The dissertation update
It’s been a busy few days, but progress has been made and that’s all that matters right now. I knew what I was getting myself into when I started this whole thing and it’s only going to be for a little bit longer (if all goes well) so I don’t mind it so much. Right now it’s more about the timing of everything. With DARPA deadlines fast approaching I want to be certain that I can get at least something done to show at the conference, as usual, even if it’s that what I’m proposing doesn’t work.
So when I last left off the plan for the week was simple, finish pre-processing the ten datasets that I had collected. When I last posted (missed yesterday, which will be explained shortly), I had finished 6 of the 10 datasets. By finished I mean pre-processed them completely so they were ready for the actual analysis. It’s a tough job and it’s a bit like wrapping a present just to go back and unwrap it. It feels pointless, but it has a purpose.
I had planned to finish two datasets yesterday and the rest today. Well I finished all four yesterday since I got into a bit of a groove and decided I was so close, I might as well just do the work. So after a very long day, the data were all processed and ready for analysis, but I had zero energy to post and barely made it to the bed. I literally almost fell asleep in front of the computer. So yeah, yesterday took a lot out of me, but I feel pretty good today and now I’ve gotten an extra day to get the data analyzed. Unfortunately there’s still some more work to do though!
Now that we’re on the analysis step I need to figure out what analysis to run. How do I want to present my data? What am I looking for? What story do I really want to tell? What has the best chance for success? What will show that my “super secret technique” (SST) actually works, or as some keep pointing out, doesn’t work? I have a bit of a plan going forward. I didn’t spend the last four years sitting around waiting, so I have a somewhat clear foundation. The challenge will be once I finish with that foundation I need to figure out how I want to pivot and run with the data.
Anytime you read a scientific paper, an article on a paper, watch the news about some advancement, whatever, there was about 20 billion other paths to get to that point all ending up at a slightly different place. Data like I work with has so many different things you can do with it, the data analysis is never truly finished. Instead I need to figure out what the most interesting things to do with the data are and do those things. Easier said than done.
At this phase of the game, I just want to demonstrate that SST works. If it doesn’t so be it, but that’s the first phase with this data, do the foundational stuff. It’s not the most exciting and you won’t win awards for it, but it will answer the most important question(s) or at the very least help answer them. Even if all goes well and I demonstrate it works, there will always be some doubt about my findings, which so be it, I’m early career anyway so I’ll have a long time to convince people if the data look good.
So right now I’ve got some data doing its thing in the background. It’s not exactly preprocessing, but it’s more like the pre-analysis analysis, if that makes sense? There’s different things that need to be run between now and some conclusion that can be drawn. This part of the analysis is particularly computationally intensive so I wanted to just set it up and walk away. It gives me a chance to focus on other things while it’s going, like update my blog so people who read regularly don’t freak out and think I’ve died in another snowstorm or something.
Tomorrow though will kick off the official grouping of the data and seeing what we have within participants (single conditions for a single person) and across participants (the group average for single conditions). Side note before I wrap this up, a condition is just a task. One task we often use in EEG is eyes closed. Literally you’re just sitting there with your eyes closed trying not to fall asleep. I have about a dozen or so different tasks that were performed, so I have a lot of conditions I can compare within a subject (differences between tasks for a person) and across subjects (average differences in tasks for the group).
So lots of basic work ahead for me before we can even think about diving into the “cool” stuff that school-PI was hoping I would have ready for when DARPA visits. But I’m officially a day ahead of schedule, so we’re off to a good start! Now I’m going to call it a day, because it’s been a long one. The work continues, but at least the progress feels fast.