Space" at McGill

There is a great deal of space at McGill...of the aeronautic kind. On October 2nd, 1998, Dafydd Williams spoke to a large audience of McGill medical students about his April voyage on the space shuttle Columbia. Dr. Williams, who obtained his medical degree, MDCM'83, and a Masters in Surgery at McGill, has recently been appointed Director of the Space and Life Sciences Directorate at NASA's Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas.

In speaking of Medicine on Mars, Dr. Williams made it seem more fact than fiction. His team, working on a plan to send humans to Mars, asks the question, "What if they get sick?". But there is more to it than simply sending along a ship's doctor. Williams spoke of great research opportunities in aeronautic medicine. On his own voyage, last April, he and his crew did research into circadian rhythms, hand/eye coordination, respiratory physiology, and the orientation of one's own body in the zero gravity of outer space. The team conducted surgical procedures while orbiting the earth every 90 minutes. "Impossible" is no longer part of his vocabulary, says Williams.

As well as sending people to Mars, he and his colleagues at the Space Centre will look into such areas as robotics surgery, telemedicine, and the use of artificial cells in treating patients. The sky's not much of a limit.


On October 29th, 1998, a McGill science experiment flew into space with astronaut John Glenn. The experiment was carried out on behalf of Dr. James Coulton (Microbiology and Immunology), who is studying bacteria with a goal of creating "smart drugs", ie. new antibiotics that can be used against drug-resistant bugs.


 

Some McGill students already know that space matters. Marlene Grenon, a medical student in the Class of 2000, did her elective last summer at the International Space University in Cleveland, Ohio. Marlene studied in a 10-week intensive program at the ISU that aims to foster international co-operation in the study of aersopace. She was awarded a $20,000 scholarship to attend. In 1997, she worked with Dr. Douglas Watt, Director of McGill's Aerospace Medical Research Unit, on the topic of spinal cord excitability in space.

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