We're a little crazy, about science!

Posts tagged “life

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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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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Living through history

When I was a kid I thought history was something we read about in text books. World wars were from a “less civilized” time, we are a modern people after all. With the fall of the USSR along with the start and end of the gulf war not too long after, I thought, perhaps foolishly, that history was a thing of the past. I never suggested I was the smartest of children. But here we are, living through history. I didn’t realize it could be so painful, then again maybe if I had paid more attention I would’ve known.

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A mental health day

Let’s face it, it’s been a busy…. life. This week has been the longest month for me and we’re doing it all again next week, so I need a minute. Mostly my brain is tired and since it needs to do a lot of work tomorrow I want to give it the day off and just relax. So once again I’m reminding, mostly myself, that it’s okay to do that from time to time. My goal has been to write something daily while doing my PhD and while this arguably sort of counts, even if I wrote nothing (like what happened recently), it’s a good reminder that not doing something doesn’t set you back to zero. So for today I’m taking a little break for myself. Heck, depending on how tomorrow goes, don’t be surprised if I take the day for myself too.

Over the years I’ve learned that mental health is a balancing act, don’t mind me while I shift the balance a little.


Forgotten inventions, or so you want a patent

Fun fact about me, I enjoy making things. You know, in case that wasn’t obvious. But, once upon a time I thought it would be smart to make sure I protected my ideas so I hold one patent based on something I came up with. Or at least I did have one patent, now once the paperwork is done it will be two. Unlike my in progress papers I can actually freely talk about this, but for the most part I think the journey is the important part of the story.

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Word play

Come on in…

It’s been a day, so I don’t have a whole lot of energy to write or to think for that matter! But my brain works in mysterious ways, even to me. So I thought I would talk about a word that somehow bounced into my head and as any good brain does, it made some very odd connections. Today we’re talking about the word sane. Or rather the word insane, with me so far? Because this is where we get a little crazy.

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The end of a story

I love to read and if you do too you can probably empathize with this. What is it about the end of a story that makes the disconnect so painful? Maybe painful isn’t the right word, jarring perhaps? Abrupt? Whatever the adjective you choose closing one book leaves a world of possibilities for the next, but for me, there is always a bit of a hangover jumping from one universe to the next. Leaving me to wonder if that’s a common phenomenon.

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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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Another year of lazy goals

It looks like today is officially the end of the school term for me. It’s somewhat artificial since I was never taking any real classes anyway, but we need to mark time somehow and the school term works as well as anything I guess. But with the end of the semester, we have the start of academic summer, which means it’s time for me to plan out my goals. My lazy goals that is, or how I make sure I take some much needed rest.

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Another day off

When I started the 365 days of academia project, the goal was simple. Write daily, that was it. In hindsight it was both a lofty goal and one that has been as rewarding as it has been challenging. It turns out I have a lot to say about a lot of topics and despite feeling like I would run out of something to write about, almost three years later I still have things I want to say.

However, we all need a break sometimes. So for my mental and physical health, this is all I’m writing for the day. I hope my little break reminds you to take one as well. Because rest, like food, water, and shelter, is part of the process of living, not separate from it. It is certainly not a reward for doing something, so kick your feet up and take a break. I’m sure you could use one too.


The myth of “better”

It’s somehow Friday, finally. It’s been one hell of a week and things are slowly ramping up so it’s only going to get worse. There are a lot of moving parts happening right now and I’m just trying to keep a handle on things, so if mental health seems to be the theme of the week, then well it’s with good reason. Also it’s mental health awareness month. Which, somewhat ironically, I was not aware of until recently. So the theme of my life fits the month I guess.

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Freedom fight

Well yesterday I quietly had a small breakdown in the good sense because I was finally getting the care I wanted from my healthcare providers and when I logged onto twitter for the evening I found a flurry of activity regarding something the supreme court was doing. Wow was I in for a shock when I realized what was going on. I hoped that in my lifetime I wouldn’t see something like this happen. Afterall we were slowly chipping away at the problem, but here we are.

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Another deadline rush

Why is it always a rush?! I wish I had answers, maybe as scientists we just like to procrastinate, but whatever the reason, we have a huge deadline just five days away and it feels almost insurmountable. As hospital-PI puts it, I have 12 hour nights I can get it done, he’s kidding… I hope. It’s time to break out the hard stuff, caffeine that is, and get ready for the week ahead.

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The lab brain drain

Today was another proposal defense! No, not mine thankfully, but one of my labmates who’s been in the lab for some time now. As the term is coming to a close, I think a lot of us are in the proposal defense phase, which means things will be changing dramatically in a year or so for the lab. It made me realize that there was a rather large gap between those of us finishing and the new members, which means big changes once we graduate.

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Weekend outreach

A few of the exoskeletons we have in the lab

It’s been a super busy week, but we’re not done yet. That’s right, my inability to say no to things has come back to haunt me! It’s not that bad though, two 15-minute talks to two different groups and that’s the extent of it. So you know not too bad, but I do enjoy doing some science outreach when I have the chance anyway, so not totally a bad deal.

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Old wounds

You ever wake up anxious and wonder what the hell happened? It occurred to me upon further reflection that today is Easter and while the day itself fluxuates I will always associate Easter with loss. Sometimes you want to forget something, but for whatever reason your brain won’t let you. Not that I ever really forget, or that I didn’t know the day was coming, but in the fog of waking up, you don’t generally expect such intense feelings.

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Seven days…

Okay, I’m not going to do a countdown to my proposal defense, as much as I really want to do it. But since we’re a week away from the big day, I wanted to give an update on the plan and maybe recap a little about where I am. Yes, it feels like a theme, but with such a large milestone coming up, it’s basically all I’m focused on for the moment!

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The lost children

Can you mourn the loss of something you never had? Imagine for a second you were born without a limb. Can you miss it if you never had it to begin with? I’ve been struggling with this question a lot lately, not because I was born without a limb, but because I was born without a family and in some ways that isn’t too different. Maybe it’s wrong to compare a missing limb to a missing family, but I honestly can’t think of a better way to describe it, because family is an extension of you.

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The proposal edits

We’re just a few short days away from the two week mark to dissertation proposal defense day, maybe, I’m still waiting for responses from three committee members, two of which I speak with on a regular basis, so I’m not too worried about them, one has been ignoring everyone’s emails, so I am slightly anxious to hear back about that one. Since the time is rapidly approaching I need to have both my written proposal and slides figured out, like now.

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Not so smooth sailing

Incredible art by: Nunzio Paci check out the rest of his stuff, he’s super talented!

When we last left our exhausted student/medical professional he was anxiously awaiting the meeting that was scheduled for today. It was a rough ~24 hours, but here we are on the other side of the meeting and now there’s a firm(er) plan in place moving forward. So what does that mean for our haphazard student? Well, it could be worse… probably… maybe?

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Failing for success

Sometimes I get into a groove and since we’ve been talking about failure, I think it’s time I shared why failure isn’t the end of the story. Failure sucks, let’s be real for a second, it hurts, it’s not fun, and it feels like a very personal attack. Or at least that’s what it feels like to me. When someone rejects something I’ve written or proposed I feel like I’m being told I’m not good enough or that I don’t deserve to be a researcher, imposter syndrome is a bitch. But failure isn’t the end, it’s just somewhere in the middle.

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More on failure

After a rough night of sleep I knew exactly what I wanted to talk about today. Failure. Because like I mentioned yesterday, in my journey to a PhD, there was plenty of it. Part of this was due to the fact that I had no idea what the hell was going on or how to prepare for my PhD, but a big part of this was due to the fact that I held a belief that wasn’t true. I thought, because it’s what we’re told, that when applying to grad school grades aren’t the only thing that matters. And I was lied to.

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The transition to grad school

It’s that time of the year again for anyone who’s applied to grad school. This is roughly the time people get acceptance letters, or if you’re like me a pile of rejection letters, but look at me now MIT! Can you tell I’m bitter? Any sort of life transition is hard, be it high school to college, college to work, or even sleep to awake (or is that just me?), transition can feel downright scary. Well the person I’m mentoring “Kay” is about to take that jump and I can’t lie, I’m super excited for her.

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Self care and health care

Maybe it’s just me, but going to the doctor is exhausting. I think selfcare in general is exhausting and so I’ve basically automated my routine, or maybe created a standard routine it is the correct way to phrase that, to make my life as simple as possible. One thing I can’t do is that with is my health care. I can’t be the only one, so in the spirit of sharing, let’s talk about self care and health care.

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The IRB and committee and dissertation proposal, oh my!

Well today has been eventful! After a bunch of emails, meetings, and miscellaneous things, I have a clear shot to my dissertation proposal! I don’t want to say it’s been smooth sailing or that things won’t be rough, but I’m feeling optimistic after all the news. Since there’s a lot, I figure we can cram it into a single post as I take the next few steps to the big proposal defense day.

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The PhD dissertation proposal

Spinal column shown through a semi-transparent person
Spinal column shown through a semi-transparent person

Well we’ve finally arrived, for real this time, to my proposal timeframe. There are a lot of things that need to happen between now and when I defend my proposal, but thankfully most of those things are started or almost finished. The one thing that isn’t started… well that would be my actual proposal. Be not afraid! I’m going to have the draft done today, or at least that’s what I’m telling myself.

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The final days of the “last paper”

Well I don’t want to get my hopes up, but I have some big news! As promised in the last, last paper update, I wasn’t going to talk about it until we had submitted the paper for review. Well as of today, last paper is FINALLY in review! Now this could be months before we get it actually published and maybe even longer if there is several rounds to the edits, but this is a big step.

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PhD Committee struggles

Silhouette row of businessmen sitting in meeting room
Silhouette row of businessmen sitting in meeting room
Hopefully your committee won’t look this creepy.

I formed my PhD committee! Then it fell apart… Then I fixed the problem!! But really I didn’t… A PhD committee is a big deal and you can spend a lot of time trying to find the right professors only to find out that they don’t have the time. In my case, I got lucky and formed my committee without too much headache. Then one person left and the whole thing fell apart. So what goes into a committee anyway and why do you need one?

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Pardon the dust…

Well today I’ve had a major demolition project going on at home (see yesterday’s post for details), which has left precious little time for anything else, much less blogging. Sorry, but for the day this is it. As a reminder, no matter how big your goal, no matter how far you’ve come, it’s okay to take a break if you need it. My goal was 365 days of academic blogging and well sometimes you need time away. It doesn’t reset the clock, it just makes you human. So take a minute for yourself if you need it, I certainly do!


The hits keep coming

Art by: J.C. Leyendecker from November 21, 1914 issue of The Saturday Evening Post, titled “Beat-up Boy, Football Hero”

You know, if I wasn’t living it I wouldn’t believe it. I honestly question if my coworkers believe it. I have some crap luck. I get the sense that if it weren’t for the photographic evidence of my horrible luck no one would believe me and frankly I wouldn’t blame them. Even with photos, I’m wondering if people are questioning, because how many times can something go wrong with one person?

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Death and depression

Fair warning, today’s post is heavier than usual. There will be discussion about suicide, death, depression, mental health, etc. If you’re not in a good place, this probably isn’t for you. Never fear, there’s help (suicide prevention hotline for one), you’re not alone, despite what it feels like. For everyone else, welcome to my brain once again, but the content is probably not suitable for anyone, including myself.

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For the love of war

Aren’t there enough things trying to kill us? Between global warming, pollution, and the pandemic, I feel like something somewhere wants us gone. Then again, humans are stupid, I include myself in that statement. So here we are talking about something I wasn’t expecting to talk about and that my dear readers is combat.

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The way through

Well new year, new problems. I’m not super surprised I guess given… life. I’m incredibly tired, like mentally and physically exhausted, but we do what we need to in order to move forward. Like I said yesterday, the only way is through, so today is an example of how I try to cope with living. That’s right, time to plan and figure some things out.

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The only way is through

Well I’ve been on a talking about mental health kick lately and I guess that fits with today’s topic. Sometimes in life we find ourselves out numbered, outmaneuvered, outsmarted, and without any real power. It never feels good to find yourself in that kind of situation. I’m proud of how far I’ve come mentally, because if the situation I’m in now had occurred even just a few years ago, I would be checking myself into a hospital for my own safety again. When the weight of the world presses you down so hard you just want to scream, all you can do is push back.

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Time management and mental health

We’re all super busy… right? I don’t think it’s just me, we feel like there’s a mountain of things to do. Then you try to get through the list and when you look away just for a second, suddenly you have twice the work left. This is particularly troublesome for someone like me who has serious mental health issues (along with physical health issues). I want to do all the things, but my mind and body have other plans for me. Somehow I still manage my deadlines and since I was specifically asked to share, we’ll talk about how I do it.

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The death of celebration

Sure, it’s a little early to think about graduation. Even if I finish on time, I still have a little over a year left before it’s my turn. If I don’t finish on time, then it’s anyone’s guess on when I could hope to graduate. Still, it’s something that’s been on my mind lately because I was actually looking forward to celebrating this time.

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The force of will

The body is stronger than the mind. At least that was what the military drilled in me. Your mind will give up well before your body fails. Because being uncomfortable is, well uncomfortable. We don’t like discomfort and we don’t like pushing ourselves outside a limit we’re comfortable with. But constantly pushing yourself past your established limits… that isn’t good either.

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The invisible self

What drives you? Who would you be if the world around you stripped away all the pretenses of how you should act and who you need to be and just let you be you? If it’s a bit too philosophical or overwhelming to think about, then maybe we should all take the time to ask ourselves if we are the people we want to be. Then again, I don’t have the answers, so maybe I’m just as lost as everyone else.

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The road less traveled

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…” and that’s twice in almost a year exactly that I’ve started a post off with that line. The title of the poem isn’t the road less traveled, but I’ve decided that for today, that’s the name of the post. I have not had an easy life, some of that was because of birth, but a lot of it was based on the choices I’ve made. While the poem isn’t really about how hard life can be, when I thought of today’s post Frost’s poem popped into my head. Because the road less traveled, fucking hurts.

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A mental health day

It’s been an exhausting week so, for the day at least, I’m calling it a mental health recovery day. Don’t worry though, 365 days of academia year three (wow, still at it!) will be back tomorrow. In the meantime I’m going to catch up on my sleeping and do absolutely nothing. So friendly reminder to all my readers, don’t be afraid to take care of yourself. You can’t take care of anyone if you can’t take care of yourself first.


Visitor to the lab

Today was the day! Luckily I somehow managed to get the robot assembled and working properly… mostly. I’ll get to that. We got to showcase some of the stuff we did in the lab, I got to explain “big idea” to yet another person who may be interested in helping fund the project (since technically I’m running on a budget of funding scraps), and overall I think it was well received.

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In defense of pain management

Chronic pain is different for everyone, for some it feels like razors, for others even bee stings.

Well this seems to be coming up a lot lately. One of the things about working in a hospital is you get to see a lot of different opinions and cases from doctors from all areas of expertise. It gives everyone a well rounded education and frankly no matter where you are in your career it’s always good to keep up with the state of the art in your field and adjacent fields. I’m in the neurosurgery department so we get to talk a lot about the brain and spinal cord, which means pain is a frequent topic.

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PhD topic or, don’t worry it’s only your life

We ask a lot of kids, I say kids, but I guess more accurately I mean teenagers. The pipeline (here in the US anyway) is high school then, if you’re lucky enough, college. The pipeline assumes you have a clear idea at 18 what you want to be doing until retirement, which in the US is ~65 again, if you’re lucky. While in college you get a short four years, on average, to figure it out and do the work to get the degree you desire. Then you’re forced into another choice, work or more education? I don’t know about the former, but I do know about the latter choice.

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Old student, new tricks

With a little luck, I’m a year away from graduating. It’s been one hell of a journey and I really hope I hit this goal. Still, I keep thinking what’s next and the truth is the future looks a lot like the present. It’s not just because I’m now working at a research hospital, that helps, but what I mean is that the difference between being a student and being a researcher isn’t all that different. You have to learn new skills.

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The week ahead

Every once and awhile I like to highlight what kind of stuff I’m working on during the week and since there are a lot of things going on and none of them would make a very “full” post on their own, I think it would be best to group it all together and look ahead because there are some very interesting things happening this week!

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Oh the things you’ll learn

I’ve been a student for some time now, roughly 15 years since undergrad (not counting “traditional” schooling growing up. Over these years there were several instances, really I would consider them setbacks, where I just didn’t know what I didn’t know. Hindsight is 20/20, but the exception for me has always been seeing personal growth.

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People are squishy and other science explanations

A recent blog comment reminded me of something I said the other day to surgeon-PI. Keep in mind that surgeon-PI and I have only known each other since he started at the hospital, which isn’t long. While we were doing an experiment in the OR, so under his watch, we discussed some of the challenges with the experiments we were doing and when we tried to change things on the fly he said it was bad science, to which I replied people are squishy. I said what I said damn it!

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Work goals

Today is going to be quite busy between OR experiments and all the other stuff I have going on (writing, data processing, etc.). One of those other things is something I thought would be easier than it’s turning out to be and so I figured I would talk about it today. I work in a teaching hospital and specifically I do research in lab that does human experiments. I really love it and I’ve talked about all that before, but now we’re discussing what my goals are for my employment and it isn’t as straightforward as I expected.

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The dissertation proposal timeline

Now we wait… There’s a lot of things up in the air at the moment, but right now school-PI is reviewing my proposed plan for my dissertation and the timeline I gave to get it all done. There’s a lot of “ifs” involved with this and I’m not sure what constitutes as “enough” for a PhD. Thankfully I know the funding I was awarded is more than I need to do so I have an extreme upper limit to the work (or what I hope is an extreme upper limit).

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New year, same luck

I don’t want to think that I’m unlucky, but sometimes things just keep happening and you have to wonder if somewhere in a past life I broke dozens of mirrors or walked under a few hundred ladders. Who knows? What I do know is that luck has not been kind. Things tend to break around me and while I don’t know the rate at which I should be expecting things to break, the current rate feels incredibly high.

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