We're a little crazy, about science!

The start of summer teaching

Today is the start of our labs summer classes. This marks the beginning of roughly 12 weeks worth of lectures on the stuff we do in the lab for our undergrad and high school students. It will be a chance to teach them how to use some of the techniques they will be working with during their summer with us and it will also be a good refresher for everyone in the lab, because we tend to focus on very specific analysis when we do our research it helps teaching each other some of the things we do well.

I already discussed in a previous post (here) about what I will be teaching this term and why I am not taking on more. But today, since I haven’t heard from my main-PI yet (from yesterdays post), I want to discuss some of the things others are teaching and why we attend each others lectures if we already know the stuff. In our lab we rely on each other to teach the lab new skills, skills each of us have that are unique to us. We have a person who focuses on machine learning, one who focuses on methods for cleaning data, things like that. We used to have weekly (or bi-weekly) classes were we took turns teaching new things and I honestly learned a lot from doing it.

This is a similar thing, but more focused on the new people coming into the lab. That’s good news for some of us currently in the lab because it means you get a background on the topic instead of just diving into how to use it best. I find that is important if you haven’t been introduced to the concepts and some of us in the lab haven’t been exposed to some of the more specialized things that some of us use. It’s a good base for future classes when the lab opens back up again and we’re around each other in person.

It looks like this year we’re doing some basic EEG stuff first, I cover some of that here if anyone wants to learn. We’re also covering filtering, cleaning, and frequency analysis (all one class); I’m teaching independent component analysis (ICA) since I’ve become very familiar with the techniques; and we have lectures covering figure creation and things of that nature. There are more, but this gives a good overview of some of the stuff going on this summer. We’re doing this specifically for our undergrad/high school students because they are going to get to work hands on with some data.

That’s also why all the EEG stuff is getting covered first with things like my solid modeling and 3D printing lectures coming at the end. The students will get to work with actual EEG data from experiments we’ve done or are currently analyzing. It’s a great experience because they aren’t just watching us do the work, they are going to be doing the analysis themselves. We adjust what they will be doing to make it more feasible for someone who has no experience working with EEG data, but they still get to do some very interesting things and on occasion have been offered a longer-term relationship with the lab depending on how much they enjoy the work.

Overall it will be a great experience and since we’re doing it virtually, we have people attending from all over the US. It’s not an incredibly large group (less than 30 people), but it’s a diverse group of people with a lot of different backgrounds. The school hosts an end of summer conference so that people can showcase the stuff they did and I have to say it’s very exciting. Not only do we get to see what the students did in our lab, we get to see the work from other labs and it’s all super interesting.

I like sharing this stuff because as an undergrad I only got to start doing research in my last year because I found a lab I wanted to work in and specifically put myself out there to be in the lab. I didn’t realize things like this existed when I was an undergrad so I want to share here so others are aware this opportunity exists and if you’re thinking of going to grad school in general or specifically if you think you’re ready to jump into a PhD, getting research experience can help you develop a better understanding of what you’re interested in and what you are definitely NOT interested in!

Finding what you’re not interested in is important for potential PhD students in particular, because you definitely don’t want to jump into something only to figure out you hate it. It’s not that you cannot change directions or even fields, it’s just that it’s a lot of work and can set you back, months or even years. I for one don’t think I could do much more than 5 years to the degree, maybe (MAYBE!) 7 or so max, but that’s pushing it. If that sounds like you, the summer undergrad research experience may be for you!

Like I did last year, I am going to probably cover the stuff that I’m teaching even though I’ve already touched on it in the past. With things like this that are complex, it never hurts to review it a different way or focusing on different aspects of the technique so look for that sometime next week when I’m scheduled to teach my first class! Since the first class of the summer is kicking off, I better get on the zoom meeting so I can follow along and show support. Until tomorrow!


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