We're a little crazy, about science!

Posts tagged “graduate school

The central limit theorem in statistics

Today we’re gonna push it to the limit! The central limit theorem that is. It’s a cornerstone in statistics and the short and dry version is that it lets us turn any distribution we have into a normal distribution. If it wasn’t for the central limit theorem statistics would hurt far worse than it does now (speaking as someone taking a stats class now). For the longer version we need to discuss why a normal distribution is needed, why we prefer to work with them!

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The road to a PhD program

In hindsight this post should’ve happened a long time ago, like year one and day one of my 365 days of academia project. Things have… evolved in ways I didn’t understand when I started this, originally the project was simply going to be a notebook for my classes, then it turned into my journey as a whole, and even what I do in my spare time. Like anything we create it took on a life of its own and I’m reminded I should touch on the process to getting accepted into a PhD program.

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A clear path!

The easy path to getting your PhD…

That was quick! I have an update regarding yesterday’s funding debacle already… it’s good news, but that’s all the hint you’re getting for now! Things are happening fast and frankly they need to I only have a few more days to finish the grant before its due for internal review and I don’t know how my Co-PI is feeling right now, but I’m stressed out!

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Trouble on the horizon

I did not see this one coming… or maybe I did and just wanted to pretend it wasn’t going to be an issue. There’s been a difference of opinion to put it lightly. I received an email this morning from my main-PI asking if we could meet to discuss my funding options and he also casually mentioned that the R21 might not get submitted.

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End of the month crunch

It’s the end of the month and that means there are a lot of loose ends I need to tie up before the new month begins. Deadlines I need to hit, plots to make, projects due, heck I even have a book chapter due. There’s just a lot going on and not a lot of time to finish it all. It seems to be a common theme that things are “due” at the end of the month for me. This month is no different, but with school having started, it gets a little more hectic than normal.

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Experiment Results

It’s been a crazy week, more so than usual! The R21 grant I’m writing is due to my Co-PI today, it’s our self imposed deadline. It’s not THE deadline, but it might as well be in my mind. I’ve processed most of the data from the experiments and yesterday I said we would talk about the result from finding an error in my code. Well let’s talk about it!

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To code is divine, to err is human

Yesterday we had a problem. My data was not playing nice. It decided that I didn’t really have what I thought I should be seeing and that left me… anxious to say the least. Since this is all so new, one misstep could ruin everything. To make things worse, there was one of three choices and none of them were good news.

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The last experiment!

Today’s the day! It’s the last experiment for our R21 grant, we had our first set of experiments last week and today we’re completing the final experiment today. Hopefully we’ll have some good results for our grant, I got done processing some data last night and if I didn’t make an error the results were slightly underwhelming, but we’ll have to see I guess. There’s still a lot of things I need to check so I’m not too worried, okay slightly (very) worried…

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Overloading in education

Get your PhD they said! It will be worth it they said. You’ll have a good time they said! They certainly say a lot don’t they? Well I say things shouldn’t be so freaking hard. I get that getting your PhD requires work and frankly, it should require work, I mean it’s a freaking PhD! That said, it shouldn’t be a four to six year gauntlet of torture to see how many times you break down mentally and physically. It doesn’t build character, or better PhD’s, but it is the system we work in.

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Make a SciComm video, the hardest way possible!

Writing, and filming, and edits… OH MY! I’ve done it, I’ve committed to making this science communication video (SciComm for short, if anyone was wondering about the title). Yesterday I went into the lab to do some filming and realized that I was about to make a great video, or at least I like to think so. But more importantly I was going to do it the hardest and most convoluted way possible. Why? Well, why the heck not?

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Experiments update!

Yes the data always look like a bunch of random squiggles, that’s why it takes forever to make sense of it.

Well a lot has happened this week, maybe not the most interesting of things for my readers, but this week has definitely kept me on my toes. Today we’re going to have to talk in circles because I can’t give away my “super secret” technique I’m researching, but I also have news about that technique. It’s all very hush, hush, top secret, would have to kill you if I told you type stuff for now, but that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about how the experiments I’m doing went!

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The first week of classes

When you start a PhD program, or a Masters program (I have a BS and MS so I can speak to this) things aren’t as structured as they are in undergrad. Not that undergrad programs aren’t hard or not hectic, it’s just that there are scheduled times for everything so you know when and where you will have work. It’s a lot like highschool in that respect, you get homework, but there’s a clear end to it. Not so much in grad school, your homework takes a year or even years (for a PhD) to finish. Still, it’s the first week of school, so things change, if only slightly.

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My first surgical shadow

With all the COVID excitement going on around here, I haven’t had the chance to share my experience about one of the coolest things I’ve had the chance to do thus far in my career! Since starting my PhD I feel like I’ve had all sorts of interesting experiences and while they haven’t helped me publish anything, I’ve learned a lot. Making a jump across fields like I did (design engineering to neural engineering) has had a steep learning curve from the start, but almost three years in and I’m feeling good about the decision.

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I’m going into surgery… sort of!

Okay well this came out of left field, or rather happened faster than I thought it would. My Co-PI and I had discussed just last week seeing some of how the more clinical stuff gets done in terms of electrophysiology and invasive monitoring. He suggested I shadow some of the doctors while they are performing surgery to see how they do the things they do and now I’m about to get the chance to do just that. Yeah, that’s a lot of doing.

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A day of meetings and emails

Okay, my inbox isn’t that bad, but if I didn’t keep up with it, it could easily get there.

It’s a new day with a new and long list of things I need to get done. I’ve already got a ton of bad news about my car issues and the rather large bill that is coming with that, but I’ve also got meeting after meeting scheduled for today on top of a long, long list of emails that need responses from me. Basically today is going to be exhausting and all I will have done is sit in front of a computer, how the hell does that even work?!

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And it’s back to work I go

Today is my last day off. Not quite a day off either, more of a day to get ready. While classes haven’t officially started for me, it’s time to get some work done. So in the spirit of chronicling my life as a PhD candidate, I figure today we can take a look at my todo list and you’ll see why today isn’t a day off. Hint, there’s a lot of prep going into this next week.

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First grant meeting

Time to put the fun in funding?

Well it’s been a weird couple of days and by weird I mean, WTF?! For that reason let’s shift slightly back into the school aspect of things. I had my first meeting with my Co-PI to discuss the grant writing I’m going to be doing and what we want to focus on. Turns out there’s a lot going on and not all of it had to do with the grant, but it was a good meeting and I’m excited to get started.

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New year, new grant

It’s all connected somehow… I just know it.

Nope, still on vacation… I tell myself as I make arrangements to meet with my Co-PI. This is important though and unlike some of the other projects it has a firm deadline. That’s right, I’m writing a grant. No this isn’t an update to the last one I wrote, this is a whole new one. How did I end up in this position? Who knows, but I’ve been trying to figure it out since it happened. Let’s discuss, shall we?

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The perils of publishing

So you want to publish some science. I don’t blame you, as a scientist we’re driven by the “publish or perish” mindset. The further along you get the more you’re stuck having weird nightmares about h-index and impact factor. Or maybe that’s just me, who knows? In any case, any publication is a labor of love, one that typically turns into a labor of spite. Because publishing isn’t easy, or maybe that’s just me.

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And finally something good…

I don’t know why my mind went with hidden treasure, but that’s what we’re going with today.

It was bound to happen eventually, some good news for today! I had a meeting with my Co-PI and we went over the latest findings in the dataset I’m processing for my “super secret” technique and I have to say it went much better than was expected! He’s excited, I’m excited, we’re excited. The issue is we don’t know what any of it means, but I think that’s why it’s so exciting!!!!

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A change in my timing

The meeting with my PI is done and it’s not all bad news. It went better than expected in some aspects and not so great in others. That’s how these things work out, it’s not a linear progression, it’s a lot of going back and forth and sometimes side to side too. Thankfully we met before I made any firm plans! Anywho, let’s just dive in and talk about what happened.

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A meeting with my PI

It’s a treacherous path, but one I need to take

Well I may have overestimated how fast I could get the data processed from yesterday. I have it basically done, but I was up until almost 2am getting it to that point and I didn’t have the energy to start the analysis so that’s going to happen today. Instead of sharing my excitement for a second day in a row I thought I would share some news. I got an email back from my PI and tomorrow we are meeting.

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In need of a break

Well that’s the post. Okay fine I’ll elaborate. It’s been a busy couple of weeks, if I’m honest it’s been a busy couple of months! Between all the writing, data collection, surgery, data analysis, code writing, etc, I haven’t had a chance to breathe! Maybe that’s why I feel dead, I haven’t had a moment to collect my thoughts.

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How to process EEG data

This is what Raw EEG data looks like. That big spike in the middle of the screen across most of the channels, that’s (probably) eye movement.

For those just tuning in, I’ve been busy! I made my deadline, barely. Unfortunately that was one of two. The second requires me to have all the work done, not just part of it. I managed to finish one of ten (yes ten) of the datasets I had, so now I have less than two weeks to finish the rest of it Let’s take it from the top and discuss how we process EEG data!

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More data!

Today marks another day that I got to collect data for my project. The good news is we got a LOT of it, the bad news is I got a LOT of it! Okay, only semi-kidding about that last part. I’m happy I have more data than less data, but it’s also a busy time so I don’t get to process it until I finish all this other work.

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That time I angered my PI

king's roads from Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell
Navigating the right path isn’t always so easy.

I met my deadline, so now I’m going to take a short(ish) break and tell a quick story. I have been debating about telling it since it’s embarrassing and talking about failures (or really mistakes) is uncomfortable. I had enough uncomfortableness just trying to hit my deadline, but now that I’ve made it I figure I can at least tell the story for posterity’s sake.

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Time to work

So this post is coming a lot later than I would normally do this, but it’s been a day (already) and it’s going to get busier. I’ve had one experiment, one class, and now I need to repair my computer so I can perform the analysis of the data I have to get done before Thursday. Fun times ahead!

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The stress of an education

Art by: DestinyBlue (you should read their story too if you have time)

I’ve got a lot on my plate at the moment. I’m sure that’s probably true for most people, but in academia it’s somehow considered normal that you balance the tightrope of sanity while more and more pressure is added to you. It’s a toxic environment for sure, more so now that COVID and current affairs are gumming everything up.

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More on mentorship

I’m not sure I would enjoy being a teacher. With the typical size of the class you teach I don’t feel like I could give each student the personal attention that I would want to give them. Thankfully, one of my jobs is mentoring, which is like teaching, but with just a handful of people. I absolutely love it and today I’m going to share a very funny (or maybe just fun) story.

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The abyss of uncertainty

It’s been a day. Meetings, planning, the usual stuff, just a whole lot of it. There is a few things that have been left unresolved unfortunately, namely I’m not sure what my main PI is going to do or how to be ready for it. I get the feeling that he’s trying to move on to the next phase in his career and I’m not the only one.

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A storm ahead

I’m not sure how to even start. Maybe I’m just being overanxious. I’m an anxious person and this happens! Frankly, I think I’m just overreacting, I mean I have to be. My main-PI wouldn’t do something to hurt my career, it just doesn’t make sense, yet I can’t shake the feeling and the email I got today doesn’t help ease my mind.

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The PhD proposal

This horror story from phdcomics.com

Well I was somewhat caught by surprise yesterday when we had our weekly lab meeting and my PI reminded me specifically that I should be working on my PhD proposal. It’s yet another milestone that I need to accomplish on my journey to a PhD. I’m not exactly sure why the reminder caught me off guard, I’ve been planning it for a while now. So today I guess we should talk about what a PhD proposal really is and why I need to do one before I can continue my research.

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A whole pile of work

Pretty much a live shot of my life right now…

Why does everything happen at once? I mean you’re minding your own business and bam, suddenly you have a million things to get done. One minute you’re on top of things, the next you don’t know how you’re going to get it all done. I’m somewhere in the middle of all that right now. I’ve managed to get most/all the things I needed to get done, but not without some new things popping up.

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Behind schedule

Well it’s Thursday and by looking at my list of things I need to get done, I wish it was still Monday. There’s been a few setbacks the past couple of days. My data processing is going well, but not much else has been accomplished because of an incident that happened a few days ago. It’s not a fun time…

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Dominoes

It’s going to be a busy week for me. Seems to be a theme in my quest for that PhD to be honest. I’ve got data to process, papers to write, experiments to run, appointments to keep. It’s a lot of moving pieces that all need to be aligned at just the right moment. Dominoes, if I can get everything lined up nicely, the tasks will all fall just as easy.

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Day 267: The problem with exams

test anxiety

I like to take my anti anxiety medication with a light snack thirty minutes before the exam. That way I get the full effect from the meds at about 30 minutes into the exam. The effects don’t last long enough to make it the entire exam, so I split the difference and this gives me the best result since I can’t stop half way and take more. Unfortunately, they don’t help, they never really do. I feel jittery, like I had too much coffee. I can’t remember the things I need to know and screw up even the simplest parts of the exam because I’m more focused on keeping my heart from exploding out of my chest!

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Day 266: Pandemic research pressure

Pandemic

Think of research like the post office, nor rain, nor sleet, nor snow, nor pandemic, we will be there working. My dumbass had to make the transition from design to human experimenting the year before a pandemic. I could be safely at home designing cool robots in solidworks, but no we need to collect human subject data and despite the pandemic, I’m feeling the pressure.

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Day 265: The lazy goals

prototyping a microcontroller on a breadboard. Random bits of wires can be seen around the black table.

prototyping a microcontroller on a breadboard. Random bits of wires can be seen around the black table.

A “for fun” prototyping project, I thought would be appropriate cover art for the topic at hand.

It’s the end of the term for me. This will be the end of the second year of my PhD program, we have officially started the big countdown to the end of 365 days with (depending on how you want to count) 100 days left, and despite the pandemic, I am making my lazy goals. Mental health is important and my lazy goals help with that, I’ve mentioned lazy goals before, but let’s talk about it in detail.

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Day 264: Summer Research

EEG cap

Pay no attention to my messy desk… instead look at the cool EEG cap I set up.

It’s supposed to be a busy summer for me. With the pandemic going on, I’m not sure how that will play out. Since we don’t know yet, let’s talk about how it was planned and then we can discuss how that changed thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. This may be bad as far as my research timeline… maybe.

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Day 263: The Reliable Narrator Fallacy

tell tale heart

True! –nervous –very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses –not destroyed –not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily –how calmly I can tell you the whole story.

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Day 262: A Brief Repose

Legion

A project from a few winters ago in my old home. My workshop was so organized!

A friend once described me as, “a maker if there ever was one.” If you ask me, he was being overly kind, but it’s true I enjoy making things. I’m always looking to learn new skills or sharpen old ones. In fact, I’m taking up some “light” woodworking over the summer to do some custom pieces for my home. It will be a fun task, if not a bit tedious and time consuming. I have a list of projects you see, but not a lot of time to do them.

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Day 261: On Being a Mentor

Tree

One of the many hats I wear as a PhD candidate is my mentor hat. It’s probably one of my favorite jobs and I get to work with some truly brilliant people from all types of backgrounds. I’ve had the chance to mentor a small handful of people and I always look forward to learning from them and through our interactions, in that sense, it’s a mutually beneficial relationship.

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Day 260: The thing about endings

The end

…and thus our mighty hero slay the beast and rode off into the sunset to live happily ever after. But why? Have you ever really thought about the way some stories choose their endings? Our hero goes through live altering and extremely daunting challenges only to brush it off like he caught the wrong bus. Pardon me, but what the actual fuck?

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Day 259: The Postscript

Sleep

After awhile you supposedly end up resembling your pet, I think it’s happened. She looks how I feel.

I just want to sleep for fifty years, is that so much to ask for? The deadline is gone whence it came! That does not mean it wasn’t a fight to the end or that there is a weird stillness permeating the house like a calm after a storm. What is it about things ending so abruptly that throws a person into a spiral of confusion?

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Day 258: The deadline

Deadline

It’s here.

If you’re reading this, then it is already too late. It’s here, do you feel it? It’s in the house… the deadline. It’s a sneaky dark and evil thing from a time forgotten, but you can feel its presence long before it arrives. It whispers in your ear as you sleep, or did it? Of course, there isn’t anything there for real, right?

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Day 257: Tomorrow…

Sisyphus

Well we’re up against the wire now. Tomorrow is the due date for my paper and with it the video I am working on. Will I make it? How much work is left to do? Why am I talking in questions? Find out more… now…?

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Day 256: Two days left…

cookie monster

A live shot of me waiting for my data to finish processing

Well here we are and it’s… ♫ the finalllll count dowwwwwn!! ♫ My paper is due sunday at midnight and between the video I need to make, the data that still needs to be processed, and a shitty team mate who has done absolutely nothing to help, well I’ve got my work cut out for me.

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Day 255: The impossibility of complete knowledge

Magic-spells

Have you ever tried to learn something and you just can’t seem to get it to stick in your brain? That would be my life, well most of my adult life since I left the Marines. There is just so much knowledge in the world and wrapping my brain around even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of that knowledge seems to be an impossible task. So what is one to do?

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Day 253: A race to the finish

finish line

Well still quite a bit of work to do and some of it was frustrating, but here we are. So let’s run through what I’ve got left to do before the end of the term (ALREADY?!) and talk about the next few posts since I have somewhat of a plan… for once.

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Day 252: Dead…line

dead...line

Today is the day, my group presentation is due. Is it done? Well… sort of? Okay not quite, but we’re getting there. My group member still sucks, but since I yelled at him (in a professional manner of course), he’s gotten a little better and has been more responsive, so what’s the hold up? What a great question, let me explain.

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