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Update from the OR

I don’t share actual surgery photos online (even if I could, I don’t know that I would), but there are plenty stock photos, like this one!

No, I’m not updating this while I’m in the OR, but we had OR attempt number five as a maybe today and I have good news. We managed to get a yes at the last minute and got some interesting data. It’s all very exciting, so now I need to dig around and see what we found. For sake of remembering, let’s run through how today went!

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The art of fixing things

Me right now.

Well today has been one hell of a day. It’s a long story and we’ll get into it, but I had to once again do some car repairs. It got me thinking about others who may not have the skill to do that or other things that feel very necessary for living, but I’ve had a hard life and so you have to learn the skills that others may not have needed.

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Another OR experiment… maybe

I got a random email yesterday from hospital-PI that I didn’t understand and I’m still trying to figure out what’s going on, but it looks like experiment number five may be happening as early as Monday! It will be an early morning and a long day, but it will be worth it, assuming it happens. Like everything in my life at the moment, we’re not 100% sure that we will be able to attend.

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The BIG result

Art by: Rebecca Wright

Today I had my meeting with school-PI and I have to say it went both better and worse than I was hoping for. The good news is I’m still a member of his lab and he seemed surprisingly okay with me switching projects for my dissertation, not that the project would change much, just the funding source. Of course that doesn’t mean it was all sunshine and rainbows, because that would be too easy.

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The BIG meeting

I am a simple man. I keep my life as simple as possible because some days I can barely get out of bed. Breakfast and lunch have been the same things for years and I’m okay with that, in fact dare I say, I look forward to it? I keep my hair cut short so I don’t have to even think about it and besides the things I need like money to live, I don’t go out of my way to complicate things. Aside from my education and the things related, I have very little that I NEED to do, so I can focus on surviving the day. It’s a good system.

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To catch an error

Well it’s been an adventure! First we collected some one of a kind OR data, then because of technical difficulties couldn’t get it to open. The support team for the software has been amazingly responsive and we were able to recover the file! Or so we thought, saving the file caused the error to reoccur, so we needed more help. Thankfully because we could open the file, I could debug and now I look like a data wizard. So this is the story of how I attacked and dethroned the data gods.

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The last experiment

Goodbyes are hard, even if you don’t really know someone outside of work. Today we’re saying goodbye to a few of our participants as they finish one of our longer experiments. It feels like only yesterday, but it’s been several months now so it’s time to wrap things up. The good news is this will create a bit of an opening in my routine, but that’s probably going to be filled in pretty quickly.

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The tough conversations

One of the things I left (intentionally) off my to-do list for the week post was the talk with school-PI about hospital-PI. The plan is to arrange the meeting sometime either this week or next depending on school-PI’s availability to have the talk. I’m not thrilled about it and I don’t know how this will turn out, but it has to happen and it has to happen soon.

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Technology issues…

I’ve quickly come to regret purchasing my new(ish) fancy laptop. I get complements on it because it looks impressive and if it worked correctly it would be very impressive. The problem is that it has been causing me headaches since I bought it. Technically this is the second one, the first one was replaced and the second had the same exact issues. So instead of exchanging it again and going through that whole mess, I decided to crack it open and do the fixing myself.

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The week ahead

Semi-regularly I like to look forward at the things I want to accomplish in the next week. Having a good plan going forward helps me focus on the things that need to get done and the literal act of checking things off my list is literally the only thing that keeps me going some days. As usual I’m juggling a lot, but thanks to my 365 days of academia project, I’ve realized this, which means we can adapt… hopefully.

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A day off

Well today nothing serious is going to happen. I have no plans, no work I need to do (urgently anyway) and I could use some time to unwind. Today seems as good a day as any to take the time for myself and thus I have nothing to write about. Breaks are important, in fact, take this as a chance to take a break for yourself. Go do something you enjoy, or not. Your choice. The thing about self care is it’s whatever works for you.

Thanksgiving 2021

Well it’s thanksgiving. As usual for anyone who’s picked up a history book, celebrating thanksgiving is one hell of a choice. Granted it was made generations ago so we do it out of habit and I am happy to have the extra time off, although time off as a student is more of a concept and not an actual thing. Point being, celebrating genocide is something we do here in the US. Because that’s how we were founded.

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Dear data gods

We have offered our typical sacrifice of blood, sweat, and some might even say excessive amounts of tears. Yet clearly we have offended you and we are not sure how or why. We ask that you forgive our ignorance and help us understand how we can fix this. We are humbled and sorry, we should not seek higher truths, yet we must continue.

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Mad dash to the OR

Today has been a day! The trick with doing research in the OR is that the schedule for the surgeries don’t get finalized until the day before and sometimes even then things change at the last minute. I’m not sure when the schedule was finalized or if anything changed, but this morning I got a text that threw everything out of order. The best laid plans of mice and men…

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Writing rush

Well today I will be spending the bulk of my time editing a journal paper that needs some work. Okay a lot of work, it’s not great, but I feel like it’s a case of switching fields. Something I know all too well when I jumped from mechanical engineering to neuroengineering. I try to be polite when editing because it’s stressful enough as it is. However, it’s important to remember that it’s the paper being critiqued, not you.

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The fourth OR experiment

It’s official! We have experiment number four coming in two days. I’m excited about another attempt to collect data and to answer about a dozen interesting questions since we just keep tacking on stuff to look at when we go in. I’m not even joking, the experiment list keeps growing because the opportunity is unique and they don’t add significant amounts of time to the main experiment we’re doing.

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Another year of NDSEG

Yesterday was the last day to apply for the NDSEG fellowship and if the traffic to my fellowship tips post (here) is any indication about the number of people who applied, this year is going to be competitive. It’s bittersweet for me, because this is the first year I won’t be applying. Mostly because I am no longer eligible for it, but also because I literally have more funding than I know what to do with.

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End of the week rush

It’s Friday, which means I need to be at both the hospital lab and the school lab. Then it’s wall to wall meetings with little break in between. How am I writing this if I’m so pressed for time? Well I have a second between meetings and things I need to do. It’s busy, but the good news is I’m forced to focus on the stuff right in front of me, which is better than having to focus on other things that are going on at least.

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Into the storm

Yep, things are looking gloomy around here. Did I mention I hate this time of the year? It feels like everything conspires to go wrong around this time of year and it just happens to be when my depression and anxiety are cranked up to 11 pretty much all day every day. I don’t enjoy it and I wish I could just hide until the new year rolls around and the feeling passes, but here we are another year where I am super anxious and another year where everything seems to be going wrong.

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The garden of forking paths

It’s called the butterfly effect and goes something like, “a butterfly can flap its wings and cause a hurricane on the other side of the world.” That’s not exactly true, like most things it’s an easy way to remember the concept. Something small can have a ripple effect that you may not be able to anticipate. In other words, chaos. The problem is chaos, the universe is not deterministic so predicting the future, even the immediate future, comes with a certain level of uncertainty. It’s only in hindsight can we trace back certain events and see the pattern and even then depending on the scale, it’s impossible to know which butterfly caused the hurricane or if the flapping of a butterfly’s wings prevented one.

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Sometimes things get cancelled

Today was a big day. We got the equipment ready, the patient consented, and everyone on the clinical side of things was on the same page we were on. Things were going well. Surprisingly well in fact, that should’ve been the first sign something was going to go wrong. This time it wasn’t our fault though! Sometimes you just can’t catch a break, so maybe next time.

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Off to the OR!

Tomorrow is the big day, our second experiment and while I’m a little nervous, I’m also excited to see what we can do. Last time around we had some issues… okay a lot of issues, but that’s because it was the first time we’ve ever tried something like this. This time around we worked with the team that will be in the OR with us so we know what they are doing and this time they know what we are doing. Basically we’re aiming for a whole lot less drama and a whole lot more useable data, meaning any usable data!

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DIY Research

When I say arts and crafts projects, I really do mean there is art involved.

Working in a big fancy hospital research lab means I get access to all sorts of very expensive, very cool equipment that I wouldn’t be able to use normally. Things that I take great pains not to break because, well… it’s not cheap. If we need something, we order it and the process is surprisingly fast considering the amount of paperwork that goes into placing an order. However, on occasion there are no ready pieces of equipment that I can just use for an experiment or we don’t know that the big expensive piece of equipment that we’re looking at is the thing we actually need. So what other options do we have? Spoiler, it’s arts and crafts time.

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Experiments from the OR

The last place you would expect to see me doing non-invasive research would be the operating room. Surgery, even the minor stuff, can be very invasive, but that doesn’t mean we can’t collaborate and combine our techniques. Of course this is the first time anyone in the hospital has tried to collaborate like this (that we know of anyway) so there’s bound to be some growing pains. Luckily we’re about to go into our second real attempt at this and I think we’ve worked out all the problems.

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Presentations in a pandemic

Today was the first in person presentation I’ve done in years. Literally years thanks to the pandemic. I’ve been avoiding large gatherings and will continue to do so, but this was a special case since it was a hospital event. We’re all vaccinated, masks were required, and we were distanced in a well ventilated area, so it was the first time I’ve really felt comfortable attending an event like that. Before we get into the talk, let me just say it feels weird wearing dress clothes for the first time in years. I don’t know that I mind the sweatpants lifestyle so much (okay I definitely don’t mind it), but it was fun to mix it up a bit and shave, which I also stopped doing since the pandemic because, why not?

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Another Veterans day reminder

Well it’s that time of the year again where I remind people that toxic patriotism and performative patriotism is bad. So don’t do it, seriously. I have a lot of mixed feelings about today. Mostly it’s a time for me to remember friends that aren’t around… I guess? I remember them normally anyway so it feels extra, this isn’t a happy thing and I don’t particularly thing we should “celebrate” in the traditional sense. I appreciate the others may have different opinions on the matter, but for me it comes down to the weaponization of patriotism and that needs to be stopped. Veterans day is less about people and more about politicians. It’s politicians use military as a weapon day.

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The road to nowhere

Get it in writing. It was the advice I gave hospital-PI when he told me he got an offer from another hospital. Get it in writing. It was a phrase drilled into me by the military where less than honest recruiters would promise one thing, but deliver something else. I learned early on that your word is worthless, opinions change, memories fade, and you’re left with people who are upset because neither no one thought to write it down so everyone would be on the same page. Some lessons are learned the hard way I guess.

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Journal paper number three is submitted!

Finally checking a few things off my list, now this will probably come back to me for edits in the next few weeks/months, but paper number three has been submitted for review! As with the last few papers, I think we can go through the process of how we got to this point and I can explain what happens now for those who’ve never submitted a journal paper before. I’m really excited, so let’s talk about the long road leading to this point.

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The confusing road to my dissertation

I’m very lost at the moment about what the next step would be in my degree. I mean I know what the next step is, my dissertation proposal, the problem is that there’s now a rather large wrench thrown into the mix and I’m not sure what to do. Honestly it would be so much easier to just give up on my degree and go work like I’m doing now, it really would, but after three full years in the program and a decade of schooling to get to that point, I don’t want to stop short. Which means once again I’m faced with an impossible choice and no matter what I decide I feel like someone is going to get hurt.

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The (maybe) final paper revisions

Okay, if I wasn’t stressed enough I got an email from hospital-PI forwarding to me the request for our manuscript. The one that I’m currently working on, as in right now. In fact, I’ve stepped away to write this because I really need a break from all that for a moment before I try to wrap it up. There have been so many changes I need to make sure that the entire document is coherent still, which is easier said than done because some of the sentences are definitely not coherent so I need to work back to figure out what we were originally trying to say.

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A weekend of edits

No matter how much you stagger something, it somehow all manages to come back to you at the same time. It’s an interesting phenomenon that I’ve noticed, where suddenly everyone wants something from me all at the same time. In this case, I was hit with not one, but three paper edits that need to happen. All of the requests happened within a day of each other, so now my weekend will be spent doing my least favorite activity, editing papers.

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Dissertation crossroads

It had to happen sooner or later, I have too many PI’s, and it was bound to cause some chaos in my life. The short version, in case you don’t want the longer one, is that I need to decide if my dissertation project is really the way I want to go about my degree. I have some options for what I want to do for my dissertation and my hospital-PI has offered several alternatives to the original path I was planning. It’s a tempting offer too, I just don’t know which one would be the better option or if there really is a choice here since I’ve technically already committed to the other project.

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One presentation done!

Today was the final presentation on some research I did. The road was long and I wish I could blame it all on COVID, but there was a lot for me to learn between when we started and now. I’m happy with the outcome and I think my school-PI is happy as well. There’s still one minor milestone left and that’s the publication, but the paper is written and I’m waiting for edits from my co-authors, so the hard part is done at least.

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Winter conference season

It’s that time of the year again! Every six months or so we have an influx of conferences and what not that happens pretty routinely in winter then again in the spring. Thanks to COVID still being a thing — get vaccinated people — we’re either going fully virtual, or since one of our events this year is smaller, we’re taking precautions to keep people socially distanced and masked (since it’s a hospital organized event, we’re all already vaccinated). Tomorrow is the first event of the season and I’m giving a short (five minute) presentation on the work I did for this particular group.

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The how to of presentation design

With my three minute talk coming up (more here) I need to design my two slides and get my poster set. Since I don’t like doing more work than needed, instead of trying to figure out the order of things and blog about something else, I wanted to go over how I would be presenting my science, both for the talk and my poster. Ideally this would help others, but mostly it’s for me since I could use the format in the future. I would copy from my previous talks, but I like to mix it up a little and this isn’t quite as formal as some of the other talks I’ve had to give.

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The surgical scramble!

Today was an… interesting day. Saturday I mentioned that today I would be in the OR again, it feels like I’ve been living there for a bit now and I have to say I’m enjoying it, but things were a little more hectic than I had originally anticipated. I had arranged for everything to be ready well before the surgery took place, but as it turns out that wasn’t what happened and I was left to scramble in order to get everything working.

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A bug’s life, a horror story

I’m fine. No, really everything is okay. There was a point where I thought it wouldn’t be. But I’m better now. Looking back on the events of the past week, I can see why someone looking from the outside may worry. Things have a way of unraveling so suddenly. But it’s okay because I found the cause and I fixed it. It’s what I do you see, I fix things. I’ve fixed myself more times than I can count, but they weren’t permanent fixes. I was shown a better way and now I am fine. Don’t worry you can hear my story, you can be fine too!

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Papers, experiments, and the week ahead

It’s going to be a busy week and the weekend has only just started. While I plan on taking some time to myself this weekend, I am going to be prepping for the week ahead today since tomorrow is halloween. There’s a lot of interesting stuff happening this week, so today I want to round up all the odds and ends to give you an idea of what the week will look like, but also to help me organize my thoughts as I get ready.

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Award interview and project update

Yesterday was the big interview between my school-PI, surgeon-PI, and myself. It was significantly longer than I expected it to be, but it was also strangely focused on me. That was completely unexpected, so I felt a little awkward, but I did it and we’re all very excited to start my project. I have some thoughts about the interview, but I also realized I haven’t really spoke about my “super secret” technique in a while so some of the newer followers may not even know what I’m talking about (don’t worry, it’s a super secret).

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Smile for the camera

Today is photo day! What is photo day you may ask? Well it’s the day we take pictures. Okay, probably a little brief, today is the day that we’re meeting with the lab and school public relations team to release a joint statement about our new award. It’s the first award for our new collaborator (surgical-PI, who I still need to find a better pseudonym for) since he just started his new lab at the hospital at the beginning of the year. While it’s not a major award (dollar amount), we tend to celebrate these things anyway, so we’re taking pictures together, surgical-PI is getting a tour of the school lab, and we’re going to get interviewed about the details of the project.

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Another award?!

Yet again I’ve managed to slip through the cracks, or maybe the standards were just that low. Whatever the reason, I’ve been selected to share my science in the form of a podium presentation. Yep I was awarded a spot to present my work at an upcoming event I’m required to attend (luckily it’s a masked event, because we’re all medical professionals) so I get to give a supposedly “fun” elevator pitch of my work. Just a few weeks away, I have to figure out what I want to say and how I want to share it. The issue isn’t so much that I’m speaking in front of a group (that isn’t on my computer), the challenge is the state of the project.

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Septoplasty update or so you’re having your splints removed!

Splint removal, both photos make it look like they sit right inside, they sit further back so you can’t see them and they don’t hang out of the nose at all.

I can breathe! It’s a magical feeling when for the past week I couldn’t use my nose at all. Okay, I could breathe out, on occasion, if I were careful, but now I can breathe and it feels so nice, particularly on my throat, which is still a little raw from the week prior. Since I’ve made it on the other side of things (for the second time now) I think we can do a quick update on the lastest recovery, but more importantly I found out the information about the ear graft I needed. As always, sharing is caring, so let’s do this!

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An interesting experiment, maybe

I was debating about sharing this since I’m not sure if it will happen or not. More importantly, like all the experiments and stuff I do around here (or at least it feels that way) I can’t talk about it in detail. Instead I can talk about why I’m excited about it in particular and why it may not even happen. Which, considering I’m still trying to recover from surgery, may not be a bad thing!

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So you’ve had a septoplasty

Fine, I guess I should share some of my story since I share everything else and this would be useful to anyone else needing the same thing. Technically speaking what was done was a combination of surgeries, but I’m going out on a limb and thinking the good ol’ septoplasty is the one most people will be having and so that’s the topic of the day.

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Outreach while recovering (or why I should stop volunteering for stuff)

Basically what I look like at the moment… you know, give or take.

I got bullied into it. Okay, maybe I felt guilty. I don’t know! Whatever the reason a few weeks ago my school-PI emailed several of us asking if we would be willing to do a virtual outreach event today. Somehow, despite just having surgery, I am the one doing it. Since this blog is just as much for me as it is for all of you, this is a cautionary tail and a reminder to myself to just say no sometimes.

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Zombies in nature!!

It’s my favorite post of the year!!! Every year I update and post my favorite Halloween Lunatic Labs tradition! Ironically with everything going on this year (surgery and what not) I almost forgot to post it! In any case, today we bring you the science fact behind the undead. Zombies, those brain loving little things are everywhere. Sure, we are all familiar with the classic  zombie, but did you know that we aren’t the only zombie lovers out there? It turns out that nature has its own special types of zombies, but this isn’t a science fiction movie, this is science fact! Sometimes fact can be scarier than fiction. Let’s talk zombies.

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The award announcement

Well it’s official, my project got funded. It’s a little hollow since we knew ahead of time that it was going to be awarded, but now that it’s official we can make a big deal about it. By we I mean my school-PI and our collaborator, who I guess is technically my latest Co-PI, so now I have three PI’s and you thought my life was complicated enough already, didn’t you?

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Surgical recovery, yet again!

Well today is officially day one of my recovery. Yesterday (here) I had my…. well it’s in the double digits that’s for sure, surgery. I was spoiled this year as I only had a single surgery, normally I go in once every six months for something and I’ve had that routine for the last six or so years, so yeah double digit surgery count, but I don’t remember the exact number, I think it’s 13 (spooky!) in any case I lived, despite the VA hospitals best efforts.

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If you’re reading this, it’s already too late.

How’s that for a spooky title? Normally I write my posts the same day you all get to read them. It’s a nice system that keeps me just stressed enough to keep going. I’m only semi-joking. This post however was written yesterday, or today for me. The reason is simple, if you’re reading this then I’ve already been whisked off to surgery again. Not that this wasn’t a planned thing, but I didn’t want to make a big fuss about it since I have two surgeries every year as it stands. This year it’s just one so I hold out hope that means the six month shuffle of something new being painful/swollen/etc. is slowly coming to an end.

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A beginners guide to watercooling, from a beginner.

I have built a lot of computers over the years. It’s actually not that hard to do since most things are labeled and use different types of connectors so it’s hard to screw it up unless you’re not paying attention. Up until recently I’ve never watercooled a PC, at least not in the build it myself sense. The internet is full of how-to guides to help you do this, but most of them are from people who do these types of builds regularly. I find that they skip over some of the basic things that you may need to know because they’ve forgotten that it’s not common knowledge. Since I’ve successfully finished my first build and don’t like hoarding knowledge, I want to share how to do it, for beginners, by a beginner.

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