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This Is Why: Volunteer Doug Heden

  • February 26, 2021

Doug Heden and his wife, Becky, first came to know the MDI Biological Laboratory through our Science Café presentations. As an engineer in a science-oriented family, Doug says he finds the cafés educational, entertaining and discussion-provoking. Over the years, the Hedens’ involvement with MDIBL has grown; attending more events and joining the Star Point Society as donors. Now Doug has taken his commitment one step further by becoming a dedicated volunteer.

Since early 2020 Doug has been tirelessly working his way through a mountainous task — digitizing decades of MDI Biological Laboratory published papers, scientific reports and Bulletins to help preserve our history of scientific discovery.

For years MDIBL’s research community has been eager to access a digital archive of the Bulletin and related research documents. This effort took a major step forward last fall when visiting scientist and nephrologist, Patricio Silva, M.D., donated an overhead arm-mounted scanner to the Laboratory to help get the project started.

Recognizing the value of digitizing this historical research record, Patricio was eager to ensure that faculty, visiting scientists and researchers from around the world could more easily access this body of work.

When Doug expressed an interest in volunteering at MDIBL, the project was off and running. Since then, Doug has methodically worked his way through 17 years’ worth of documents so far.  Impressive as that is, the true value of his work is staggering, when you consider that he is also compiling a Table of Contents for each volume. “It lists all the authors and report titles, many of which include the species being studied,” Doug explains. “When I finish and all these are combined, researchers will be able to search the Table of Contents for authors or key words for about 3000 reports and then request a digital version of the reports.”

Originally, Doug was going to be working from a desk on MDIBL campus but the arrival of COVID-19 meant rearranging things so that he could do the work from home. Looking back, Doug thinks it actually worked out pretty well, as his setup at home (pictured below) allows him more flexibility and, at this time of year, it’s a “perfect bad weather, indoor activity project,” he says.

Doug says he hopes the digitizing of these documents will make diving into past work easier for future research. We are so grateful for Doug’s perseverance and dedication to such a time-consuming task. He is truly on the front line of preserving MDIBL’s unique and precious legacy.


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