We're a little crazy, about science!

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!

It’s been a brutal week and it’s only going to get worse so this weekend will probably involve a lot of sleep… oh wait no hospital-PI needs a few things from me so I’m going to either have to get those things done over the weekend or try to fit them in the week of our first experiments. Ugh, life of a researcher. Sorry this whole paragraph is totally off topic, funny how I keep doing that.

Let’s start over. The story goes like this, I had an idea, a “big idea” as it were. It set off a series of events in a chain reaction that spiraled to about here, where we are now. Which is to say we’re about to use big idea for a totally different project than the one I had intended to use it for, but the bright side is that the experiment is super cool and I have a thing for cool experiments so I’m all in and ready to go. Plus it gives me plenty of time to hammer out some of the details for big idea that need to be figured out. All good, right? Mostly!

One of our fellow labs had some cash, loved my idea, and threw money at us. Now I don’t normally do the kind of experiments we’re going to be doing, but I’m a professional, their professionals, we can do this. Can’t go into details obviously, but they will be interesting to say the least and there non-human experiments (read that as you will), so we have a lot of moving parts leading up to this project. Being the person who created big idea and the only one in the hospital (perhaps … the world?!) who can deal with the data we will be collecting, this is going to be a serious task for me.

Now I’m used to working solo on data, last paper was 124.289% my lone effort and that turned out okay after so many struggles. This shouldn’t be quite as big of a headache, but it will still be a lot of work. I’m tempted to just tell hospital-PI he won’t see me at all during the week after we collect this data because it will take a while to process and I am faster (and prefer) to use my home rig for that purpose (after all, why watercool a computer if you’re not going to do all sorts of cool things with it!?).

So that part is pretty much set in stone. What’s not set in stone however is the protocol we’ll be using. Our lab has a list and two other labs who are going in on this with us have lists of their own. We’re tag teaming with surgeon-PI as well who may have his own set of things he wants to see, we’re meeting tomorrow so I’ll find out then what he wants to include in the protocol, but that means we have roughly five or six people who want to get things out of these experiments.

Because we have a set amount of time, we have to figure out what are the must haves and the things we can skip if we run out of time. Most of my day has been spent sitting with hospital-PI to hammer out the details on our end. We know what the other labs want and what we want so we came up with the master list of things to do, hopefully surgeon-PI isn’t hoping for much because we’re already having to scratch things off our list…

Basically we get 3-4 hours to do everything not including setup and teardown. Going into the meeting that felt like a whole hell of a lot of time. I was happy and slowly but surely that happiness got chipped away as we reviewed our list. We had roughly ten items we wanted to check off and the first one alone took almost the entire time so we had to be a bit more realistic about what we could get done and what we couldn’t do for sure. The first thing on the list was hospital-PI’s main point, so he’s probably not going to be too thrilled tomorrow when we discuss it more and he realized he’s getting like 1/4 the time he originally wanted.

The stuff I want to do is comparatively quick so even if we cut some of that out, it won’t save us much time. That’s good news for me, but it also means that we need to talk to the other labs and see if they are willing to cut down on their given wishlist. Something has to go and it’s probably going to fall on all of us to make cuts somewhere. That’s just how these big group projects end up I guess.

Once we had the details worked out… mostly, we needed to figure out our equipment situation. Which it turns out isn’t good! Despite my best efforts, we’re severely deficient in what we need to run everything for the best outcomes. We’re already borrowing equipment and I’ll be making some additional equipment between now and when we start, but there’s still a few things we need or don’t have. I guess you learn as you go and we’re definitely learning! The fact that we’re doing this on like zero budget isn’t helping anything, but I’m hoping that once we do these experiments we’ll be in a better position to get funds for the project(s).

It’s not all bad news and even the worst case scenario is still going to be a great set of experiments, but we’re trying to hit best case so we have about a week to figure everything out. Not a lot of time, but I’ve done more with less, so we’ll figure it out. Plus the fact that we’re aware of all this now (as opposed to the day of) helps us reconfigure what we want to do or what we can do really.

Things are getting busy again… but then when aren’t they busy?


2 responses

  1. Doing a few things solidly is probably better than a lot of things poorly, so don’t be afraid to make those cuts. Give yourself the time to get good data for whatever projects you do select.

    And hang in there. Sounds like a lot of work, but I trust you’ll get through it.

    Liked by 1 person

    June 9, 2022 at 9:08 pm

    • Yeah I agree, I spoke with hospital-PI about all this and basically said the same thing.

      I’ll make it… eventually!


      June 10, 2022 at 2:06 pm

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