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The first time is always the hardest

If something can go wrong, it will go wrong. Especially when it’s the first time. I’ve got my first dataset for my PhD dissertation, but it was a battle of wills and the technology made sure to let me know, it’s in charge here. But at the end of the day, I got what I wanted, so it’s a win, even if it’s a bit of a loss too. Frankly, I’m so exhausted right now so forgive me if this post is all over the place, well more than usual.

The problem is people, right? You need to account for others time commitments and the fact people need to be comfortable, so laying down for hours not moving is a tough job even for the most adult of us. So when I set out to collect the first dataset I wanted to make sure to have my first participant as someone I could trust to be accommodating and understanding. Even that turned out to be a stretch, but my participant was very understanding and powered through what I imagine a very long four or five hours.

My day started super early today, again that whole pregame setup and work that needs to happen behind the scenes. I needed to redo some of the stuff that I had others set up for me since I didn’t like how it was done, gather equipment from everywhere in the lab (because stuff is never in the same spot twice), and move it all across campus with the hope that I didn’t forget something.

Thankfully that wasn’t a huge problem, but I had a super long battle with the equipment. The first major problem is getting everything to talk to each other. FIrst, I wanted to use my personal (school) laptop to collect the data, but I couldn’t get the software I needed to work, so I opted to use one of the lab laptops to do the work. The problem was I still needed to use my laptop to collect the EMG data (muscle activity). Not a huge issue, but even that didn’t work, so I had to borrow one of the laptops from the department I was doing my first experiment in.

Which meant using software I was not familiar with and dealing with all the issues that come with that. And there were issues! Oh sweet baby Thor were there issues. The software kept crashing, or stopping, or stopping THEN crashing. Normally we would (in a perfect world) have two streams of data, the EEG data (brain recordings) and the EMG data (muscle recordings) two streams of data, two files, then we would align them in time using a trigger that the two datasets would store. But with the EMG software crashing left and right I had to stop, restart, stop restart, until I ended up with dozens of EMG files and a ton of extra triggers in my data, making aligning the data a huge mega pain.

Then there were some issues with the accommodations that were offered. It turns out they weren’t as they were described to me, so we had to makeshift a table for our participant to work on top of. That wasn’t a huge issue, but it was a comfort issue, we were hoping to have a padded bench or something soft, but instead we had this hard table, which again a few hours sitting on that and you’re not going to be comfortable no matter what you do.

We planned for four hours, the experiment was only supposed to take three, and we ended up taking over six. Yeah, it’s been one hell of a day. All in all, it was a lot of frustrating work, but in the end we got the data so really that’s all that matters. Now I need to organize it and make sense of it, which will take some time and effort, moreso now that I have a ton of EMG files that I need to sort in the order they were recorded and align them to my data, again in the order they were recorded. Oh and I have no clear method for figuring out order, so that will be interesting.

Basically there’s a lot of work to do now, but that’s the first time is always the hardest.

4 responses

  1. Alternative takeaway: It worked, you got what you needed, you have a lot of Lessons Learned.

    Well done!

    Liked by 2 people

    May 13, 2022 at 7:55 pm

  2. Well, you made it through the week at least. That does sound frustrating (especially since the chopped-up files mean more work for you later, I hate when that kind of thing happens). But if it’s usable, still forward progress. Get lots of rest for me, now.

    Liked by 2 people

    May 13, 2022 at 9:20 pm

    • Ugh I don’t think I have much of a choice. It’s been a little bit since I’ve had to do an experiment that physically intensive, so today is definitely a rest day. Thank you, as always, for the support!

      Liked by 2 people

      May 14, 2022 at 12:12 pm

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