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A new science outreach project

Today we’re making a movie! Okay, it’s not a movie persay, it’s a virtual outreach project I’ve been tasked with by my main-PI. Unlike most outreach I do, this is going to take some planning, a bit of script writing, a easy to do exercise that can be followed at home, and lastly a little write up on everything going on. So when I say some planning, I mean a LOT of planning!

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Experiments update!

Yes the data always look like a bunch of random squiggles, that’s why it takes forever to make sense of it.

Well a lot has happened this week, maybe not the most interesting of things for my readers, but this week has definitely kept me on my toes. Today we’re going to have to talk in circles because I can’t give away my “super secret” technique I’m researching, but I also have news about that technique. It’s all very hush, hush, top secret, would have to kill you if I told you type stuff for now, but that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about how the experiments I’m doing went!

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Second grant experiment

Data processing…. now in parallel!

Ever have one of those days that is so packed full of stuff to do you don’t think you’ll get a chance to eat? Well today is one of those days for me, I’ll be busy from morning to evening today between my experiment and class I don’t get a break! Since that’s the case, I think we should look at what’s on the agenda for the day in a bit more detail and how I plan on managing my time so that (hopefully) I won’t be late for anything.

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More on grant writing

Got the first round of edits back from my Co-PI on the R21 grant I’m writing. At first they didn’t look too bad, but it turns out he reworded quite a bit. Not that big of a deal honestly, but he did suggest that it was close to perfect, so I would hate to see what “not close” looks like. Today I figure we can discuss what I have left, why there’s a rush to get all this done, and why the heck I’m doing soooooo much writing!

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A violent transfer of power

Strap in kids, it’s inauguration day here in the US. Yep, Trump is out and we have a president again. My disdain for Trump is no secret, the amount of suffering and death he’s caused by his dereliction of duties, incompetence, and lack of empathy is incalculable and even with him gone, the damage he’s done will last at least a generation, if not more. Let’s be clear, this wasn’t a peaceful transition, the amount of military at the capitol says as much.

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More experiments!

*Cue mad scientist laugh* It’s alive!!! ALLLLIIIIVVVEEE!! No, I’m not reanimating corpses, I just work with human participants so if they weren’t alive it would be awkward. I mean really, really awkward. Thankfully since they are non-invasive experiments the risk of serious injury is almost zero. All this build up to say I’ve got some new experiments starting today, as in MY experiments! *Cue second mad scientist laugh*

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The first week of classes

When you start a PhD program, or a Masters program (I have a BS and MS so I can speak to this) things aren’t as structured as they are in undergrad. Not that undergrad programs aren’t hard or not hectic, it’s just that there are scheduled times for everything so you know when and where you will have work. It’s a lot like highschool in that respect, you get homework, but there’s a clear end to it. Not so much in grad school, your homework takes a year or even years (for a PhD) to finish. Still, it’s the first week of school, so things change, if only slightly.

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My first surgical shadow

With all the COVID excitement going on around here, I haven’t had the chance to share my experience about one of the coolest things I’ve had the chance to do thus far in my career! Since starting my PhD I feel like I’ve had all sorts of interesting experiences and while they haven’t helped me publish anything, I’ve learned a lot. Making a jump across fields like I did (design engineering to neural engineering) has had a steep learning curve from the start, but almost three years in and I’m feeling good about the decision.

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Everything you should know about the COVID vaccine

I’ve already written several posts on my experience with the first COVID vaccine dose (here and here) and the second dose (here and here). Today we’re putting it all together. I’m going to run through everything you should know about the COVID vaccine from how it works, to why you should get it, and what to expect when you go through the shots. My goal with this is to make it accessible as possible so you can make an informed decision and feel comfortable getting the shot. Sometimes the science is hard to understand, but I think we can simplify it enough to make sense to just about everyone. That said let’s give it… a shot.

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COVID Vaccine: The second shot update!

Well today is a full day since I had the second dose of my COVID vaccine. I promised honesty and transparency so here it is, the second dose isn’t as smooth as the first. So we’re going to go over why that is, what my issues have been, and why it’s still very much worth it.

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COVID Vaccine: The second shot

We’re talking spike proteins, the thing that gives COVID-19 its distinct look (red spikes).

Today is the day! It’s been roughly two weeks (if I’m counting that right) since I got my first COVID-19 vaccine shot and today I’m getting my booster, or second shot, whatever we’re calling it. For that reason, today we’re going to recap the last two weeks and discuss what may happen with the second shot. It’s not as exciting as it sounds, but there’s a lot of misinformation out there so it’s important to document all this.

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I’m going into surgery… sort of!

Okay well this came out of left field, or rather happened faster than I thought it would. My Co-PI and I had discussed just last week seeing some of how the more clinical stuff gets done in terms of electrophysiology and invasive monitoring. He suggested I shadow some of the doctors while they are performing surgery to see how they do the things they do and now I’m about to get the chance to do just that. Yeah, that’s a lot of doing.

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A day of meetings and emails

Okay, my inbox isn’t that bad, but if I didn’t keep up with it, it could easily get there.

It’s a new day with a new and long list of things I need to get done. I’ve already got a ton of bad news about my car issues and the rather large bill that is coming with that, but I’ve also got meeting after meeting scheduled for today on top of a long, long list of emails that need responses from me. Basically today is going to be exhausting and all I will have done is sit in front of a computer, how the hell does that even work?!

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On turning the other cheek

Unity, noun, the state of being united or joined as a whole. Less than a week after a failed attempt at a coup, the GOP is now calling for unity. Like a concerted and years long effort to overtake the government was some accident and we should just forgive and forget. I mean let the person who hasn’t tried to overthrow the government throw the first stone! No? Anybody?

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And it’s back to work I go

Today is my last day off. Not quite a day off either, more of a day to get ready. While classes haven’t officially started for me, it’s time to get some work done. So in the spirit of chronicling my life as a PhD candidate, I figure today we can take a look at my todo list and you’ll see why today isn’t a day off. Hint, there’s a lot of prep going into this next week.

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Even more woodworking!

Once again we’re switching topics, because why not? We’re entering perilous territory here folks. It’s almost time for the dreaded door install. Doors and drawers are hard! On the brightside today you’ll see I did a test fit and it went well. There’s still a bit to be done before I can stain/finish the piece, but the end is nigh! Once again it’s time to talk about some wood.

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First grant meeting

Time to put the fun in funding?

Well it’s been a weird couple of days and by weird I mean, WTF?! For that reason let’s shift slightly back into the school aspect of things. I had my first meeting with my Co-PI to discuss the grant writing I’m going to be doing and what we want to focus on. Turns out there’s a lot going on and not all of it had to do with the grant, but it was a good meeting and I’m excited to get started.

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Not with a bang…

Well yesterday happened and wasn’t some weird fever dream I thought I was having. For those of you who aren’t in the US right now, good. For those of you who are and live in some underground fortified bunker with only internet access to my blog, weird, but we had a coup attempt. As in a literal attempt to overthrow the government. It’s okay though, because they were white supremacists and in the US we give them special treatment.

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Woodworking progress

So many clamps!

Well I went a little overboard yesterday. Really I got into a good groove and the vanity project is almost complete. Today I’m attaching the last few boards, drilling one more hole into the top (for the faucet) and if I can, I’ll glue the top together. Then all that’s left is the finishing and the fitting. Yeah, I got a lot done, so let’s take a peek at the progress I’ve made since we last talked about the project.

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New year, new grant

It’s all connected somehow… I just know it.

Nope, still on vacation… I tell myself as I make arrangements to meet with my Co-PI. This is important though and unlike some of the other projects it has a firm deadline. That’s right, I’m writing a grant. No this isn’t an update to the last one I wrote, this is a whole new one. How did I end up in this position? Who knows, but I’ve been trying to figure it out since it happened. Let’s discuss, shall we?

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Woodworking Update

Some of the wood was warped, so I just put some weight on top of it to straighten it out a bit before I use it.

Since it’s vacation time I’ve switched gears to doing some woodworking projects I enjoy that don’t really benefit anything. Maybe that’s the wrong way to look at it, learning a new skill is beneficial, but I guess what I really mean is that it’s a hobby I find relaxing. Crafting something is an interesting experience and while I still have a few days of work left (at least!) I’m almost done and it feels good.

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How do I relax?

Yes, once again I am trying to force myself to do nothing useful. Or rather to do useful things for myself instead of for others. My mental health has run ragged since the pandemic hit and it only got worse as the year progressed. Since winter time is particularly difficult for me to deal, I plan on some decompression time. I’ve talked about it before, but what’s the point of blogging daily if I can’t talk about it again?

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A look forward

It’s a new year, a new chapter, and it’s time to set some new goals. What kinds of craziness will I accomplish this year? Well I have a few ideas. No pressure or anything, I don’t want to force myself to fit things into the year just because I planned for it. Instead I like to set goals so I can check things off a list (I do love my lists). So even if that list rolls into the next year, it’s not the end of the world. Just a helpful hint for those of us who are chronically anxious!

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A year in review

So long 2020, while the calendar is a human construct, I hope that the significance means something for mankind as a whole. Who knows maybe we will finally take the pandemic seriously, or global warming, maybe even gun violence. Yeah, I don’t think so either, but one can hope. In lieu of stating my hopes for humanity, let’s just take a quick look back at the year I’ve had and what this new year holds. This is my year in review.

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New year’s eve!

It’s that time of the year again, new year’s eve. It’s been one hell of a year, even for the awful last few years. I have a lot of thoughts this year given that we are living in a pandemic and new year’s eve is usually a time for celebration. I doubt anyone will listen, but stay home.

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Woodworking progress

So many clamps…

I’m slow at woodworking. Probably because I’m new(ish) to it and because I like to take my time and think through what I’m going to do before I do it. At this stage though, I’m limited to the progress I can make based on the number of clamps I have and the amount of time it takes for the glue to dry. That doesn’t mean nothing has been done since I last posted a few days ago though, in fact I’ve made quite a bit of progress and I’m about to move on to the next steps.

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I got my COVID Vaccine – update

Well today is day 1 post COVID vaccine. That was the first of two shots that I need to get, the second one will be in the middle of January (already scheduled). Since I was lucky enough to get the vaccine I thought I would talk a bit about the side effects of it, at least from my end. My hope is to help people relax a bit and when it becomes available to the public, you won’t be nervous to get it done.

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I’m getting my COVID vaccine today!

Today is the day! About a week ago I got an email letting me know that I could be vaccinated. While I’m a researcher in a hospital, my work involves a high risk population (people with spinal cord injury) so I’m front facing with patients on a regular basis. I’m also disabled which may have factored into my group placement. Whatever the case, I got a spot in line and now it’s my turn. My Co-PI who’s lab I work out of already got his, but he was in a higher group than I was. As usual I have some thoughts on all this…

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More woodworking

The hardest part was getting the framing right, so the rest will (hopefully) go quicker.

It’s been an exhausting year! I’m feeling kind of at a loss about what to write so instead of trying to come up with something I think I’ll just give an update on my woodworking project along with some photos. Overall I’m happy with how things are progressing. I’ve got the frame almost completely glued now and I’ve cut some of the wood for the front as well as the wood for the top.

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Winter woodworking

Gluing up the frame for the vanity, it should be dry at this point.

It’s the day after Christmas for me and blah! The holidays are an excuse to eat like garbage and let me tell you I feel it. Yesterday I did absolutely nothing above what I needed to do. Basically no work, school, home, or otherwise. It was nice, but I get antsy so today I’m planning to do some work on a project I started over the summer.

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Happy Holidays!

If you read my blog, it’s no secret I celebrate a non-religious Christmas, but no matter what you celebrate I hope you and your loved ones have a happy holiday season. While the pandemic means that things may look different for a lot of us, we shouldn’t need a holiday to remind us to be kind and love one another. The holiday season may be a good time to remember that lesson, but it doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate any time of the year. When this is all over we can mourn the loss of loved ones and celebrate being able to be close once again properly. For now, stay safe, stay vigilant, and hopefully the new year will bring some good changes.

A Video Game Christmas

Twas the day before Christmas and all through the house, the computer could be heard along with the clicking of a mouse. Sure it’s a cheesy way to start today’s post, but have you seen the rest of the blog? Without all the traditional holiday festivities due to COVID, I’m making a moderately sized dinner tomorrow. Since I don’t need to do a whole lot of prep, I’m free to find other activities for the day.

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It’s Christmas so why shouldn’t everything break?

It’s the holiday season, for me that means Christmas. I’m not religious and while the holiday has religious undertones, let’s face it, a lot of people celebrate it who aren’t religious. Regardless of what you celebrate, there is probably some expense attached to it. For some it may be more than others, if you’re like me and are a poor college student your budget is pretty tiny to begin with, but you save over the year and manage to eek out a little something to make the season magic. Of course, that means you have no savings, but what could go wrong?

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The year I ruined Christmas

I’ve been promising (or perhaps threatening) to tell the story about the year I ruined Christmas. Yes, this is the stand mixer tale I’ve been alluding to in my previous posts (here and here). Don’t worry, it has a happy and hilarious ending, but the lead up to it was, well a bit uncomfortable to say the least. It has made for a running joke though and this year was the return of the stand mixer to celebrate. Let’s just dive into the story and things will make more sense.

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How to REALLY wrap presents! Part 2

santa

As promised we’re going to talk more about how to wrap badly, on purpose! Basically I’m trying to introduce a new way to level up your gift giving experience. It’s a way to make your holidays more magical, best of all, this works for any present giving time, birthdays, weddings, anytime! If you’re just tuning in you should read part 1, where I introduce the first principles of stealth wrapping. Today I’ll give some more examples and a few helpful hints I’ve learned over the years of doing this. Let’s get going!!

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How to REALLY wrap presents!

Regularly shaped gifts can be so boring! Who wants to look at a bunch of box shaped gifts?!

Tis’ the season! Every year I try to make the holidays slightly more magical than they normally are. Depending on your traditions and what you believe in, you’re probably planning on giving gifts to the people you care about too. Think about it for a second, perfectly wrapped rectangular packages organized neatly just waiting for you to open them. But that’s boring!!! Why wrap your gifts nice and square when you can have some fun with it. Let me blow your mind.

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The pandemic, holidays, and your mental health

When was the last time you thought about your own mental health? I mean really thought about how you’re doing right now, not the typical, “Huh, I think things are going to hell, but I’ll worry about it later” kind of thinking about things. Maybe it’s just me, but this time of year is hard to begin with, add to that the fact that we’re almost a full year into the pandemic and I would think this time of year would be overwhelming for the majority of people.

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Time off!

Today was the last experiment that I’ll be doing for the next couple of weeks and since classes are over it’s time to kick my feet up and relax. Okay, not really. There are still some odds and ends that I will probably be working on while I’m “taking a break,” but overall I’m excited to not have things I NEED to do. I’ll probably be doing some house stuff too, but hey at least its a change.

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The perils of publishing

So you want to publish some science. I don’t blame you, as a scientist we’re driven by the “publish or perish” mindset. The further along you get the more you’re stuck having weird nightmares about h-index and impact factor. Or maybe that’s just me, who knows? In any case, any publication is a labor of love, one that typically turns into a labor of spite. Because publishing isn’t easy, or maybe that’s just me.

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Outreach

I just finished with my Skype a Scientist session! You can do it too if you want, just sign up. I had a lot of fun and while today was going to be on a slightly more depressing topic, I figure we can talk about how it went instead. I love doing outreach, it’s probably one of my favorite things about being a scientist and I got to show a whole bunch of interesting things I get to do as a scientist. This was an interesting group, so that’s also a good reason to talk about it.

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More data surprises!

Data’s the gift that keeps on giving. Okay not really, but I wish it were!

Well I’ve finished with the new dataset I collected for my PhD project, it was a fast analysis so there is still a lot more I can do with it, but I’ve finished at least the initial processing and plotting. Overall it’s good news so now I’m just waiting to hear back from my Co-PI to confirm my findings or more than likely temper my excitement.

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On the importance of vaccines

Once upon a time polio was more feared than the atomic bomb. Thanks to the vaccine we’ve practically (not completely mind you!) eliminated polio from the planet. We successfully eliminated smallpox, the only existing strains live in special labs now. Vaccines are a triumph of science and are so successful that people have forgotten they are necessary for a reason. In short, vaccine fear is a byproduct of vaccine success.

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Please, stay home for the holidays!

Don’t do it. Seriously, why are we having this discussion right now? It makes no sense, there is a pandemic going on and if you live specifically in the US (which I do) you’re going to need to stay home. Sure the holidays can be an important time of year for families, but do we really need a holiday to celebrate with our family? Why not wait until this is over? More importantly is it worth putting all of them, yourself, and the people you come in contact with at risk?

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The art of doing nothing!

That’s right kids, it’s time to let my hair down and relax! Time to change out of my fancy sweatpants into the causal ones. We’re going all out and I’m moving from the computer next to the couch to the dammmmn couch! I’m going from bare foot to bare foot, I’m talking comfy shirt to pajama shirt, the whole works! Okay so maybe the comfy lifestyle in a pandemic makes taking a break a little less obvious, but it’s still worth it!

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And finally something good…

I don’t know why my mind went with hidden treasure, but that’s what we’re going with today.

It was bound to happen eventually, some good news for today! I had a meeting with my Co-PI and we went over the latest findings in the dataset I’m processing for my “super secret” technique and I have to say it went much better than was expected! He’s excited, I’m excited, we’re excited. The issue is we don’t know what any of it means, but I think that’s why it’s so exciting!!!!

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Outreach in a pandemic

I’ve been matched! No, not with a dating service, with an outreach program called Skype a Scientist. If you are a scientist (any type will do) you can get involved too! I’ve talked about some of my outreach activities in the past, but heck let’s run through why I think outreach is so awesome and how the pandemic has actually made it easier to do!

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A change in my timing

The meeting with my PI is done and it’s not all bad news. It went better than expected in some aspects and not so great in others. That’s how these things work out, it’s not a linear progression, it’s a lot of going back and forth and sometimes side to side too. Thankfully we met before I made any firm plans! Anywho, let’s just dive in and talk about what happened.

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More data, more problems

Maybe the title should be no data, no cry. Anyway here we are another day and there’s a lot going on, but I finally did it! I got some results from my new dataset that I hadn’t had a chance to process yet. And would you believe (despite the title) that I found something!? Yep, which is great news… except there’s more I need to do! My Co-PI who likes to temper my excitement when I come to him with results has reminded me that I should wait to celebrate until the rest of the data are analyzed.

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A meeting with my PI

It’s a treacherous path, but one I need to take

Well I may have overestimated how fast I could get the data processed from yesterday. I have it basically done, but I was up until almost 2am getting it to that point and I didn’t have the energy to start the analysis so that’s going to happen today. Instead of sharing my excitement for a second day in a row I thought I would share some news. I got an email back from my PI and tomorrow we are meeting.

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An early present

Since my deadline has come and gone I can look around for a moment, but more importantly I don’t feel the pressure to hyperfocus on a single project. So today instead of working on that dataset I’m switching to a dataset I need to get done before my PhD proposal defense. It’s data that will (assuming I find something) further help make my case for studying my new “super secret” technique for the next 2-3 years depending on how long everything takes.

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