AMSRO 2021 SCIENTIFIC PAPER AWARD
As previously posted, our winner of the 2021 AMSRO Scientific Paper Award is Eleanor Frost. Below is her account of how she came to this topic of her paper and how she was introduced to space medicine.
I was an undergraduate at University College London when I first started the project that led to this prize. I was studying Physics and Medical Physics in my final year and took on an extra course in “Space and Extreme Environment Medicine” with Dr. Kevin Fong and Dr. Dan Martin. I didn’t take the traditional route to choosing my undergraduate Thesis topic, which would have involved choosing from a list all based around medical physics. Instead, I was inspired by two things I picked up during my dive into space medicine: the fact that currently there was no way to perform surgery in space, and the unique behaviour of fluids in microgravity. From this grew an idea to harness the physics of fluids in space (particularly the capillary wicking effect used for the space coffee cup) in order to contain the inevitable blood loss during surgery which posed an infection risk to the crew and habitat.
It was definitely a challenge running with my own project and deciding to design a microgravity surgical workstation with no experience in space or surgery, but I was lucky enough to find some great support.
My supervisors Dr. Fong and Dr. Richard Colchester helped give me feedback on my drafts and work throughout, but with such a different proposal, I had to find ways to get more guidance. In order to do this, I decided to take to social media.
The space medicine community is incredibly welcoming to anyone interested in the field, so it wasn’t difficult to get involved.
I contacted people in the industry, or just with a keen interest in space, through both Twitter and LinkedIn where I reached out with a primary design and a feedback form. If there’s one thing I learnt through this whole process it’s that there is no harm in asking for advice (and it’s often gladly given). It was incredible to get feedback from engineers at ESA, astronauts, Royal Air Force doctors and many more. Using their notes and a plunge into the literature of surgery in space I started refining the design over the course of the year. This also opened up opportunities to get more involved in space medicine as I met other students, joined AMSRO and the SGAC and attended as many conferences and events as I could find.
I finished my thesis in 2019 and with that graduated from Physics, but I’d discovered a passion for space medicine and decided the next step would be to join a medical degree for another 5 years of university, and hopefully work towards a career doing what I loved. I was fortunate enough to work in a research laboratory at Kings College London with the UK based Mission Discovery team and work on experiments which launched to the ISS in March, just before the pandemic. The last two years have meant less opportunities to travel to conferences and network but also more chances to join things online and learn more about the vast variety of specialties in both space research and space medicine (from trauma to genecology in space and many more). I also worked on writing a paper based on my thesis and was honoured to see it accepted for the ASMA 2021 conference and win the AMSRO Scientific Paper Award. That is really a whistle stop tour of how I was able and fortunate to get some of the experiences I have through my interest in space medicine, and I am also very keen to help others get more involved. Since those early days I have loved being part of the SMLS group at the SGAC as well as joining the leadership team for the Womxn in Aerospace Medicine group (associated to AMSRO) and encourage all students to join these wonderful organizations.