We're a little crazy, about science!

Posts tagged “PhD

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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Fellowship applications

Well looks like we’re switching gears. That’s right, now that I’ve finished (FINALLY!) writing the draft of my grant proposal, I can move on to some other funding opportunities. It’s fellowship season and since it ’tis the season, I need to iron out my CV and best of all I get to do something different!… wait it’s just more writing.

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The Dissertation Committee

Well it’s been a journey… but every person I emailed has responded and they all agreed to be part of my committee. That’s right, we’re making serious progress on the road to my dissertation proposal. It’s been a little surreal and I’m nervous that even though I’m here I’m not quite ready for it. Today, let’s talk about my next steps and what forming my committee actually means.

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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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Calm before the storm

a painting of a ship at sunset on calm seas
I’m sticking with the sea theme, it’s metaphorical!

Time is a great teacher that eventually kills all of its students. We’re all dying, I mean that in the literal sense. We’re slowly headed to a brick wall that we can’t avoid. I guess the difference between that plodding path forward and what I’m feeling now is just a time-scale difference. You see, I’ve set off a chain of events that are destined to blow up. I just hope I’m not part of the casualties. Am I being dramatic? Well, let’s review and you be the judge.

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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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Adrift

Technical writers block. Is that a thing? I’m struggling to finish this thing and I’m not sure why, it’s hard to make an idea fit a page limit, especially when that idea fits on half the pages that are expected from you. So what are you supposed to do, add fluff? It feels antithetical to the purpose of technical writing to add in garbage. What do I do?!

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Committee selection

Old black and white photo of blindfolded man in a suit reaching out in front of him.
It feels exactly like this somedays…

Well here’s a post that I thought I wouldn’t be writing this soon. Or maybe I’m right on track and I just don’t want to admit that I’ve made progress. Either way, even though it is the weekend I’m taking an important step in my goal to my PhD! I’ve formally submitted my list for my dissertation committee to my PI. Not a PhD or don’t know what that means? No worries, that’s why I do this, so let’s talk about my committee!

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Return of the DEADline

I know it’s here somewhere…

It’s back and it’s not safe here anymore. You need to go, get far away from here before it gets you too. No one is safe because the deadline is back! Of course, maybe you’re like me and you didn’t take it seriously. That’s the problem, it wants you to feel safe! That’s how it gets you. You’ve been warned, the deadline is here!

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A rocky recovery

Hi, it me.

It occurs to me that tomorrow will mark the one week point since I had surgery. I didn’t realize it had been that long because frankly I expected to be doing better than I am at the moment. Let’s talk about where I’m at now and tomorrow to mark my one week exactly, I’ll tell you all a VA horror story I keep mentioning, but never really told.

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The juggle

This wikihow image has me dying, this is exactly how I would attempt to juggle.

Every sunday without fail I make my list of tasks for the week ahead. Some of them are automated and repeat as needed, but most are specific to that week so I need to go in manually and add them. It’s nice to have everything written down in one place, in order, with times and reminders. I don’t have to stress out about remembering everything when I have a nice app on my phone that keeps me informed. Unfortunately there is a downside…

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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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Today is a bad day

The day hasn’t even started yet, but it’s a bad day. No I’m not ripping off a children’s book with a similar, if not more hyperbolic name, it’s seriously going to be a bad day. You may be wondering how I know, well this time of the year is always rough for me. A lot of bad things happened that I don’t have the space, mental capacity, or time to talk about. Today is a bad day.

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The (other) secret

whispering a secret into someone's ear.
Shhhhh….

Some days there’s just so much going on it’s hard to figure out what to write about. Daily writing is hard because some days you have 50 things you want to share and some days you can’t figure out a single thing that would be interesting to write about. While I have a million things to do, none of them are new and interesting enough to share. So today I’ll let you in on my secret.

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Technical writing: How to write gooder

Know your audience, it’s the first rule of technical writing. I’ve taken several technical writing courses during my education and they all start off the same way. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE! In my experience that is usually the end of the advice given. Most technical writing courses assume you know how to write, an odd assumption when you’re supposed to know your audience. Today I’m going to go over what I do BEFORE I write, in the hopes that it will help some of you. Fair warning, this is long and detailed!

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The ambiguity of language

Well we made it, it’s Friday. I’ve finished my experiments, done most of the things that I needed to do and now I can focus on writing for once. No, not my blog. It’s finally time for some technical writing. I’m not thrilled about it, I mean I don’t mind technical writing as a general rule, but it does get tedious with all the edits. Maybe that’s why I like my blog so much, I can just write and be done with it.

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Yet more experiments?!

Sticky notes are the best.

Another long day for me. Back to back experiments (with a short break in between thankfully). It’s a lot, but I’m hopeful that after it’s all done things will slow down at least for a moment, hint they won’t. In any case, I just need to make it to tomorrow then I get a break for a few days.

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Surgery in a pandemic

A seemingly endless hallway in a hospital. The floors have a shine to them and the yellow tint to the lighting makes it feel older than it probably is.
I took this photo today. It’s my favorite hallway in the VA because it just seems so endless. It goes the full length of the hospital (I think) and today it was empty. They are limiting the number of people who can come into the VA, which was a nice surprise, although it was still far too many people for my comfort.

I was planning on having surgery over the summer. I put it off because I didn’t want to go to go to the VA hospital. It’s a depressing place in the best of times, a not so friendly reminder that as a veteran we’re better off dead and the living are an afterthought. When the pandemic hit it was, and is, the last place I want to be. Yet, I can’t put it off anymore, so I’m having surgery.

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A small reprieve

Well today my midday experiment was cancelled so now I have some time to relax. Just kidding, now I have time to work on the million other things I need to get done this week! That’s the problem with writing daily, a lot of it is the same stuff, but there are some minor differences with today’s list of things to do.

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A week of experiments

Don’t mind me, just trying to turn back time… lol

Most times work can be a trickle, we get one or two subjects a week and that’s all. 6-8 hours in the entire week dedicated to collecting data and the rest of the time I’m free to process data, work on other things I need to do, basically live day to day like I didn’t live in a lab. Most of the time. Sometimes it’s a flood, like this week and next, then I’m reminded that I definitely need to work.

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Catching up

This feels about right, I’ve been running on empty!

Sunday means getting ready for the rest of the week and what a week it will be. In my Co-PI’s lab we typically have a steady stream of people coming and going for experiments, this week (and probably next) it will be a flood. We’re trying to make my main-PI happy.

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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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Meeting a potential postdoc

Comic from phdcomics.com

Well today has been interesting to say the least. It wasn’t planned, but I went into the lab to meet my Co-PI and the new potential postdoc for the lab. I sort of rushed in last minute and the coordinator apologize, but I hadn’t planned anything that would’ve been hard to do in the lab anyway, so it wasn’t a big issue.

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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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Data results!

light bulb in the sunset

About a week ago I collected some data randomly. Well let me start over, not randomly my Co-PI decided it would be a good experiment to collect the data using my “super secret” technique to verify that it worked. We had six different conditions and I’ve only processed two of the conditions, so there’s still some work to be done to determine if this is real or not, but I have my initial results and my Co-PI has seen them.

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Grant writing!

writing spelled out in letter tiles

It’s time to help write another grant! In this case, it’s one I actually want. One of these days I’ll write a little tutorial on how I like to do my writing, I think it’s a good system, but then again what works for me may not work for you. This one is particularly complicated though so it needs a lot of attention. It’s not that it’s long, it’s because it’s short.

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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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The grant proposal

Well today one of my grant proposals is due. Technically it’s due tomorrow, but I always try to submit a day early. Why? Well, technical issues, I’m an anxious person, all that good stuff. This was an equipment grant and I did it at the request of my PI, it’s not the grant I want, but it’s a learning experience, or at least that’s how I’m treating it.

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Experimental failure

Well that was a …flop. Today I had an experiment, had. There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to an experiment, especially in my line of research. Technology, can’t live with it, can’t live without it. Still, somedays I wish I was living in the future, one where I didn’t need to reset my router randomly. Then I would know for sure the singularity was close.

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More data!

Old wooden treasure chest with strong glow from inside.
Old wooden treasure chest with strong glow from inside.

It was a surprise to me, but I somehow ended up with a new dataset from a single subject. One that, after processing, could be the key to convincing my Co-PI once and for all that we have something real… or it could just be one giant mess, but if we don’t look we may never know.

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Problem solved

Sometimes we don’t need to think outside the box, the box can stay closed for the moment…

Everyone go back to what you were doing, nothing to see here! Yesterday I had an existential crisis, one that could’ve derailed my technique and any hopes I had at introducing something new into the world. With it, my PhD dissertation topic, meaning I would be over two years in and I would need to reevaluate my goals. Let’s talk about what happened!

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A snag

No tears, please. It’s a waste of good suffering.

You know… that’s how it goes sometimes. You’re cruising along and everything looks great then, BAM! Totally derailed. What happened? Turns out I have a problem with my data. Not a problem persay, more like an anomaly, one that throws a rather large wrench into what WAS a perfectly running operation. Things were looking good, but now… I have a doubt.

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A lot of changes!

While EEG caps look super high tech, it’s actually a low-tech solution to an environment full of electrical noise. Each channel is pre-amplified at the source to reduce contamination as the signal travels down the cable. The first active electrodes? Made sometime in the mid 90’s, so a surprisingly new advancement in the history of EEG!

Well if there was any doubt that I write these daily I’m sure yesterday’s brief post explaining my panic helped answer that question. It really was a busy day and that’s not a bad thing. Things are… changing and I can’t tell how they will turn out now, but I’m anxious to see the outcome. How very mysterious! Let’s talk about it.

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A busy day!

Well it’s been… a day, which for me started at 5am. It’s not over either! Our experiments ran long so I haven’t had a chance to get a break in between the different experiments and now I have class, so basically this is the post. It’s a busy day and I still have so much work to do! Good luck to everyone out there who is also swamped. Hopefully the weekend will give us a break!


More on mentorship

It’s dangerous to go alone!

One of the more enjoyable aspects (see: favorite thing ever) of being a PhD candidate and about half way done with my degree (… WAIT. HOW THE HECK DID THAT HAPPEN?!) is that I get to be a mentor. To be fair, I’ve been mentoring since my senior year of undergrad, but my style has developed and I don’t… flail as much as I used to when I first started mentoring students.

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Dataset mining

We use heavy equipment to mine our data around these parts…

I did an experiment! That’s old(ish) news, but now I have some data to play with… lots of data. So now I get to do something somewhat enjoyable and that’s try to get cool and interesting stuff to fall out of it. All you have to do is shake it really hard and hope for the best.

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A breakthrough

Oh yeah!

Well… where the hell do I even start? Yesterday was actually a semi-okay day. I mean the world is still on fire, the pandemic is still killing far too many people( but somehow not enough for the people in charge to care), and I mean let’s face it, it feels like the human race is in the death throes. HOWEVER, all that aside, my microscopic insignificant day wasn’t bad… now I’m worried.

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Distractions, distractions

Comic by theAwkwardYeti

Why people think that we could be MORE productive in a pandemic is beyond me. I can barely get myself out of bed most mornings when there ISN’T a pandemic killing ~1200 people a day. I mean how high does that number need to be before you too are less productive my fellow compassionate human?

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The Nyquist frequency

Parts to a wave (top left) a example wave (bottom left) and different examples of how waves change based on frequency (top right) and amplitude (bottom right)

A few days ago I realized I had never bothered to explain the nyquist frequency. Considering it’s been over a year now since I explained some of the frequency domain things that I do in my lab, I’m actually surprised I missed something so important. Well, better late than never today we’re going to explain the nyquist frequency and why it matters… to my work at least.

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On being exceptional

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time then you know I’ve had a hard life. A very, very, hard life. The thing that keeps me going isn’t money, it’s not the chance for fame, or for people to remember me when I’m gone. The thing that keeps me from very literally killing myself is the chance to help people. That’s a selfish goal, but everything that drives us at its core is a selfish thing.

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Path planning

One would think that the pandemic would put a lot of things on hold. Unfortunately (here in the US anyway) that isn’t the case, it just makes things harder to do because everyone expects you to perform at a higher rate now that you’re not commuting to school… how the hell that works is beyond me.

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Into the unknown

Time to cross that bridge…

Today is going to be a somewhat anxious day for me. It’s the day I get to crack open my data and see what spills out. There was a process to get to this point of course, it took me about a week, but today with just a few clicks I’m going to see if I have something or if my idea was never meant to be.

Read more… if you dare!

3D Print… yourself!

It’s hard to tell the scale from this image, but you’re looking at a full sized copy of my spine. Yes, full sized as in big, really big!

You know what’s boring? Going to the doctors office and getting an MRI. You sit there forever! Of course a CT scan is faster, but there’s still a lot of waiting involved and in the end, you get to see a quick glance of the images captured if you’re lucky. Where’s the fun in that? Well I’m here to help you do something with that information. Useful? Maybe. Fun? Definitely!

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School is coming…

3D printed spinal column still in parts getting ready for cleaning and assembly.
Did I mention I 3D printed my spinal column (as in a copy of MY spinal column)? Because I did. I’ll post up an explainer how later, but here it is in pieces waiting for me to have a few free moments to clean and assemble it. In the meantime, this is the teaser image for it.

With classes about to kick off I’m left wondering what will be different for me. This term I’m doing the safe thing and taking a single online course. The rest of my time will be focused on my research and doing what I need to do to be ready for my PhD proposal defense (the step I want to take this fall term. So what am I doing to get ready?

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School and COVID-19

School being cleaned in preparation for students return. This is security theater, it spreads from student to student more readily than from desk to student.
This is security theater, like taking your shoes off at the airport, it does nothing to keep you safe. Instead it makes people feel better, in this case the school for letting your children spread this virus without a care.

School, I would like to consider myself a lifelong student, but formal instruction is a little different than learning on the job or via the web. With classes starting, my stress seems to be slowly ratcheting up. Oh I’ll be fine, I’m taking an online course this term, I’m worried about everyone else.

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A busy day!

Yep I use this image a lot, but it’s such a great representation of our labs work!

Well I didn’t plan for it, but today is a busy day! I’ve got a lot going on at the moment so not a lot of time to write. Let’s just talk about what I’ve done and have left to do so I can get back to it.

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Process the data!

This is what raw EEG data looks like. Seriously, it’s a bunch of squiggles. However, we can make sense of it and we can even write some code to make sense of it in real-time so you can control things with your brain!!! <EVIL LAUGH>

It’s a process… that’s for sure. So you’re a scientist and you collect a ton of data, well now what? We’re talking about me of course. I did it, I collected a ton of data and now I need to do something useful with it. This is the part I wish I could skip over and get to the part where I get all the cool results, but I guess we’ve all got to start somewhere.

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A new chapter and a look back

We’re looking forward today… while looking back too. I did a big thing! I finished my 365 days of academia goal, it felt too big to do, but here we are. So what’s next? Well we’re going to talk about where we are, where we were, and what’s coming, so let’s get to it!

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The end

I fully and completely wanted to die. I like starting stories of my life off that way so you set your expectations low and your pity high. I wanted to die and I tried to kill myself the best way I could think of, obviously it didn’t take. Today is the end of my 365 days of academia project and I feel like looking back, way back. If you feel like reading a super depressing tale, then this is for you!

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Day 364: The lazy goals

An old photo, but one that I think came out nice.

Awhile back I made some goals for myself. They weren’t your normal everyday kind of go get em’ goals, they were what I call lazy goals. That’s right as a full grown adult I reserve the right to have lazy goals. I even check them off on a list, seriously. You should too, it really does help remind you to take a break.

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