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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.*

After the past few weeks of exhaustion, you would think things would be chill for a bit. Welcome to research life. I mean it will be somewhat relaxed for the next two weeks or so, but it will pick up just as quickly and I think it’s important to explain this to anyone who may or may not want to get into human subject research. Some days you’re swamped with stuff to do, other days you have trouble finding enough to keep you busy. It’s a 60/40 split roughly, or at least I tend to feel that way.

This summer we’re doing a lot. We’ve got four(ish) projects starting, two of which are mine, plus the third “bonus” project, all because of “big idea.” Oh that doesn’t include the fourth project that’s part of big idea, but different (welcome to research. same, same, but different, but still the same). Did I make a ton of extra work for myself? Yes, yes I did, because someone doesn’t understand how to keep his ideas to himself. Learn from my mistakes children, don’t be like me.

Two of the experiments will be starting in roughly three weeks or so, give or take depending on everyone’s schedule. That’s another thing about human research, you need to work around other people’s schedule. It’s not like solid modeling or writing some code, where I can just go and do it whenever I feel like it. These are minimal effort on my part, well compared to the last two weeks, but are going to be looooooooong. We’re doing longitudinal studies or studies over time, so we’re talking minimal effort a few days a week for a few months. Fun times…

Now would be a good time to mention my dissertation… maybe? While I’m still waiting for the equipment to arrive, I’m hoping it will be in the next few weeks. I was told mid-July, so I’m hoping they at least follow through with that if not sooner. The sooner the better, but whatever I can get I will take. That project will eat a ton of time over the summer. Just the data collection alone will be tedious and exhausting, but I’m hoping I can pull it off without overworking myself, especially now that I’ve recently done just that. Sometimes we have to take a step back and realize we can’t do it all. I’m hopeful that there’s still enough time between now and when I hope to graduate to actually finish my dissertation and graduate next spring term. Will I get it done? Only time will tell for sure, I’m nervous about it, but I’m going to remain hopeful until I have a reason not to be.

The two experiments that are my own damned fault will happen later this summer, in a perfect world it would go like this we start the first set of long experiments, I collect my dissertation data in between that, then come the end of summer, we start the very exhausting, series of four experiments. We already have a date set for the first, but the rest are a mystery to me. I don’t know when they will happen, but I do know they won’t be earlier than the first one we have scheduled, so there’s at least a limit to how early they could happen.

The second bonus project is ongoing and the criteria for it are very strict, moreover we have had zero luck finding people for it since the last dataset we collected for it. The idea would be to get 8-10 participants and right now we have a grand total of…. one. Maybe, assuming we want to use that data. It wasn’t the original way I imagined the experiment, so I’m not even sure the first dataset is one we want to use. I’m hopeful we will find people, but the collaborator we rely on isn’t all that reliable. There’s a lot of drama basically so I’m like 40% sure there have been people who would’ve qualified, but no one feels like telling us. We have alternative routes for recruitment, but it’s slow going, so hopefully before the year is out we can get at least half of the data if not more. Even 5-6 would probably be publishable, but it really just depends, the more the better as far as I’m concerned.

Thankfully we have some summer interns helping us out so I’ll be off loading some of the more basic parts of the projects off on at least one of them. I’m thankful for the extra set of hands looking over the data, there’s a mountain of it already from the two experiments we just did and hospital-PI wants data ASAP, so I need to do get it done soon.

In the “background” I have two papers I’m currently working on (as first author, but technically one is co-first author, which still counts in my opinion). One we want to get to our collaborators in the next few weeks so while these weeks are my “slow” weeks, it doesn’t mean there isn’t work to be done. It just means most of it can be done at a computer, when I am ready to do the work instead of trying to power through experiments to get data. While data analysis is hard and time consuming, data collection is the hardest part (in my opinion) about research.

And that’s how my summer is shaping up. Yep, it’s officially hot mess summer.

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