Physics Skills Keep Preemies Breathing

Breathe! The quantitative research skills you pick up as a physical sciences student qualify you for even more than you think. Like improving medical procedures to make sure premature babies keep breathing. Dr. John Delos is a physics professor at the College of William & Mary, so you might wonder how he got involved with helping detect sleep apnea in premature infants.

Photo: Flickr/bradleyolin (cc).

Photo: Flickr/bradleyolin (cc).

The short answer: it was a combination of vision, initiative, and his physics training.

Preemies often suffer from central apnea, in which the brain’s internal timer is not yet fully developed and the baby literally forgets to breathe. To make matters worse, although neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) monitors are designed to detect these episodes, they are far from foolproof — the pumping of the baby’s own blood can fool the machine into thinking that respiration is happening when it isn’t. And that’s not a good situation.

Enter Dr. Delos. His quantitative skills enabled him to start tracking the data recorded by these NICU monitors. Working with collaborators, Delos is developing ways to use algorithms to improve this monitoring — and hopefully help more preemies survive into babyhood and beyond.

College of William And Mary

Now, seriously. Does anyone still think training in the physical sciences leads to narrow career choice?

Want to learn more about Physics at the College of William & Mary or medical and health physics in general? Let‘s grad program search help you!

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Advice to Students

The first year of grad school is really hard. Instead of spending time thinking about whether or not you should be in Grad School, spend that time doing your homework. Then after your first year you can think about whether you really want to be there. — Kendra Redmond, Program Coordinator and Assistant Editor, Society of Physics Students, Podcast Episode #1

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