We're a little crazy, about science!

The first aim (of three)

There’s a lot going on and I have so many updates it was hard to pick just one. While the work stuff is super interesting and things are going at a breakneck pace, I have some good news on the school front and since this journey is primarily school related (after all it’s 365 days of academia, not 365 days of hospital research), I think it’s about time to talk about where I am now and why, despite my best efforts, I still somehow feel so very, very behind schedule. Which isn’t to say I won’t graduate, just that I’m not confident I will.Enough of the lead in though, let’s just get to it.

Three aims, that was the deal. I had three aims for my dissertation and aim 1 was straightforward enough, prove the thing I’m trying to do actually works. Well prove that it works within a reasonable amount of doubt, I won’t be able to “prove” it works, just that the information I’m getting is (1) useful, and (2) not some sort of artifact. It’s easier said than done, but like any good researcher there are ways we can go about testing this theory and more importantly, things we can “look” for in our data to “show” or rather demonstrate, that it works.

Super secret technique (SST for short) was something I came up with my first year in the lab! Wow, so nearly five years ago now. It feels like it has been much longer and not that long all at once. I’m sure any of you who’ve been surviving the pandemic can relate. Anyway, since I came up with the idea I did my qualifying exam on it to demonstrate feasibility. It went so well that since then I’ve been writing grants and just generally trying to find funding to do the experiment so I could get the data I needed to prove it worked (again prove is a strong word, but demonstrate that it’s not artifactual and useful just feels too long to write out each time so please keep that in mind if “prove” slips out again).

Well for those following along, you know how it went (namely I got funding!!) and last fall (as in 4 months ago or so) I collected the data! Since then it’s been a wild ride of data analysis, the whole DARPA thing (specifically this), and a bunch of doing my aims out of order. It’s okay though since aim 1 was its own thing and aims 2 and 3 were dependent on each other. Really the whole thing depended on aim 1, but let’s just not think about that. Anyway, long story short I’ve finished the analysis (mostly) for aim 1 finally and now I’m working on the rest of it (aims 2 and 3) while writing a paper for the first aim so we can publish it and SST will get an actual name (it has one, I didn’t come up with it, but it’s got a name and that’s fine).

Okay so that brings us mostly up to speed. There was obviously a lot to talk about since it’s been a bit since I’ve written and now we can talk about the big updates! Last Friday I gave a presentation about the first aim and how it was going. It went very well and we have enough reason to believe that SST is a real thing that really does do what we claim it to do. Yeah, that’s about as detailed as we can get about that, but hopefully that will come to an end soon. While I’ve finished most of the analysis I need to finish up a few datasets to aggregate the results, unfortunately I couldn’t just group the data, I had to do individual analysis, things are mostly done. The major stuff that remains is just… “just” writing the paper and going through the review processes.

With a good head start (thanks to the DARPA visit to the lab) I now feel like things are slowly getting back on track with regards to my graduating on time… mostly. There’s still a lot to be done, I still have aims 2 and 3 to contend with, I still have two whole papers to write, and I still have the whole dissertation to write (which is partly written using the two papers i need to write for my specific aims). But things are looking up and I’ve got the wheels turning to plan for what comes next. Much like the DARPA Risers event, even if something doesn’t feel like it will happen, you should still plan for the best case scenario. So I am acting like I will graduate on time and because of that I’m making arrangements for after graduating.

And I have a few exciting updates with regards to that as well… but that will be for another post. For today at least, we’ll just focus on the fact that aim 1 went so well and I’m hoping that the rest of the aims will go just as smoothly (hopefully faster). If it does go well, then in the next few weeks I’ll be testing aims 2 and 3, so I’m hopeful that things will be good because that will be one (well two) of the last hurdles towards graduating.


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