We're a little crazy, about science!

Chaos as enjoyment

Well today’s post comes far later than I would’ve liked, but hey it’s been a day. What kind of day? Well surprise, surprise I cannot talk about it! That’s the theme, I get to hint at stuff for a year or so and then surprise everyone with the paper after the fact. But today did inspire something that I can talk about and that’s why today we’re talking about why I love research so much!

Research isn’t for everyone, it’s a lot of hard work that gets you very little pay (on the scale of pay for the education) and very little recognition. I’m okay with both of those things because let’s be real, we only get the one life so, my philosophy is to leave the world in a slightly better state than I found it in. Since I can’t single handedly stop global warming, the pandemic, or death by plastics (wow a lot of things are trying to kill us in this day and age…) I’ve taken up a different cause.

Spinal cord injury! If it wasn’t obvious to everyone who reads my blog semi-regularly is something I’m pretty passionate about. Disability in general really, the world is a hard place to exist in normally then toss into the mix a world designed for people with two working hands and two working legs and you’re in for a hot mess if you don’t fall in that category. Think about how many steps you need to climb to get around, sidewalks, entries to buildings, steps inside buildings, stairs, the list goes on and on and each and every one of those is a small inconvenience to you or I, but they are a very real barrier for anyone in a wheelchair.

Anyway, for about a year I had to use a wheelchair to get around and even after I started walking on a regular basis, it was years (plural) before I felt confident walking up stairs, to this day I still death grip the rail out of both habit and fear that today will be the day I break my “haven’t fallen down the stairs” streak. So I take stairs, narrow halls, barriers in general pretty personally and once you notice them they are everywhere. I would still be doing research if I hadn’t had that experience, but it definitely shaped how I see the world and I think it really helps me figure out better ways to do things (a very subtle nod to my “big idea“).

Like I said though research isn’t for everyone and part of the reason that is the case is because we don’t work your typical 9-5. Some days my day starts before the sun is up and ends well after the sun is down, other times I have very little to do and I make a mental note to enjoy those times when I can despite feeling useless. This month kicks off one of the busier times of the past few months and it will be getting even busier as we go. I personally have three different projects I’m juggling on different days and we’re about to add a fourth (and maybe even a fifth), but that’s how research goes I had an extended lull thanks to the holidays and wrapping up other projects and now we’re going full speed.

It’s a very chaotic environment and it makes work/life balance difficult if you’re not careful, but I really enjoy the work and it has enough flexibility that I can manage it better than working a regular schedule. In fact, I prefer this over a regular schedule because I can work from home some days when I have a lot of data to analyze and no experiments going on and I really only need to be physically present when things are happening so some weeks it’s 50 or more hours in the hospital with no work getting done at home (analysis) other weeks its 20-30 hours with another 20 or so hours of analysis being done at home, it just depends. I’m also incredibly lucky that I have my home setup (this big beast of a computer!) to do the analysis part of the job anyway so I can work quickly and comfortably.

I bring all this up because we just had two new people coming from other parts of the hospital, two therapists (PT/OT) and they have a lot of experience working a normal and strict 40 hour week, but that rarely happens in research and I think the other day one of them found out the hard way when they got dragged (well invited last minute) to the OR with us to see how we work. It was fun and reminded me that not everyone is used to working in such a chaotic environment (both schedule wise and research wise!).

Today I had a lot going on in terms of preparation for other research I’m about to start, mostly related to “big idea,” but we can’t start some of that until we have the needed IRB stuff taken care of. That is unrelated to my PhD IRB which I recently submitted (here). The hospital works much faster, and in some ways is much stricter, than the school, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the hospital IRB submitted and approved after some back and forth before the school IRB gets any sort of actual serious review.

There’s also a lot of other stuff I can’t even hint at for the moment, but again it all reminds me that this is a controlled (well somewhat controlled) chaos situation. I’m not sure when my next paper will be done, but I’m hopeful I will be able to share some of the stuff I’ve been working on these past few weeks sooner than the last bit of stuff I shared. Let’s just say I’m really excited and so is hospital-PI, it’s going to be good.


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