We're a little crazy, about science!

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.

There’s nothing like the first time, right? You’re doing something new, it’s exciting, it’s terrifying, and everything seems to work despite everything suggesting the contrary. Last week we had the first of two bonus experiments using “big idea.” Things went way better than I had though! It was complete and utter chaos, but it was beautiful chaos and when the time ran out, we were done.

Like I said afterward, it felt like I had run a marathon. Hospital-PI, along with everyone involved in the study, also echoed similar sentiments. It took a lot out of everyone involved and there was a lot we learned. Not from the data we collected, but from how we collect the data and how we could do things differently to improve the flow of everything going on while we’re in the OR doing our thing.

Which of course means a lot of soldering. Why does it always come down to soldering? Well it turns out you need stuff to talk to other stuff and to do that we need to make cables to send the data from one thing to another. I’ve been doing so much soldering lately it feels like that’s my job and I’ve already gone through almost all the heat shrink tubing I bought, which mind you I was hoping that would last at least a year, so we’re off to an interesting start.

Since we had some communication issues, for those not in the know, we’re using three different systems here to do what we’re doing, we needed to fix the problems. Data needs to be synced between systems and we can’t do that by synchronizing the start or end points, we need to do it through a different method. We send a signal between the systems to synchronize everything because the pulse we send should be recorded so fast we can assume it’s simultaneous. Ideally this would be the easy part, but it turns out none of our systems talked to each other last time. Or rather they did, but only partly.

I’ve spent the past few days fixing that issue, which is why I’ve been so busy soldering wires together and creating new cables. Now everything talks to each other and we’ve tested and retested everything to make sure it all plays nicely. Basically we’re ready as far as that goes.

We also realized we needed to do things a bit differently with the way we collected the data. This was an easy fix though, we just needed to change the templates for the software the data gets stored from. Every software is a little different, but overall the stuff we use lets us change the names of the channels (each channel is one measurement), the types of measurements, we can even do online (real-time) calculations while we’re recording if we wanted (we really don’t want since that slows the computer down).

There’s a lot of other odds and ends that will change for the next experiment, but those are mostly protocol modifications to make sure we get everything we’re interested in getting. While there’s still some work to be done I like to think that, over the past few days in particular, that we are more prepared for this experiment than we were last one.

It’s going to be an exhausting day, but each experiment is one step closer to something really exciting. Oh I almost forgot, I’ve also got some “last paper” news which I’m excited to share, but that’s another post for another day.


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