We're a little crazy, about science!

Day 136: A look forward

a look forward

The obligatory photo of a path that goes on into the distance (taken from the hike we went on during the neurotech confrence).

Yesterday we took a look back at the past decade. I’m not a fan of looking back, it’s not how I’ve survived this long, it’s not something I’m particularly comfortable with, and even though it wasn’t a bad thing to do, I would rather look forward and talk about the things that will be happening (hopefully) this year. Let’s ring in the new year with the to-do list for this year!

First up, we have the prosthetic I’ve been working on for Lucas. We originally were trying to get it done before Christmas, unfortunately that didn’t happen (mostly because I felt like I was dying for about two weeks). This HAS to get done, we’ve had setback after setback and now that the (hopefully) second to last print is done we can finalize the control board and make sure everything fits. This COULD be the last print, but I have a feeling we’re going to need to print at LEAST one more version before we hand it off. After we have the internal stuff figured out, we will pretty much be done so we’re close, very, VERY close.

Of course, there are other obligations I have, we have a weeks worth of experiment to do with five people total. Probably a little longer than a week, we need MRI data prior to getting started and when we are finished. Data collection is a pain in the ass, seriously.

Of all the things that have changed for me going from design to biological signal processing, it’s the data collection part that I hate the most. It just feels tedious to me, I mean when I 3D model, I can change things on the fly, it’s dynamic, it’s instant. So there is that, data collection, ugh. Frankly it is for an experiment I’m not even too excited about, it’s something I have to do, not something I want to do. Then I will have a few months of data analysis to do, that will be fun. Followed by a confrence paper and then a journal paper, that’s the commitment, that’s what I’m going to do, no more, no less.

Finally, I have the big one. My project, the one I’m doing for my PhD, the technique I did the feasibility experiment for my qualifying exam. That will be fairly quick as far as data collection goes … initially. I should be able to collect all the data I will need in less than a month.  We’re looking at between 8 to 10 subjects for the initial study, which will give us the statistical power we need to show that we have something and it isn’t just noise.

That will be phase one of three for my progression with this project. We should see at least a few papers published from this initial experiment (specifically if we find something), more papers if we find something exciting. This first phase will be with able-bodied subjects, so not the most interesting dataset, but one that will show that I am doing what I say I am doing (or rather recording what I say I’m recording). While I’m not excited about the other experiment, this is super exciting for me and I look forward to determining the limits of what I can and cannot do with this technique.

Now for the catch. My Co-PI thinks we could get all this data done this month. I don’t have the experimental setup nailed down though, so I’m nervous to run through this without a clear experiment were we isolate all the variables that we can. The “cleaner” the experiment, the easier it will be to draw conclusions from what I am doing. That is the most important thing for me as far as the work goes, I want to be methodical and I want to eliminate all the confounding factors that I can.

Phase two will involve both able-bodied subjects and subjects with spinal cord injury, this will make the dataset interesting in that we could learn a lot of new things about spinal cord injury. Given that the life expectancy of someone with a spinal cord injury has stagnated, this will be a big deal. More specifically, the average number of years someone has after a spinal cord injury has not improved since the early 1980’s. No, really (here), imagine if your cell phone stopped progressing in the 1980’s or your computer. It’s nuts to think about, so yeah, a lot of interesting things for the year.

Phase one and two will run the entire year most likely, with all the publications coming out of it, I suspect that phase one will have (hopefully) at least one publication this year or early next year. Once that happens I can proudly talk more about the work I am doing (since it will be published). Phase two data collection will probably happen at the end of this year and that dataset will most likely take me through the entire year of 2021.

Moral of the story, data collection is relatively quick, data analysis not so much. Oh I also plan on applying for some funding, I only have a few months to get it all done so I’m already behind schedule with that, but I just found it recently and I’m only just now getting to a point that I would be eligible to apply for it.

Well that’s it, the next year (and beyond) mapped out. As I hit these milestones, expect updates accordingly. When classes start, expect to get more information on the things I’m learning (this term it’s going to be a class on state space control systems. I’ve taken one class on state space controls at the end of my undergrad degree, so it will be fun to learn more. The instructor is supposed to be super good, so I’m excited.

Will I get it all done? The best laid plans of mice and men and all that… but we will see and only time will tell.

But enough about us, what about you?

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