We're a little crazy, about science!

Posts tagged “academia

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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Tuition chaos aftermath

It’s been a long day, but I’ll cut to the chase and say that I’ve figured out all the tuition stuff! That’s good news because this morning I got a email and phone call from the school letting me know that surprise! tution was due today. After I got that call, there was a ton of phone calls and emails, but somehow I got it done just under the wire.

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Tution chaos!

Well the term is about to start and I got a no-so-friendly reminder of that today when I started trying to figure out how to access my theoretical tuition benefits via the hospital. There was a lot I didn’t understand and now that I’ve dug into it there’s a bit of a concern, but hopefully it will work out… maybe? I don’t even know at the moment, but we’ll just have to wait and see what happens because what else can I do?

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The long road to the end of my dissertation

Sometimes you’re so focused on something that when you take a second and look up you realize it’s almost the end of the year and you’re wondering how the hell that happened. It feels like just yesterday summer had started, we had our interns at the hospital and I had just defended my dissertation proposal. Now we’re roughly 8 months to the dissertation defense deadline and there’s work to be done. But there may be more, depending on how things go.

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Success! 2 of 10 dissertation experiments

Well today went better than yesterday and yesterday went pretty good to being with, so I’ll take it. All in all there were some things that I needed to iron out and a few things I still need to figure out, but it was successful and that’s all that matters. Since yesterday I already went over the rough outline of how it went and doing that again would be redundant even for me, I figure we can talk about how even the best laid plans can change once you start experimenting.

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Success! 1 of 10 dissertation experiments

What a day… I’m so exhausted. It’s been such an overwhelming amount of work, but it’s over and that’s one of the ten experiments I need (for the first phase of my dissertation anyway) done. The data collection went smooth, I love the new equipment, and I only ran into what appears to be one problem with the recording, but I’m hoping it wasn’t a real issue. So quick recap of how it went and then I get to remind everyone, and myself, that I get to enjoy doing it all again tomorrow!

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Experimental preparations

Finally. I’ve got not one, but two dissertation experiments lined up one for tomorrow and one on saturday. It’s going to be a busy few days and there’s a lot of prep that needs to happen today and ostensibly tomorrow before and after the first experiment. Since I am in the habit of sharing my process, I figured it would be a good idea to talk about how we set up for experiments. I’ve spoken often about how long it takes, but I can’t find a recent example of going over what that actually entails. This will be… interesting.

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On the design of experiments

Okay, well a lot has happened today and I’m not even sure where to start! I guess the main thing I want to write about today, despite being exhausted, is planning. I plan everything, I probably write more about my plans than anything else now that I’m done taking my required classes. It’s no secret, I love planning because having a plan means knowing what to do when that plan goes sideways. It means knowing what to look for before a plan goes sideways. Most importantly, it lets you know you’re on the right track.

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Race to the deadline

What is it about self-imposed deadlines that feel more important than the ones you hardly have control over? Maybe it’s because I’m competitive or maybe it’s just that I hate failing at something that I set for myself, but whatever the reason tomorrow is my latest deadline and I’m so close to finishing I can taste it. So today I’m hoping to finish my coding work so I can process some more of the “big idea” dataset I collected several weeks ago.

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Attack of the code

Here’s the thing, all code is bad code. Some code is just better than others. For every person who writes a program, there’s someone else who would do it a totally different and, to them, less complicated or confusing way. However, as long as the code you write works, it shouldn’t really matter how badly it’s written, right? To me the difference between bad code and worse code is comments. The frustrating thing about taking apart someone else’s code is that there are rarely enough comments to figure out what the hell is going on.

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A successful first test

Sometimes you have to work weekends, especially if you end up working full-time. But sometimes you have to do what you need to do if you want to graduate on time. Hint, I really want to graduate on time, but then again time is relative. Grad school is time intensive and as I’ve talked about in the past, you have to do the work when you find the time and energy. Yesterday, I made time to test some new equipment and it went well!

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The first equipment test!

It’s been literally months in the making, but we finally have the equipment I need to start my dissertation and even though it’s the weekend, I’m making a special trip to campus (it’s been like a month since I’ve been there) to test out the equipment and get things ready for my first set of dissertation experiments! I’m hoping things go smoothly so that I can get the data needed, but as with all things, some assembly is required.

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The last day of summer internship

Today marks the big day! It’s the last day of the summer internship at the hospital and the two individuals we got to work with over the summer are about to present their final work. It is going to be a busy day for everyone involved, myself included. Since I haven’t got to talk about our interns this year, I thought it would be great to go over some of the stuff we did with them.

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Time management with a work and school balance

How can someone work and go to school at the same time? It was a question I asked myself anytime I came across someone doing it. I imagined it was hard, there’s a lot going on with being in school alone. It’s literally a full-time job and while the pay is crap, the workload is every bit as real as any other job you would get. So for a long time I considered myself lucky that I was in a position where I could focus on school alone. I didn’t think I could do both. Then last year all that changed.

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Return of the experiment gremlins

Maybe the moon was not in the correct spot. Maybe the earth’s tilt was not optimal. Maybe we should’ve just called it a day. But for whatever reason, anything that could go wrong, did. We do our best to prep for these kind of events, but some days, nothing goes right. Today was one of those days and as frustrating as it can be for the experimenter, I’m sure our participant wasn’t thrilled about the constant problems either.

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A small step towards graduation

Well the hurry up and wait phase is over. As of today I now have the equipment I need for my dissertation experiments so it should be full speed ahead with data collection. Now I could do data collection and analysis simultaneously, but I don’t think I want to do that since I’m in a hurry and I’ll explain why in a minute, but now that I have equipment we’ve made a small step toward finishing this project. There are some things still lingering, but I think we’re on the right track forward. The only question is, can I get it done in time to graduate in the spring?

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A wait off

See what I did there, again? Yesterday I lamented that I was waiting, and waiting, and waiting, but Godot never seemed to show up. Wait wrong story. But seriously, I have been waiting months for equipment so I could start my dissertation data collection. THE final thing. I can’t begin to put into words how frustrating this whole process is, I’m ready to do something, like now! I want to do it, the will is there, but the equipment isn’t. So what to do, but wait and wait some more, unless…

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The wait of it all

See what I did there? As we are now at the end of the month, I’m starting to stress, yet again, about my dissertation experiments. Because life isn’t stressful enough after the past few days, my brain has decided to focus on yet another thing outside my control. But as with everything my brain does, writing it out helps, which is why we’re going to talk about what I have left to get my degree and how I’m anxious to get started.

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Presentation work

Despite all the stuff that’s been going on the past few days, I’ve been tasked with making a video for school side of the two conferences I need to attend. It’s not a bad thing, but there’s some extra work involved and there’s a bit of a timing issue. No one said doing all this at once would be easy. Even with all the stuff going on, we’ve got work to do.

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Summer intern presentations!

Okay, I’m slacking, but with everything going on these days, I haven’t really written about our summer interns. This year our interns were a little more prepared for the program than the series of unfortunate events that occurred last year. Overall it’s been a good summer session, but it’s not quite over yet. Next week we have our summer symposium where the interns will do one final presentation on the final day of the program. Which means it’s once again 🎵 the final countdown🎵!!!!!

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It came from the fifth dimension!

Programming, you either love it or you hate it. Okay, let’s be honest, you either hate it or you tolerate it. There’s just so much to keep track of and as you start tacking on more and more, it can quickly become overwhelming. What’s worse is when you don’t have a whole lot of time to make sense of it all, you just push ahead as quickly as you can. Something has to give, it’s just a matter of what.

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The double conference dilemma

So next week it’s conference time! But wait… there’s more, it’s also conference time! That’s right, there’s not one, but two conferences happening at the same time and guess who has two different jobs and will be attending both? This guy! That’s right, as of today I’ll be attending both conferences, luckily one will be done virtually so there won’t be a mad dash from one to the other, then back again since I need to be there at the start and end of one of them, it’s wild.

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Another surprise class and the week ahead

I don’t even know what to say at this point except… oops. I was asked to teach yet another class and once again I’m giving my PSA, stop being good at stuff or others will ask you to do something with the stuff you’re good at. To be fair I don’t even think I’m “good” at what I’m being asked to teach either, so it’s more a matter of no one else in the lab knows how to do what I did so it’s up to me to teach it.. yet again.

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The long wait

Soooo… my dissertation. Haven’t really talked about that in a bit. Yeah, things are off to a rocky start. In the spirit of being transparent and sharing all the struggles, I figure today we can discuss where I am in the process. That includes the hold ups, the let downs, and why I’m officially just a bit nervous that I’ll actually be able to meet my goal of graduating in the spring. It’s going to be a bumpy ride, but at least it’s temporary, he says as if he actually believed it.

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Fantastic posters and how to make them

From the ever accurate PhD Comics

It’s that time of the year again, time to make a poster! I’ll be doing at least a couple this year to display some of the work I’ve been doing, but the current one I’m in the process of finishing up is for the summer conference the hospital holds. They sent out a template and a example poster from last year’s event, but the example was bad. Like really bad. So maybe we need to talk about what makes a good poster, because apparently people think they need to be books.

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A forgotten paper

Well it happens I guess, after looking through my posts, I haven’t seen one where I discussed another paper I’m working on (because there always seems to be many). I am like 82% sure I’ve mentioned it in passing, but I can’t find a post on it, so today we’re talking about the forgotten paper. Don’t worry we’ll come up with a better name before I finish the post, but for now let’s talk about why it slipped my mind.

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Conference update!

Vector illustration of a person speaking to a large crowd of people
Vector illustration of a person speaking to a large crowd of people

A few weeks ago I submitted an abstract to a conference that’s coming up. It’s an internally run conference that the hospital puts on every year for us to share our work with other labs. A lot of the stuff we do in the hospital is similar across labs so doing stuff like this helps everyone explore different collaborations that could be done or work that compliments other work. There’s a few things that need to happen now that I’ve been selected and there’s not a lot of time to do it, but what else is new?

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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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Data rush

Okay well I don’t know how successful our experiment was… yet. I know we have data, which was the first hurdle, but does that data tell us anything? Will we unlock the deepest secrets of the human body (almost certainly not, but we can dream), or will we just end up with a whole lot of nothing. That’s the problem with trying something for the first time, you could have something, or you could have nothing and it’s a lot of work before you find out the answer.

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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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The third lecture!?

It’s time! Okay not quite, but very soon! It’s time for the last of my summer lectures for the interns and I’m excited to wrap this up and focus on other work. There’s a lot going on so maybe first we’ll talk about how my schedule conflict shaped up, what I’ll be teaching, and why I love this class so much. I’ve been debating about making a seperate post to share the knowledge. Since I did that last year, with the classes I’m teaching this year, I don’t know if it makes sense. Maybe a review would be in order anyway…

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Panic! At the lab

Ever have a day where nothing went right? We had a series of unfortunate events so we couldn’t actually do the research we wanted to do. It’s not a huge deal, but what was impressive was the amount of things that went wrong, each thing compounded and let us continue the study up until the point where we were about to start. Only then did we find out we had to stop. There was no danger and the issue was figured out after the fact, but it was an impressive feat of events.

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The headache of scheduling conflicts

It had to happen, we’ve hit a scheduling conflict. Or at least, I think we have. The problem is we don’t know for sure yet and that is definitely a problem because I need to give somewhat advanced notice or there will be issues for other things. So what do I do when things clash?

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The week ahead

It’s time once again to take a look forward and discuss the next week of stuff I get to look forward to as a researcher/student. There’s a lot going on, so I figured we could just condense it all into one post and touch on each thing a little bit. It’s exciting, but it will be an exhausting week. Fingers crossed that things go smoothly, but I’ll let you be the judge about how likely that will be based on the limited information I can share.

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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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Summer conference!

Add one more thing to my to-do list, but not in a bad way exactly. It’s summer time, which means it’s time for the annual summer conference we hold at work. This is an “internal” conference run by the hospital for all the students and summer interns we have. It’s fairly large and gives us all a chance to share our science and see what other labs are doing in the hospital. What’s nice is that this sometimes leads to really cool collaborations (we recently did one actually).

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Time management and a busy day

As usual, it’s a busy day. This one however is particularly busy and there’s not a lot I can do about it except pull out the magical powers of time management, set some goals and limits on how long I can work on things, keep my head down, and hope for the best. The day will end, eventually, but the amount of work I finish is, in part, up to me. How do I manage to be productive? Well a pseudo-structure method helps.

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The second lecture!

Who writes a blog and forgot he’s teaching a class tomorrow? This guy! No really, it totally slipped my mind and I only recently sent out the reminder to the lab letting them know it was going on. It’s a bit shocking, but it’s okay because I’m mostly ready for this class, I just need to put a few slides together if I want to be extra fancy about it, but I’ve planned it out in advance.

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Self-promotion in science

I admit it. I’m bad at promoting myself. It’s hard and I hate it. I’ve made a concerted effort to do just that though and over the past couple of years I think it’s helped, maybe? The problem is half of the metrics we use to measure success as a researcher come down to popularity. Things like h-index are great measures, but what they are measuring isn’t always how good your research is, more like how many people know your work. Which to be fair are similar, but still different things.

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New paper update

Okay, since we’re starting to wrap up the latest paper, I need to give it a nickname. I think we’ll just call it, “dual paper” since I can’t think of anything better and that is secret enough for me. Eventually I’m just going to have to start using letters of the alphabet if this keeps up. So what is dual paper you may ask? Well…

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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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Another response letter

There’s a surprise paper I haven’t talked about much. Mostly because I’m “only” second author on it, but also because as I keep mentioning things are hectic. However, we’re almost a full six months into the year and I currently have three papers (two first author, one second author) to my name and this will be number four! It’s been a good year for me, but we’re not done yet! Today I’m going to once again talk about response letters.

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Summer experiments

With summer here in pretty much full swing, we are about to get started on a bunch of new experiments. There’s a lot of things coming that will make life slightly harder, so in an effort to keep track of my progress between now and the big graduation day (soon… hopefully), let’s look at what I’ve got going on this summer. Things I need to do, things I “get” to do, and things that I can pawn off on others to do *wink.*

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The hard road

Is doing something an easier way necessarily worse than doing it a hard way? I mean with a lot of things in life you get out what you put in. If you work hard enough you could be an olympic athlete, a world class musician, dancer, artist. But even in those cases, is it hard work, or consistant work that makes the difference? I’m not sure one way or the other, but I’ve typically opted for the hard way. It’s lead to mixed results, but typically I don’t mind putting in the extra effort if it means that I will have a good outcome.

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Overwork and the consequences

Yesterday’s post came late in the day, but it wasn’t because I was busy or even because I was hard at work. The truth is I was hard at rest. After two weeks of rushing, working, prepping, and basically all the -ing you could think of, it was bound to happen. I needed a break and I was forced to take one, my only saving grace was that it was the weekend so it could happen, but it’s a good reminder that we all have limits.

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The experiment gremlins

Things we’re looking good. They were, but the longer the experiment the more gremlins come out. If you’ve ever done any sort of research you’re familiar I’m sure. You test and retest equipment over and over, but no matter how many times everything looks happy, well the day of the experiment everything goes wrong that can go wrong. It’s amazing we can even do science with our little gremlin pals just waiting for us to try it.

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More experimental prep

Is this our setup or is this electronic equipment from the late 50’s? I’ll never tell… (okay, let’s be real, this is a lot nicer looking than our cable mess).

Things have been busy, welcome to my life. But seriously, there is a lot happening right now, most of which is top secret (shhh don’t tell anyone). But as usual, leading up to an experiment, there’s a lot of prep work that needs to happen. Mostly because things always go wrong and we want to maximize our chances for them to go right. So let’s dive into what it’s like the second time.

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Work and School

Let’s face it, if you’ve ever gotten any sort of degree, you know it’s a job all its own. You can even say you’re a student on almost all things that ask for employment, so it’s not a new idea. When you start a PhD or in some cases, even your Masters, you even get paid for your work, albeit not great. So I was always impressed, and surprised, by people who work while pursuing a degree because I knew I could never do something like that, then I did.

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