*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*
For those of you just tuning in welcome to my little corner of the internet where I blog daily about my life as a PhD candidate. I’ve managed to blog daily for roughly a year and a half now so we’re off to a good start since I still have 2.5 years or so left in the program. And if you’re just tuning in this post is related to my R21 grant post. Now that you’re up to speed, let’s talk about why I’m doing some new experiments and what that has to do with the R21 grant.
The why is actually fairly short, we need to have some data to show for justification of our methods. We’re in a time crunch so these experiments had to happen soon and the data needs to be processed faster than ever (and there will be a LOT of data this time around). We’re combining the last set of experiments I was working on (n = 1) with a new experiment all for the R21. The whole thing should take ~1 hour after setup probably closer to 2 hours, plus an hour or so of setup for a grand total of 3 hours with the participant. That’s the average length of an experiment in my Co-PI’s lab so while that sounds like a lot, it isn’t. In fact, I’ve seen )and helped with) single experiments last 4-5 hours AFTER setup.
This won’t be another n = 1 study though, we’re doing a small pilot run with an n = 3-5 to show that what we’re proposing is feasible and that we can actually do what we’re claiming can be done. What will we be testing? Well my “super secret” technique that I can’t talk about, but I think my CO-PI is finally convinced it works and so we’re moving forward with collecting more data and attempting to get funding for the project specifically. Since it’s my PhD project, I need to get started ASAP anyway if I ever want to graduate… ever.
We have two of my experiments on the schedule for the week and we’ll probably fit in 1-2 more next week, meeting our self selected minimum data needed threshold. I already have several other experiments worth of data to show, so this will add to the collection, but each experiment helps answer another question with respect to if what we’re seeing is “real” or just noise. Since this is something new, we need to have ample evidence to show that what we have is repeatable and more importantly the information tells us something important. That last part shouldn’t be too tough to do if we can prove the first part.
Now for the painful bit. Since this is a whole new experiment I don’t have the software setup for it, I don’t have things to make it easier, and I don’t know what kind of problems I may run into while we do it. The plan is to come in early today and get everything setup prior to the experiment, which is a common thing we do, but in this case I need to write some scripts and do a few extra steps in the planning phase. I’ve already got the experiment written out and thoroughly thought through (say that five times fast), so just ironing out the things that will speed up the process needs to happen, which the things that make the experiment faster will probably change after the first experiment, that’s how these things usually work.
Today is experiment one in the new chapter for my research. I’m both optimistic and anxious, I’ve invested years into this and I’m always just a single null result away from having to rethink my entire PhD. Still, with every experiment we do, the confidence in the technique grows, so we keep taking the steps forward to see what we have, or perhaps don’t have. That’s science though, beautiful ideas are often smashed by harsh realities, and yet I still dream.