We're a little crazy, about science!

A big presentation

Ah I’m not ready! Or at least that’s what I wanted to say, but it’s not like I get a whole lot of choice in the matter. But alas, I do not! Instead, next week I’m going to be presenting some of the data I recently collected, from the “big idea” experiment. It’s n of 1, but the results have so far been very promising. There’s a catch though, because isn’t there always? Anyway where to start…

I guess we should recap a bit about me and big idea. I’m a fifth year PhD candidate in neuroengineering with my BS and MS in mechanical engineering. Those were two very different skillsets and for the last four years or so I’ve struggled to get to where I need to be so I can finish my PhD. Practice makes less horrible I guess, because after three or so years of trying and failing things have slowly started working out. I’ve been selected as a DARPA Riser (here), published a bunch (like this for example), and got a grant funded for my dissertation project (here). I also started working full time as a researcher in a hospital as I finish my PhD (here). Not a bad year, if I do say so myself.

Also about a year ago I had an idea so big I’ve taken to calling it simply “big idea” because as with anything I do, until it’s published it’s a secret…. shhhh! I’ve slowly plugged away at the things I needed to do to make big idea happen, hospital-PI has been excited about it, everyone we talk to is excited. There’s a lot of things we could do with it and if all goes well, it’s going to be a big deal. As with everything there are a few problems.

The biggest is funding, but the second is the fact that I need to process all the data from the project myself. No one else can do it and more importantly no one else really understands the amount of time and effort that goes into it. Since I have a ton of other responsibilities and projects, this is not my main focus, it’s not even in the top ten of things I need to be focusing on. So I have to find time in-between other projects to look at the single dataset we finally collected.

Now, the good news is the bits I’ve managed to process look promising! There’s some really cool stuff and it’s a lot of data, so, so much data. It’s hard to make sense of it all, but I’ve been chipping away at it to simplify it and pull out the things that help build the story we’re trying to tell. It’s a work in progress, more work than progress at this point though.

Today hospital-PI let me know that I am going to be presenting the data next week during our next lab meeting. I need to plan a ~10-15 minute presentation on the work that has been done so far so that others can weigh in and we can hammer out the full story. The problem being I barely have any story to tell at the moment so it’s been a bit of a struggle trying to work out all the details.

I know what I am aiming to get out of this (or at least the first of many things), so I have a good outline of the story in my head, but translating that story via the meager results that I currently have done is going to be tough and it will be more of a, “next, I plan on doing X, Y, Z to show A, B, C” sort of thing if I’m not careful. I also need to take the time to explain exactly what the heck I’ve even done since none of the people in the lab understand the work I’m doing because it’s so far removed from their field of research. Basically there’s a lot of work ahead.

Now when to find time? This weekend I plan on working out the presentation (among the million other things I need to get done), because there’s not a whole lot of other time I can devote to this. That should give me some time between now and then to at least think about how to structure the presentation and what to show them. I already have a decent idea of some of the things I need to explain before we get into my results, the trick is not spending too much time explaining the background and not getting enough time to present the stuff we found.

Anyway it’s a lot to think about and I feel like I’m talking in circles at this point, but it’s a lot going on. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited to share what we have and get some feedback as to how understandable it all is, but it’s still very stressful and I’m a bit nervous honestly, since this isn’t really “finished” and I want my lab to be as excited about all this as I am.


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