(Note: Some of the following contains direct links to papers in our online publications. Eventually we hope to include many more such links as we update this history. Until then you can go to the online publications and search for one of the names mentioned below as an author.)
The UW Structural Informatics group is an outgrowth of earlier work in the UW Department of Biological Structure, dating at least 20 years ago. The group had its beginning in work related to computer graphics modeling of protein molecules by Lyle Jensen and the X-ray crystallography group in the Department of Biological Structure. Based on this initial work John Prothero and John Sundsten developed methods for reconstruction and 3-D display of biological objects from serial sections. The software for accomplishing this, as well as most of the graphics software still used by this group, was created by Jeff Prothero. The group was initially called the Biological Structure Computer Graphics group.
After seeing the 3-D reconstructions, Cornelius Rosse became interested in the use of these images for anatomy teaching, and was awarded a grant from National Library of Medicine in 1988 to work in this direction. Around 1992 Cornelius became director of the group, changing its name to the Digital Anatomist Program.
Jim Brinkley was recruited from Stanford in 1988, after which he developed a classification of structural information, as well as a conceptual framework for organizing and delivering this information, that became the basis for our subsequent bioinformatics research and development [Brinkley1989].
In 1990 Jim Brinkley coined the term Structural Informatics to capture the kind of work he had been doing throughout his career, work ranging from 3-D ultrasound reconstruction to 3-D protein structure, to the current work in gross anatomy. Cornelius Rosse and Jim Brinkley then applied this term to the previously-described classification of structural information, concentrating on its application in anatomy [Rosse 1990]. The National Library of Medicine picked up this term in their long range report that led to the Visible Human project, and Jim Brinkley expanded on the term in 1991 [Brinkley1991].
The name of the group was changed to the UW Structural Informatics Group in 1997 to reflect its increasingly technical nature (many of the members are now from computer science or engineering), and to provide room for expansion beyond anatomy education.
Although we have done considerable work in imaging and graphics, our primary contribution to the development of a structural framework is the Foundational Model of Anatomy (FMA) ontology, developed by Cornelius Rosse and Onard Mejino, with contributions by many others, and which grew out of the Digital Anatomist Symbolic Knowledge base defined in our 1989 framework paper. The FMA and its predecessors, together with various graphical representations of anatomy, have been used as the primarily means for organizing biomedical information in various funded projects. These projects are described in detail on our projects pages.