Professor Carolyn McGregor’s frontier research in big data is not only providing doctors with new ways to save the lives of premature babies, but could help astronauts stay alive on Mars.
Having established a career designing and building executive information systems, Professor McGregor AM was pursuing her PhD in the field when she met a neonatologist, who was looking to harness bedside data in neonatal intensive care units. For her, it was a fascinating opportunity to apply her skills for the betterment of society.
“Looking at a thousand readings a second from the electrocardiogram, where you can see the beating of the heart, and understanding breathing patterns – it’s a much more complex problem than understanding what someone may put in their shopping trolley once or twice a week,” she explains.
“I'm just amazed at the pathway that I've been on, the doors that open, and what we've been able to achieve.”
In 2005, she established the health informatics research program at the University of Western Sydney (now Western Sydney University), and with it the foundations of the Artemis Project – a sophisticated health analytics platform enabling real-time analysis of multiple data streams. This enhanced ability to detect patterns can mean earlier detection of disease and infection, and reduced mortality.
Professor McGregor is now working with NASA and the Canadian Space Agency to adapt Artemis to manage the health of astronauts on the agency’s planned mission to Mars in 2030. The Artemis system will monitor physiological reaction and adaption throughout the mission, and give the astronauts tools to self-monitor during the long periods that the spacecraft will be out of contact with mission control.
Widely acknowledged as a world-leading expert in the field of health informatics, Professor McGregor was awarded the Advance Global Australian Award for Technology Innovation in September this year, and last year was made a Member of the Order of Australia. “It’s an incredible honour to be recognised as someone who is trying to make systemic change,” she says.
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