3 aims, 2 experiments, 1 year
It’s now official, I have a rough timeline for everything I want to do and I’ve got the greenlight from my committee that the work I propose to do will be enough to earn my PhD. I’ve spent the past day trying to plan out the rough outline of what the next year will look like in context with all the other work I will be doing and it will be busy!
I promised at the start of this year that things would be moving faster than they had in previous years. And they have! With my proposal defense out of the way I have a clear pathway to my PhD, with some anticipated bumps and things along the way. If I want to graduate in one year, I will need to push to get some of the things I proposed finished, mostly that means a lot of data collection.
As the title suggests, my project has three aims. Since I cannot go into detail about all that, because pesky publication rules and what not, I am left with my general vague statements that I am known for around here. Aims 1 and 2 are unrelated, that is if aim 1 fails aim 2 is not impacted, aims 2 and 3 are related meaning if aim 2 fails, aim 3 is automatically a fail. No matter how many of my aims fail, I will get my PhD as long as I go through the effort to do the work, that’s the nice thing about a PhD, you can explore high risk/ high reward projects without the fear of looming failure.
Failure in my case would simply be the boring outcome. The exciting outcome is success! And to maximize my chances of success my project has two separate experiments, one for aims 1 and 2 and a second experiment for aim 3. Data collection for these experiments will take FOREVER. I’ve blocked out four months (four!) to do all the data collecting I need for the first experiment. That’s already one-fourth of the year just for the data collection!!
How hard is data collection you may ask, well each individual experimental session will last roughly 3 hours, plus setup and teardown time, which we don’t typically count because our participant doesn’t need to be around for that. For my project we will repeat this experiment with quite a few people, we’re looking at roughly 100 hours worth of work (including the long, long time it takes for setup and teardown) before I have all the data I need for the first two aims. Basically two and a half full-time weeks worth of work spread out over the course of four months, because I also work full-time (and need to work around other people’s schedules for testing like this.
Mostly the work will be done over the weekends because that’s all the time I currently can dedicate to the project. But also nights, a lot of late nights will be spent this next year trying to get everything done in the timeline I presented, which is by all accounts very ambitious (which I knew, but damn it I want to graduate so bad at this point!!!).
If all goes well, I can ease into the work, but by the end of the year starting in August/September it will be incredibly busy for me. It’s the convergence point for a lot of my aims, I have all three and a publication that I’ll be working on around that time. I suspect that sleep will be something I will remember fondly and I will single handedly drastically improve sales for any and all caffeinated beverages. I’m only semi-joking I’m going to be killing myself for about a month, possibly longer around that time if everything happens the way I want/need it to work out.
The only good news is there are buffers built in, but only slightly, so if I manage to get the work done faster, well then I shouldn’t have to worry so much about this convergence of stuff that needs to be done. The worst case scenario is that I won’t finish on time and graduate after the summer, but I will push as hard as I can and as hard as I need to, in order to finish on time. I mean I want to finish on time, so if I don’t it won’t be for lack of trying (or lack of caffeine, haha).
You would think after four years in a PhD program I would be finishing, but this is really just the starting point. Everything prior to this was to get me ready for the work I’ll be doing and man is it some work! Speaking of work, I forgot to mention that my good friend surgeon-PI, who is far too kind for his own good, also accidentally almost made more work for me. He suggested during my proposal that I do an MRI of the people I’ll be working with. While the MRI itself would’ve been fast, it would’ve (at minimum) doubled the work I would’ve had to do. It was so much extra that even school-PI, who is famous for underestimating the amount of work we have to do and over estimating how fast we can do it, said we wouldn’t be adding that into the protocol.
In short, the proposed work was a LOT, my committee all thought so, I thought so, but school-PI really wants all of this, so we will see what happens. The next few months will be critical if I want to get the project off to a good start. So if posts start getting shorter, just know that there is quite a bit of work being done behind the scenes. I look forward to getting to share the major milestones from the work I’ll be doing, with a little luck (and some rushing from the publishers) I may finally get to reveal my “super secret technique” to everyone. But again, only time will tell.
This is just the beginning, but I finally made it to the starting line.