We're a little crazy, about science!

Archive for June, 2022

A big breakthrough!

Okay I’m trying to remain calm because nothing is set in stone yet. However, I’m very excited because as of yesterday anyway we have the first person who is eligible for the experiment I proposed using what I call, “big idea.” Now for those of you who have been following along, this may be confusing because I already have several datasets using this new thing I’ve created, but this is a little different. Okay a lot different and I’ll explain why.

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Another response letter

There’s a surprise paper I haven’t talked about much. Mostly because I’m “only” second author on it, but also because as I keep mentioning things are hectic. However, we’re almost a full six months into the year and I currently have three papers (two first author, one second author) to my name and this will be number four! It’s been a good year for me, but we’re not done yet! Today I’m going to once again talk about response letters.

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Summer experiments

With summer here in pretty much full swing, we are about to get started on a bunch of new experiments. There’s a lot of things coming that will make life slightly harder, so in an effort to keep track of my progress between now and the big graduation day (soon… hopefully), let’s look at what I’ve got going on this summer. Things I need to do, things I “get” to do, and things that I can pawn off on others to do *wink.*

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The hard road

Is doing something an easier way necessarily worse than doing it a hard way? I mean with a lot of things in life you get out what you put in. If you work hard enough you could be an olympic athlete, a world class musician, dancer, artist. But even in those cases, is it hard work, or consistant work that makes the difference? I’m not sure one way or the other, but I’ve typically opted for the hard way. It’s lead to mixed results, but typically I don’t mind putting in the extra effort if it means that I will have a good outcome.

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Overwork and the consequences

Yesterday’s post came late in the day, but it wasn’t because I was busy or even because I was hard at work. The truth is I was hard at rest. After two weeks of rushing, working, prepping, and basically all the -ing you could think of, it was bound to happen. I needed a break and I was forced to take one, my only saving grace was that it was the weekend so it could happen, but it’s a good reminder that we all have limits.

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Effects of transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation on the brain

Experimental setup (explained in detail below)

Transcutaneous spinal stimulation (TSS) is a relatively new approach to neuromodulation. We can activate networks in the spinal cord by injecting a small amount of current through the skin, which evokes a response in the muscles (muscle contraction). Depending on the person the electrical stimulus (the zappy time) feels either like a massage or it can be uncomfortable, not exactly painful, just not something you would go out of your way for. But the spinal cord is a two way street, so what does TSS do in the brain?

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The experiment gremlins

Things we’re looking good. They were, but the longer the experiment the more gremlins come out. If you’ve ever done any sort of research you’re familiar I’m sure. You test and retest equipment over and over, but no matter how many times everything looks happy, well the day of the experiment everything goes wrong that can go wrong. It’s amazing we can even do science with our little gremlin pals just waiting for us to try it.

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More experimental prep

Is this our setup or is this electronic equipment from the late 50’s? I’ll never tell… (okay, let’s be real, this is a lot nicer looking than our cable mess).

Things have been busy, welcome to my life. But seriously, there is a lot happening right now, most of which is top secret (shhh don’t tell anyone). But as usual, leading up to an experiment, there’s a lot of prep work that needs to happen. Mostly because things always go wrong and we want to maximize our chances for them to go right. So let’s dive into what it’s like the second time.

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Work and School

Let’s face it, if you’ve ever gotten any sort of degree, you know it’s a job all its own. You can even say you’re a student on almost all things that ask for employment, so it’s not a new idea. When you start a PhD or in some cases, even your Masters, you even get paid for your work, albeit not great. So I was always impressed, and surprised, by people who work while pursuing a degree because I knew I could never do something like that, then I did.

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Success! Journal paper 4 of 4

I’ve been waiting for this day for years, but here we are. The fourth and final paper, what I’m calling “last paper” has been accepted for publication as of this morning! It’s been a long, hard journey and this paper didn’t make anything easier, but it’s almost over. It just needs to go to typesetting and that will be the last of last paper. As with the others, it’s time to look back and the journey last paper took and how I finally got here.

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Living through history

When I was a kid I thought history was something we read about in text books. World wars were from a “less civilized” time, we are a modern people after all. With the fall of the USSR along with the start and end of the gulf war not too long after, I thought, perhaps foolishly, that history was a thing of the past. I never suggested I was the smartest of children. But here we are, living through history. I didn’t realize it could be so painful, then again maybe if I had paid more attention I would’ve known.

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Data mountain

Well the week is over and I’ve barely been able to drag myself out of bed it’s been so exhausting. Unfortunately, we’re doing it all again next week too, so it’s not over yet. But the first of two test experiments are done, I say test because these don’t actually count toward our original set of experiments we’re doing later this summer. Meaning there’s going to be a lot of work coming my way, fun times.

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A mental health day

Let’s face it, it’s been a busy…. life. This week has been the longest month for me and we’re doing it all again next week, so I need a minute. Mostly my brain is tired and since it needs to do a lot of work tomorrow I want to give it the day off and just relax. So once again I’m reminding, mostly myself, that it’s okay to do that from time to time. My goal has been to write something daily while doing my PhD and while this arguably sort of counts, even if I wrote nothing (like what happened recently), it’s a good reminder that not doing something doesn’t set you back to zero. So for today I’m taking a little break for myself. Heck, depending on how tomorrow goes, don’t be surprised if I take the day for myself too.

Over the years I’ve learned that mental health is a balancing act, don’t mind me while I shift the balance a little.


More on experimental prep

I kind of wish my equipment looked this cool…

Since we have a rather large and cumbersome set of experiments happening it’s my job to make sure they go off without too much trouble. I say too much trouble because no matter how much you plan, test, and retest, something will go wrong. Heck it may not even be wrong on our end, it may be wrong on someone else’s side, but that’s why we plan. So once again I’m talking about how we prep for our experiments.

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Forgotten inventions, or so you want a patent

Fun fact about me, I enjoy making things. You know, in case that wasn’t obvious. But, once upon a time I thought it would be smart to make sure I protected my ideas so I hold one patent based on something I came up with. Or at least I did have one patent, now once the paperwork is done it will be two. Unlike my in progress papers I can actually freely talk about this, but for the most part I think the journey is the important part of the story.

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Word play

Come on in…

It’s been a day, so I don’t have a whole lot of energy to write or to think for that matter! But my brain works in mysterious ways, even to me. So I thought I would talk about a word that somehow bounced into my head and as any good brain does, it made some very odd connections. Today we’re talking about the word sane. Or rather the word insane, with me so far? Because this is where we get a little crazy.

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The end of a story

I love to read and if you do too you can probably empathize with this. What is it about the end of a story that makes the disconnect so painful? Maybe painful isn’t the right word, jarring perhaps? Abrupt? Whatever the adjective you choose closing one book leaves a world of possibilities for the next, but for me, there is always a bit of a hangover jumping from one universe to the next. Leaving me to wonder if that’s a common phenomenon.

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A big revision

Ever have a really good idea, maybe even a “big idea?” Well I’ve apparently had a few, but some are bigger than others and currently we’re diving into some very intense experiments using my “big idea,” but we’re running into certain limitations. While I could happily call it here, not put the effort into doing anything about it, and just live with it, that’s not happening. For anyone who knows me, that’s not even an option. So instead big idea is getting a big revision.

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Making greatness

I do love making… new friends.

If you build it, they will come? Okay not quite, but if you can buy it you need to make it. That seems to be the theme for the next few weeks as we’re getting ready to start several different experiments and the scope of them is massive. Not so much the experiments themselves, but everything that is going into them and everything we are going to get out of them.

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Adventures in experimental design

When did people start trusting me with experimental design? I have no idea, but here we are and I’m helping come up with a series of experiments we will be doing in roughly one week… seven days. So between now and then, we have a lot of things to figure out. We have a rough idea about what will happen, but there are a lot of moving parts and it turns out we are probably missing a few things so we’re going to have to get creative if we really want to get to the bottom of things… fun times for all!

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Whatever it takes

Well, yesterday happened. If you’ve been following around for awhile the last time I didn’t write a post we were dealing with apocalyptic weather (as in no power bad). So I think after years of being consistent, I wouldn’t blame you if you thought something bad had happened. In reality, there was just a mountain of work and no time to relax. I don’t like pushing myself like I had to yesterday, but it was for a good cause or at least I think so, or I wouldn’t have done it.

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Robot paper is live!

sad beat up old retro robot on a wooden floor shot from above
sad beat up old retro robot on a wooden floor shot from above

Finally! After years and years of trying to get this published I finally have the paper out in the world. Okay, to be fair it was accepted about a month ago and I did a deep dive into the paper itself (here), but it feels a little more official now that it’s out there in the wild, or at least open-access like it should be! Granted I’ve told this story before, but indulge me as I recount for the final time why this paper almost killed me, literally.

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The mysterious data

I sometimes miss the days when the answers were in the back of the book. At this point I would take even just having answers that are semi related to the questions I’m trying to work out. Being a researcher is a double edged sword. On one side, for a brief moment in history you will know something that no other person in the world knows. On the other, how do you know that it’s correct? Questioning your results is an important part of research and right now, there’s more questions than answers.

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Mounting pressure

After yesterday’s win, you would think things would be smooth sailing, but alas that isn’t in the cards! I mean yesterday’s good news still applies thankfully, but wow did I wake up to a flurry of emails and now a mountain of work that all needs to be addressed all at the same time. Wait, is there an echo in here? I feel like we’ve done this before…

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A big result

night scene showing young boy with a little moon in his hands sitting on meadow done digitally
night scene showing young boy with a little moon in his hands sitting on meadow done digitally

I’m stepping away from my planned sharing of the notes from my lecture to bring breaking news! For those who don’t understand what’s going on, a while ago I had an idea, a “big idea” that I’m convinced will be the thing I’m known for… if it works. And our first attempt was not great. In fact, we got absolutely nothing. The second and third attempts however we were ready and it looked like we had something. The question is what did we have?

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The first lecture

The thing is today?! What, how did that even happen? Yes, I know the linear nature of time, but wow does time have no meaning these days. What am I talking about you ask? Well today is my first lecture, hence the title of the post. Unfortunately I’m not exactly ready, but I am going to be recycling a lot of the stuff I used last year when I taught this class, so that shouldn’t be a huge problem…. or will it?

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From imagination to reality

It’s amazing what a good night of sleep will do for a person. Hopital-PI often has what he calls his “shower ideas” and frankly, my “big idea” was also a shower idea, but I find that the best ideas come to me when you’re not even thinking about them. When you step away from a problem and focus on something else, your brain just does something magical and works out the solution without you even realizing it, sometimes anyway.

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