The long week ahead
It’s going to be a looooong week. Mostly because we have what I’m calling “long experiments” coming up this week. Which of course has a lot of work attached to them. When I say long, I mean all day, all day experiments are intense and there’s still work to be done. So this week is mostly going to be focusing on the remaining work I have. But it wouldn’t be a long week if there wasn’t other stuff coming, meaning we have experiments, classes, and a whole lot of other stuff to look forward to in the week ahead.
Semi-regular intro time! I’m a fifth year PhD candidate in neuroengineering (who’s still getting used to saying fifth year). My BS and MS are in mechanical engineering and I always point out that neuro and mechanical are two very different skill sets, mostly because it didn’t occur to me when I made the jump. Last year, almost a year exactly in fact, I took a job in a hospital and since then I’ve been working full time as a researcher while finishing up my dissertation with the ample amount of free time I have. That’s sarcasm, heavy sarcasm. It’s been a good year for me, but it wasn’t always that way and my 365 days of academia project (now on year four) has been my daily (mostly) window into the degree process start to finish. If you’re new, welcome! If you’re not, thanks for tagging along.
Okay so the week ahead is looking overloaded, but that’s nothing new around here. But before we get all downer, let’s look at the positives, because there’s actually some good news in all this. First is we’re finishing a very daunting and time consuming set of experiments this week. We’ll be resuming them after the new year (if all goes according to plan, hospital-PI would prefer to keep going though), but for now we’re done. Which means I can reclaim that time to focus on the 4359479346578375824382938472397 other projects I have going on. Which I should point out that most of them are tasks of my own making, why I like making work for myself I’ll never understand, but here we are.
The other bit of good news is that for the most part I’m ahead of schedule with the preparations for the next long experiment. I’ve reduced the number of parts I need to manufacture (because I make basically everything for the lab… fun), from six to four and I currently have two of the four pieces made, so I just need to find time to make the other two (probably homework at this point because I can’t find time at the hospital to do it). It’s basic and semi-mindless soldering, so nothing to complicated, but no one knows how to do it, but me. I was told by school-PI that the best way to succeed would be to make myself essential to the lab, I’m regretting following that advice (not serious… semi-serious).
Now for the worrying part. I have at least one more program to write, meaning I need to find time to get the equipment together to test it, because of course I cannot test the program without the equipment and the equipment is in high demand these days. Thus I am forced to find odd times of the day/night to use the equipment for those tests. I’m hoping this won’t take more than an hour or two, but finding time in my schedule and equipment usage schedule will be the challenging part.
I still have my “required” classes that the hospital needs me to finish so I can renew my certifications. The classes are anywhere from 1.5-2 hours long (I was originally told 1-1.5 hours…), but there are 10 of them and they run for 10 work days straight. I’ve already had to reschedule two and I’m going to have to reschedule two more so one of these days I’ll finish the courses, but not this week and maybe not even next week. I’m really pushing to finish them next week, but they run right in the middle of most of our experiments so finding time to step away is challenging and they don’t run at the same time every day, making it even harder to schedule around.
There are several experiments leading up to the long experiment. In fact, I’ve got experiments every day this week, one of them is an OR experiment, which we haven’t had in awhile. That happens to be one of the reasons I’m missing the required class, the other is long experiment (because there’s not even a lunch break during long experiment days, much less class break). OR experiments will require equipment to be setup for the day, meaning I’ll have extra work this week swapping things around and then changing them back after the experiment for the other experiments we’re doing. Not a huge deal, but no great news.
I’m also hoping to work on my dissertation. I know there hasn’t been much talk on that front, but progress is slow. This weekend has been dedicated to my dissertation (as soon as this is live, I’m back to it) and I’m hoping next weekend will be dissertation work as well. With the DARPA meeting coming soon, I need to have my slides, poster, and talk ready to go to discuss with the person who nominated me (one of the project managers who found me and my research). That is now happening near the end of October and we’re * checks calendar * in the last week of September already so something needs to be finished and soon! I’m not sure how I’ll pull this off, but I’m going to have to keep hoping I guess.
There’s still a lot of work to do on that front and not a lot of time. Mostly I need to find time to do the work and if I can’t find it, I’m just going to have to make it. With the end of one experiment (for now) it’s probably the ideal time to focus on getting this wrapped up or at least some of it finished for the presentation. I don’t need to have all of the data processed and ready, just a few examples, which is far less work and less time consuming. Mostly I just need to see if my “super secret technique” or SST for short, actually works. If it does, then that’s the best case, if not then for the DARPA Risers conference, I need to spin failure into a story about it never hurts to try.
And that’s about the sum of it. Like I said, a busy week, but nothing new in that regard. In a perfect world the experiments we’re wrapping up on until next year (a few months, so nothing crazy) would’ve ended last week so I would have the extra time for long experiment, but that’s just not how it worked out. One more long week, but after that I should be getting a bit of a break and more time to focus on dissertation and other research. That’s the hope anyway, but you’ll just have to wait to see if that actually happens or not!
Until it’s come and gone, I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing. Taking things one day at a time and one week at a time.