We're a little crazy, about science!

A week in review

I figure it’s a good time for the recap of the week. I mean there was a lot going on and while I want to spend some more time on my “in statistics” series, I also really need a break. So instead of spending a lot of time making sure the information I’m presenting is accurate, concise(ish), and (with luck) well thought out, I figure it would be easier to talk about the things I’ve had to do this week and the things I get to look forward to! Joy, welcome to life as a PhD candidate.

It’s been almost three years since I started my PhD and almost two since I’ve made the commitment to blog every day about the process. Okay, some days are more interesting than others, but over the course of this journey I’ve found that it’s always the posts I least expect that get people talking or interested. For those just joining, I have a BS and MS in mechanical engineering and my PhD is going to be in neuroengineering. Yes, they are both engineering fields, but it’s like going from art history to oil painting, both art, both completely different skill sets. So it’s been a… transition for sure. Things have been getting steadily more complicated, which makes blogging easier, but just about everything else more difficult!

Last week I was once again up against competing deadlines. I had part 2 of 3 of a project for my statistics course that was due by Friday (yesterday as of this writing). The entire project, all three parts is worth 40% of my grade and of course it won’t get graded until the end of the course so I have no clue how part one went! I also had my main-PI who has tasked me every week for the past four weeks now with new and complicated things to do, given me a week to do them, and then I have to present my results to the lab during our weekly lab meeting (another post on this unique hell I find myself in). Spoiler, this week was unfortunately no different, I have some new and “exciting” … woo, tasks to get done before the middle of next week.

First the good news, I got everything done for my main-PI and presented this week without too much of a problem. There was some discussion about the statistics behind what I’m doing, I made my case for a few of the ways to do the analysis, my lab mates made some good points about what I was doing and offered alternate methods, my main-PI threw in his opinions on what I should do, overall it wasn’t bad, but it means that I now have a new list of things to get done before the middle of next week, so basically over the weekend since the weekdays are extremely busy.

I also got the second portion of my project done and turned in a day early. I prefer being early than last minute anyway so that was a good thing. The class is going well and even though it is a ton of work it’s been doable so far. I’ve heard from others in the class that they are struggling just as much, if not more so, with the workload so it’s not just me. A few even needed to put in all-nighters to get the assignment done by the deadline. Ironically we got an extension, it was due right before class started and the extension came directly from the instructor while we were in class (as in after the project was due and the formal deadline passed). It was a little frustrating, but I finished the task to (what I believe anyway) is above or at least meeting the standard they set based on the extremely brief project description and outline.

Onto the bad news! As I mentioned I’ve been tasked with another set of complex analysis that will no doubt take me a significant portion of time to do, if I can do them at all! It’s stuff I’ve never done, working with code I need to write, doing things that no one has taught me to do. Basically what you do to get your PhD. For those of you wondering, yes this is a very normal situation I find myself in. I know others who routinely find themselves in similar situations, so it’s not just my lab.

Of course, I have responsibilities in not one, but two labs! Twice the fun, twice the work, twice the headaches. We’re in the middle of a clinical trial so I’ve been in and out of the lab every week now doing assessments for the trial we’re running. If that isn’t bad enough, we’re getting ready to start a new set of experiments so I’m going to have even more work to do. Oh I also had a last minute request from my Co-PI for some figures for a paper we’re working on, but that was pretty easy to get done thankfully.

Then the statistics class, which I’m starting to hate with a passion. At the end of each class we have a small assignment due the next day, yes we get from Friday night to Saturday to complete it and they are getting pretty difficult for “simple” weekly tasks. We had one homework assignment due a week ago and the next is due this upcoming Friday, so once again I find I have competing deadlines to look forward to meeting. We also were just given the third and final portion to our project. It does not look any easier than the other assignments and let me tell you those take forever!

The disconcerting bit is that we have two homework assignments scheduled before the completion of the class and we have something called a project presentation, which hasn’t been mentioned at all, it’s just sitting there in the class schedule outline (which was just updated so I’m assuming it’s a thing).

Basically things are busy, but hey what else is new. So yeah now that I’ve distracted myself for a few minutes, it’s time to get some of that work done.


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