We're a little crazy, about science!

Back to outreach

Just hanging out with the bots.

Today was the finish line, like it or not the R21 grant had to be finished. My Co-PI seems happy enough about the outcome, so we’ll have to wait and see what the result is, it could be several months before we know anything. It was a marathon of work, data process, experimenting, and now… nothing. I’m finally done so I can actually focus on other projects, which is the topic of the day!

For those of you just joining, I’m a third year neuroengineering PhD candidate. I do a lot, but mostly my research is in a hospital. I’m trying to figure out how spinal cord injury changes signaling to the brain with the goal being to leverage those changes to restore function. Along the way I needed funding so I’ve applied for several different methods, namely the NDSEG fellowship, NIS small grant, the R21 grant, and apparently now I need (should) apply for a K99/R00 fellowship. Basically a lot of writing, I’ve been writing proposals since October and I thought this was the end of it, apparently my two PI’s had a different plan for me.

With all this writing, I’ve had some other not so pressing projects waiting for me to get to them. There’s a little bit of stress involved whenever I take on a project that I can’t do right away. I tend to do homework assignments for class as early as possible for example because I don’t like the idea of things piling up. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to devote a significant amount of time to other projects because of all that writing I’ve been doing so slowly other projects started to pile despite my hatred of the idea. There are only so many hours in a day!

Well today I’m conquering at least one of those projects, with little time to spare no less! I was tasked by my main-PI to do an outreach video giving a lab tour and a small “do it at home” demo. I’ve already filmed the lab tour and made it far more complicated than I needed to. Today I need to film the “do it at home” portion of the video. Since I can’t expect the kids (I can say that, this is for 5-8th grade) to build their own brain-computer interfaces (as cool as that would be), I’m going to teach them the simple art of building a prosthetic.

Okay, it’s not simple, but it is partially art. The idea is to create a prosthetic finger together and then let the kids make their own robot/prosthetic hand if they want. It’s a simple popsicle stick, tape, and string job so I may even post it here for others to do if you wanted. Really the idea is just to teach them about design a bit because again we can’t go building a brain-computer interface, which is mostly what we do in the lab… mostly. I’m the black sheep of the lab, but I’m happy with that.

Anyway today I’m probably going to do the filming in the hardest way possible to keep everything consistent with the previous videos. Then over the course of the next day or two (please don’t take longer!) I will cut, edit, dub, and just generally polish the video so it’s ready for presentation. It’s a lot of work, but I’m trying to do it as best as I can.

Frankly, it didn’t need to be this complicated or this well done, but I’m a high anxiety person and I would rather overdeliver than underdeliver. It’s just a thing about me that I’ve learned to accept instead of try and change it. For example, a collaborator on my Masters project literally thought I was finishing my PhD because of the amount of work I put into the project. My PhD has been no different, I’m pioneering a whole new technique that has the potential to create a whole new field of research, or at least expand on it. I didn’t have to do it, but hey, that’s part of me learning to love myself. I’ve never been one to do things the easy way (as much as I wish I could be).

So with the plan for the day outlined, I can hopefully make some movie magic and create a fun/engaging video. It needs to be submitted the 15th — for those following along, that is also the submission deadline for the R21 so I’m glad we had an internal deadline or I would be screwed — and my main-PI needs to review it prior to submission. I’m sure he will greenlight anything I send, but he needs at least a day or two to find time to watch the ~10 minute video and review the documentation (literally a document describing how to make the finger). It’s a new day and a new project, hopefully it goes smoothly!


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