We're a little crazy, about science!

My Research

Return to the OR

Our OR’s aren’t this futuristic… yet.

It’s been a minute since I’ve had an OR experiment. To be fair there’s a lot going on and with the stuff we’ve been doing there hasn’t been time. But there’s also the participant factor. People need to agree to be part of the study and even before then we need to make sure they are a good fit, so there’s a lot of factors for why we haven’t done one for some time. In any case that is quickly about to change!

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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.

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The slow progress

It’s been a very long day, but somehow not a lot got done. Ever have one of those days? The kind where you’re working from sunup to sundown and somehow nothing got accomplished. I guess there was forward progress, but it feels too slow and right now, I really can’t afford to go slow. If I’m lucky, tomorrow will be better, if not, well then I’m not sure.

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The long preparations

As promised, I’m already preparing for the next “long” experiment. This one will be just as long as the previous, if not longer, so we need to be using our time the best way possible. Ideally we’ll be getting all the data, all of it! But to do that we’re going to need a lot of work between now and then. Part of that will be working out some new code to automate a lot of the stuff we’re trying to do, but some of it will involve making things, because of course it will.

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Another big iteration

Well I’ve barely got the second generation of my “big idea” done, in fact it’s not even completely finished yet, but I’ve already got plans for another iteration. There are several parts involved in making this happen and there are always ways to improve upon the design and create something better. So, with the first round done and tested and the second being completed, I’m already thinking about what to do next. Would it be too much to say it’s going to be… big?

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The looooong experiment

Ever have one of those nights where you KNOW that tomorrow you have a huge thing going on and for whatever reason, you just CANNOT sleep to save your life? Maybe it was because every few minutes I was reminded of something I needed to do prior to the experiment, or maybe it was just because there was already so many things left undone. Whatever the reason, what should’ve been a day for me to get a full night’s rest turned into what amounts to a power nap.

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The day before tomorrow

It’s basically the big day at this point and I still have a bit of work ahead of me before the official kick off. We have a very strict schedule and I need to make sure that things go smoothly, or as smoothly as possible. I’m not going to lie, we’re already off to a bad start. It’s going to be rocky and we have a whole 12 hours or so for the electrical gremlins to get into the equipment. The pressure is on!

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Experimental prep: part 2

I feel like a broken record at this point, buuuuut… it’s been one hell of a day. It’s been non-stop go, go, go and there’s still one day between now and the big event. There’s still a lot of work to be done and I’m not sure how long it will take, but I have a feeling tomorrow will be a very long day. In fact, these next few weeks will be some of the hardest in recent memory and that’s saying something.

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Experimental prep: part 1

Okay there’s a few days between now and the incredibly complex and labor intensive experiments we have coming up on Friday, so there’s a high chance that this will be a multi-part discussion, hence the title of the post for the day. We’re rapidly approaching the big day and there’s so much work that needs to happen I’m starting to get a little nervous that I have enough time to do it all. To add to the chaos, there are other experiments happening, that require equipment that we’ll be using for Friday, so there’s no way to setup early.

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A completed part!

Ideas are perfect, but the first time you realize that idea it’s often a mess. It’s still an amazing thing that didn’t exist, but it’s never as perfect as in your imagination. You have all the parts, everything fits just the way you want, and it works exactly how you expect it to work, until it becomes a reality. Then it just becomes painful.

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Build, then rebuild

Any good idea really begins life as an okay idea. No matter how brilliant the idea, it’s not fully formed, so it’s imperfect. It’s that imperfect nature that makes it seem perfect. You don’t have to look close at the details. It’s what comes later, the taking a blob of an idea and shaping it into something physical, something real, that the idea goes from being okay to being great. Any realized idea in my opinion is a great idea, because you put the work into making it exist and that alone is worth something.

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Adventures in equipment modding

I have it! I finally (as of yesterday) got all the parts needed to build the stuff I wanted to finish for the studies we have coming up. This will be months of thinking through how to improve our setup and improve the noise rejection capabilities of the equipment. A LOT of planning went into the design and now that I have all the parts for assembly it’s time to earn my keep. But it’s not all smooth sailing.

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Equipment modding time

Well today was a long day, but something good came out of all the running around. Some of my new equipment showed up, which will improve how I do the experiments that I want to do, but also make my life so much easier, like way easier. Unfortunately, the usual applies,I can’t talk about it directly, but it’s a good time to discuss how ideas evolve and how you find ways to improve things as you go!

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The presentation work

It’s still the weekend… right? Well since it’s dissertation data collection season (is that a thing? I feel like that should be a thing) my weekends have been condensed to the point of getting a short break, but it’s temporary, at least that’s what I keep telling myself. Since there will be virtually no time between now and the hospital lab meeting, today is the day I need to get my presentation ready. Am I ready, not exactly, but that’s the way these things go. Maybe I’ll manage to make progress today though.

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The first DARPA meeting

Not too long ago, I was nominated for the DARPA Risers program and shortly after I was selected as a DARPA Riser. It’s a big deal for me and DARPA has always been a dream of mine. With the conference coming, I still have a lot of work ahead of me to prepare. None of the new data has been processed or analyzed. I don’t know if the technique (my “super secret technique” or SST) works, or if what I found was something erroneous. I have data, I just need time and as of yesterday time is not on my side.

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A timeline revisited

Balance, it’s all about balance. Right now I have school on one side, the hospital on the other. So far things have been good and in order to keep the balance, hospital-PI and I had a long discussion about the big idea I had almost a year ago and we agreed that the pace is going too slow. So it’s time to hit the turbo button. But what does that look like and where do we go? This is a tale of collaboration, combining different studies, and me, stuck in the middle of it all.

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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…

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Experiment juggling

We’re off to a busy week, not that the previous few weeks haven’t been busy mind you! Since I started my dissertation data collection it’s been non-stop, but there’s a lot of other things going on too. In fact, I’ve got experiments on both ends, the hospital side and the school side, so the next few weeks will be just a touch busy! I just got word today that we’re starting another set of experiments and we now have additional experiments later on next month, and by next month I mean next week.

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Journal paper updates

With everything going on lately (my dissertation) I have completely ignored the updates regarding more papers I’m working on. Now that I don’t have a ton of papers in backlog, things have been seemingly moving at a pretty constant pace. So it’s time to talk about where I am on those and what’s coming next. Oh and of course, plans for my dissertation paper(s). So many papers.

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Big idea progress!

This is a little late, but for the past few weeks I’ve been taking my time working on some of the “big idea” dataset we collected a while ago. The first of many, I hope. There’s been a lot of work, but it doesn’t feel like much because it’s all behind the scenes stuff. Kind of like you can build a home, but until it’s finished it never really looks more complete. Well at the beginning of the week I finally had some answers, while there are still a lot of questions, so far so good.

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The first glimpse!

woman standing on broken stairs leading up to sky in the distance
woman standing on broken stairs leading up to sky in the distance

Well I don’t want to say we have something… but we have something! Okay, so I guess we should back up a little bit. A few days ago we collected some data using an idea I had, my “big idea.” This was the first time we did this experiment the way I really wanted to do it, but not the first experiment, so we had a really good shot of getting some good data. Shortly after we finished the experiment I did some quick checks and we did, in fact, have data. Now the question was, what did it all mean?

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Small beginnings

Tree seen at night, in the dark, with lots of stars in the background and light around the tree.

Sometimes big things have small beginnings. Honestly I’m not even sure how to talk about it vaguely, but I’m going to give it my best shot. The short version is that I officially have my first dataset for an idea I had almost a year ago now, a “big idea” as it were. I’m confident that this will work, I haven’t had a chance to see what we got, but I did make a few initial checks to ensure everything was collecting correctly. Unfortunately, despite how monumental this feels for me, I can’t explain what we have… yet.

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A new grant proposal

Have I mentioned I like making work for myself? I mean, I really don’t I am a lazy person! I would prefer to do absolutely nothing, I swear, but for whatever reason, I keep making new work. As much as I love the stuff I do, this particular bit of work is my dream. And dreams cost money, so unfortunately because my dream has been unfunded, we haven’t had a chance to do anything with it. I mean we have, but not quite.

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DARPA Risers 2022

Well it’s even more official! I’ve been selected as a 2022 DARPA Riser and I’ve gotten more details on the event. Today I figure it’s a good time to talk about the process as I know it and where we are in that process. Mostly because the internet had very little on the topic and because I am very excited to be part of the selection. I also now can view my fellow DARPA Risers, which has been more than just a little humbling.

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Effects of transcutaneous spinal stimulation on spatiotemporal cortical activation patterns

The list of clusters of activation we found in the brain due to transcutaneous spinal stimulation (TSS)

It’s official! My latest paper, what I’ve been calling “last paper” is now typeset and I can share my fancy videos better. I’m excited that this is finally here and since I gave a good overview of the paper (here) today I’ll discuss a bit more about why this paper was important and why the dataset was such a pain, both of those I had to shorten due to the length of the post.

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A big breakthrough!

Okay I’m trying to remain calm because nothing is set in stone yet. However, I’m very excited because as of yesterday anyway we have the first person who is eligible for the experiment I proposed using what I call, “big idea.” Now for those of you who have been following along, this may be confusing because I already have several datasets using this new thing I’ve created, but this is a little different. Okay a lot different and I’ll explain why.

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Effects of transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation on the brain

Experimental setup (explained in detail below)

Transcutaneous spinal stimulation (TSS) is a relatively new approach to neuromodulation. We can activate networks in the spinal cord by injecting a small amount of current through the skin, which evokes a response in the muscles (muscle contraction). Depending on the person the electrical stimulus (the zappy time) feels either like a massage or it can be uncomfortable, not exactly painful, just not something you would go out of your way for. But the spinal cord is a two way street, so what does TSS do in the brain?

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Success! Journal paper 4 of 4

I’ve been waiting for this day for years, but here we are. The fourth and final paper, what I’m calling “last paper” has been accepted for publication as of this morning! It’s been a long, hard journey and this paper didn’t make anything easier, but it’s almost over. It just needs to go to typesetting and that will be the last of last paper. As with the others, it’s time to look back and the journey last paper took and how I finally got here.

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Data mountain

Well the week is over and I’ve barely been able to drag myself out of bed it’s been so exhausting. Unfortunately, we’re doing it all again next week too, so it’s not over yet. But the first of two test experiments are done, I say test because these don’t actually count toward our original set of experiments we’re doing later this summer. Meaning there’s going to be a lot of work coming my way, fun times.

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More on experimental prep

I kind of wish my equipment looked this cool…

Since we have a rather large and cumbersome set of experiments happening it’s my job to make sure they go off without too much trouble. I say too much trouble because no matter how much you plan, test, and retest, something will go wrong. Heck it may not even be wrong on our end, it may be wrong on someone else’s side, but that’s why we plan. So once again I’m talking about how we prep for our experiments.

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Making greatness

I do love making… new friends.

If you build it, they will come? Okay not quite, but if you can buy it you need to make it. That seems to be the theme for the next few weeks as we’re getting ready to start several different experiments and the scope of them is massive. Not so much the experiments themselves, but everything that is going into them and everything we are going to get out of them.

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Adventures in experimental design

When did people start trusting me with experimental design? I have no idea, but here we are and I’m helping come up with a series of experiments we will be doing in roughly one week… seven days. So between now and then, we have a lot of things to figure out. We have a rough idea about what will happen, but there are a lot of moving parts and it turns out we are probably missing a few things so we’re going to have to get creative if we really want to get to the bottom of things… fun times for all!

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Robot paper is live!

sad beat up old retro robot on a wooden floor shot from above
sad beat up old retro robot on a wooden floor shot from above

Finally! After years and years of trying to get this published I finally have the paper out in the world. Okay, to be fair it was accepted about a month ago and I did a deep dive into the paper itself (here), but it feels a little more official now that it’s out there in the wild, or at least open-access like it should be! Granted I’ve told this story before, but indulge me as I recount for the final time why this paper almost killed me, literally.

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Mounting pressure

After yesterday’s win, you would think things would be smooth sailing, but alas that isn’t in the cards! I mean yesterday’s good news still applies thankfully, but wow did I wake up to a flurry of emails and now a mountain of work that all needs to be addressed all at the same time. Wait, is there an echo in here? I feel like we’ve done this before…

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A big result

night scene showing young boy with a little moon in his hands sitting on meadow done digitally
night scene showing young boy with a little moon in his hands sitting on meadow done digitally

I’m stepping away from my planned sharing of the notes from my lecture to bring breaking news! For those who don’t understand what’s going on, a while ago I had an idea, a “big idea” that I’m convinced will be the thing I’m known for… if it works. And our first attempt was not great. In fact, we got absolutely nothing. The second and third attempts however we were ready and it looked like we had something. The question is what did we have?

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From imagination to reality

It’s amazing what a good night of sleep will do for a person. Hopital-PI often has what he calls his “shower ideas” and frankly, my “big idea” was also a shower idea, but I find that the best ideas come to me when you’re not even thinking about them. When you step away from a problem and focus on something else, your brain just does something magical and works out the solution without you even realizing it, sometimes anyway.

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Finalizing the figures

Okay technically they are videos, not figures, but they are demonstrating things that could be shown in figure format if we had the space. In fact, we do have one figure in the paper I’m dealing with that has stills from the video demonstrating some of the things we found. With the finalization of the response for “last paper” I need to sit down and get the code fixed to redo some of these videos, which will be a challenge.

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Semi-final paper edits

Okay, with all the “big” things happening the past few days I really need to switch gears and focus on the other major deadline I’ve got coming up and that’s the response to “last paper,” which is still not due for another 2-3 weeks I believe so I still have time, but it’s not just me that needs to sign off on it, it’s all my collaborators and that is the problem. Mostly because last paper took so long in part due to disagreements within our group.

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The big payoff

Yesterday I finally had the chance to get not one, but two new datasets! Those datasets were for a project I’m calling “big idea.” In my mind, it will change the way a lot of things are done, advance science, and I even joked with hospital-PI that I would need to retire after we publish because I’ll never do anything better. I have a lot of hope for big idea, but the first dataset we got was a fail, so the question was, what happened and did we fix it?

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The big data haul

It’s been one hell of a week and it’s only Monday. Experiment days are always hard, but when you’re doing multiple experiments in one day in, let’s say not so ideal situations, it can be hard. But we’ve made it out the other side! Unfortunately, just because the experiment is over, doesn’t mean things get any easier. At least in this case, because now comes the hard part.

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Another big experiment!

Things have been off to a rocky start for my “big idea” there’s a lot of moving parts, people to coordinate with, and things to manage. It’s no surprise things haven’t gone well since we started trying to get this project off the ground, but we’re still trying and that has to count for something… right? As it turns out, we may have lucked out this next week!

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The next big experiment

Well things are moving fast around here, like I predicted they would this year. Of course, things are currently going better than I had hoped, but that could change. Last week was a busy one and next week will be no different, but next week is a particularly big week, because I’m going to be doing another experiment for a somewhat different project. Yep, another “big idea” experiment is coming.

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The last paper response

Well it’s been a few weeks since I got the response back for “last paper” since I have roughly three weeks left to finalize all the edits they requested, this weekend I plan on tackling most/all of it so that we can get the ball rolling with my collaborators so I can (hopefully) get the response back to the editors before the deadline they set. Because there is a deadline and I do not want to be late, mostly because it will make more work for me if I am.

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When DARPA calls

Fifteen years. It’s been roughly fifteen years since I started this journey and the dream was always the same. We all have stupid dreams as a kid, we want to be astronauts and sports stars, but the odds aren’t in our favor. We’re told to be realistic. Sorry kid, your dreams are too big. You need to shrink yourself to fit into the tiny box we as a society provide you. I was never good at following instructions, so maybe that’s why the past fifteen years have been a special kind of hell, but today, today made it all worth it.

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The return of last paper

If you love something set it free, if it comes back it was meant to be. What a bunch of garbage. Well maybe just in this case. I’ve slowly gotten out from under the weight of not one, but four different first author journal papers I’ve been working on. Three of the four are published (with one going live any day now… I think?! That should’ve happened a week ago…), but one paper, last paper, has been a struggle all its own and now it’s back with a vengeance.

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An ounce of preparation

What a week. It’s only Wednesday and it feels like it’s just never going to end. There are three major events coming up this week, meaning I will be working this weekend unfortunately, but at least I made it through the day. Tomorrow will be a major event for me, dare I say bigger than my proposal defense just two days away.

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The return of big idea

I had hoped to discuss robot paper today, but something more exciting has happened so today we’re talking about the “big idea’ I had a while back. It feels like it’s been forever since I had the idea, but things were moving slowly lately so we’ve had to wait. I’m happy to say the wait is finally over! If all goes well, by the end of the week I’ll have the first dataset from big idea and I am very excited!

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New and old projects

It’s finally my chance to put my own spin on the stuff coming out of the hospital lab and I’m incredibly excited about what is coming. Unfortunately I can’t talk about it! However, I’m hopeful that this year will be an excellent year for me with regards to the research I’m doing. Things are slowly falling into place and while we’re still at the beginning, things are looking bright.

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The big rush

A while ago I had an idea, a “big idea,” but the second I had that idea the clock was ticking. Because ideas are not that unique. There is a gap in research and we try to fill that gap when we see it. I noticed a gap and because I noticed it, there’s no reason others won’t notice it as well. Now we’re in an unseen race to publish and there’s still some speed bumps in the way that are causing some issues. I’m hopeful we can get there first, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we had competition.

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On the shoulders of giants

Tomorrow I’m doing something for the first time, ever. I got an email yesterday with the good news and while we don’t have all the equipment we need for the project, we can still get some good data and an early look at what the data will look like. I’m so excited I’m shaking, I barely slept last night, and my mind is swimming with the possibilities. This is what it’s like doing research on the edge.

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