Since the pandemic hit I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on what I’m doing in school and things that I need to finish. Turns out I’m juggling a lot. I’ve touched on this before in other posts that I have a lot going on, but it never really hit me until recently that I have all these things and none of them seem to be ending. It’s kind of frustrating and extremely anxiety inducing.
We are about to start the big summer internship program at school. I’m actually kind of excited about it. I enjoy teaching and mentoring and this is just as much a chance for me to learn as for the people I work with. However, this year we are doing it all virtually, so there are some growing pains and a lot of challenges that come along with this. Let’s look at what I will be teaching this year and how I’m going to deal with the need to teach virtually.
The world is on fire right now. We’re literally living in a real life horror movie. Depending on your proclivity for survival you are stuck almost exclusively inside your home. Yet, everyone on the internet, your PI, and maybe even colleagues seem to tell you the same thing, you can now be more productive! Yes, we are at home almost exclusively and more and more people are suggesting to use this extra time to be more productive. Well fuck that, instead here are my five tips to help you survive all this.
I have suffered more than most. I like talking about it, especially mental illness because keeping it to myself helps no one and hurts a lot of people who think they are alone. Today I will attempt to do something I am not known for, I will concisely tell a short version of my life. I will then tell you how I succeeded despite the odds. I will tell you that I struggle every damn day, but that I made it. Then I will tell you, you probably won’t and that breaks my fucking heart.
It’s summer, so we’re taking a break from my DI…why?! series to talk about my favorite thing about working over the summer. We get to do mentoring! As you may recall, mentoring is my favorite part of the job. Over the summer we get students from high school, international students, as well as undergrad students from all over the place to visit our little lab.
Well I’m making a list… and checking it… twice? Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. Well here we are at the precipice of something interesting. I want to show everyone that you can have a life and a PhD at the same time. Or in my case a hobby or two, maybe not a life, I don’t have one of those, but that wasn’t because of the PhD. Anywho I digress. Buying a home is a lot like buying a used car and today I will explain why!
Well we’ve officially transitioned to the spring/summer break. Since I am doing my own little 365 days of academia challenge, it’s important to point out that there will most likely be a marked change in the content. So let’s look at what we’ve done to this point and what will be coming up! I’m excited, are you excited? I’m excited!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
…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?
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?
Okay, maybe not just coder’s block, but I feel like I’ve hit a wall. Every homework assignment I’m given for this class includes a “create your own problem and solve it,” element and for the first two assignments I feel like the topic sort of found me. We can talk about what those two projects were, but let’s first talk about this latest assignment.
I’m not normally one for making videos, in this case I have to make (or rather narrate) two videos for this class. The first one was for our big class project and the second was explaining the COVID-19 model I created. It turns out narating isn’t as easy as it looks, even with a script.
Believe it or not, I don’t mind the quarantine. I mean sure going out without the fear of catching the coronavirus is nice, but I’m not generally a social person. There is one thing that has taken some getting used to however, that would be the education portion of the quarantine. Distance learning isn’t particularly enjoyable for me and I’m fairly sure I’m not the only one.
Another day another unfortunate datapoint for my model validation. On one hand it’s good to be able to further validate my model, on the other, it’s heartbreaking to see it coming to pass. My model prediction isn’t pretty and the trend so far has been very similar to the model. Let’s talk about how we validate the model.
Well I did it! I finished my model to the best of my abilities. There are a few things I wish I had time to change or do differently, but I think that just comes from actually doing it and not having a clear idea of how I wanted to do it when I started. Let’s take a little look at some of the outputs from the model and I’ll talk a little bit on what the model is designed for, it’s limitations, and the things I wish I could’ve done differently
Still working on my model. It’s taking a little bit longer than I wanted it to take, but I’m getting somewhere finally… I think. In any case, I don’t have a lot of time for an update. So for now this is it. I’m making progress, but I still need to get it done before my deadline, which is fast approaching. Hopefully I can manage before then. Back to work I go!
Well today will need to be short. I broke my model… on purpose, but it still broke. That means I need to go back and check my equations, make sure my assumptions are correct, then figure out why the heck I’m getting the results I’m getting. I have a good idea about what the problem is, I’m just not sure how I want to try to fix it.
I’ve made a lot of progress! Unfortunately, my model needs some more work and the code is pretty messy right now. For now, I’ll share some of my outputs and discuss what I need to do to finish my assignment. It turns out I have a few extra days to finish the work, I thought it was due Monday, instead it is due Wednesday. The slides and write up are going to take the longest so I’m still crunched for time even though I am mostly done. Let’s go over it.
Well the CO of the Roosevelt just got reprimanded just like I predicted. Ever predictable as usual, thanks military. In any case, that isn’t what we are talking about today. Today we are discussing the coronavirus model I’m creating, why it’s important and why no one should believe a model. I’m being slightly facetious, but read on and I’ll explain. I’ll even share some of my model results, it’s not finished, but I thought it would be interesting to share anyway.
Fun fact, I love pandemic movies. Movies, not so much living through one. As humans we are selfish, greedy, prone to panic, and for being “evolved” we are so very, very stupid. Basically every dumb choice you see the characters in those movies make while screaming, “you idiot, that would never happen in real life!” Well, it’s happening and wow does it do a number on a persons mental health. But hey guess what? I’m essential, so let’s figure out what that means in a time where the world is practically on fire.
Well if you missed it, yesterday was our final post in the know your spinal cord series. I’m not crying, you’re crying! Now the question is, what does that mean for the blog? An excellent question, one I wish I would’ve asked myself! Let’s take a look at some of the things that we will (probably) be discussing now that our designated topic has run its course.
We’ve made it to day twenty in our little series on knowing your spinal cord. As always, you can find each and every post in this series through our neuroanatomy category. Since we’ve covered all the major neuroanatomy, the latest posts have been on spinal cord diseases and disorders. That said, today we’re covering Brown-Sequard syndrome, so let’s take a look at what this is.
This is day nineteen of knowing your spinal cord! We covered all the big neuroanatomy and while we may go back and cover some of the minor things, we’re in the middle of spinal deformities. For those just starting, we have a neuroanatomy category to make it easy to find these posts. For everyone else, today we’re talking about spina bifida.
Day eighteen! Almost three weeks worth of fun spinal knowledge. For those tuning in, we have a neuroanatomy category just for these posts. Since we’ve covered most of the anatomy portion of the spinal cord, we’ve just started covering spinal disorders. If you’re here you’re probably wondering what diastematomyelia is, so let’s get started!
This has been a fun series of posts and today is day seventeen! As usual, you can check out all of our posts under the neuroanatomy category. I’ve got some good news and some bad news. The good news is we’re still going! The bad news is we’ve pretty much covered the anatomy. So for the next few posts, we will look at some issues the spinal cord may have. First up, let’s talk about a tethered spinal cord!
Day sixteen of knowing your spinal cord! So many posts, much knowledge! For those who are just finding us, we have a whole neuroanatomy category dedicated to these posts. If you want to take it from the top (literally) you should start with the medullary pyramids post. If you’ve been following along or only interested in this particular topic today we are covering the meninges and you’ll learn my really dumb way for remembering them, so let’s get started.
We are well on our way to finishing up the know your spinal cord series that I am doing. Today is day fifteen and as usual if you’re just tuning in we have a whole neuroanatomy category dedicated to these posts for you to check out organized in reverse chronological order. If you want to start at the beginning, that would be the medullary pyramids. Today we are at the other end of the cord, this is the lumbar cistern!
Here we are at day fourteen of knowing your spinal cord. By now you’re all experts on the spinal cord and I’m not even sure what I’m doing here. For those just joining us, we have a neuroanatomy category with all the posts so you don’t have to dig for them. If you want to start at the beginning, that would be the medullary pyramids. For the rest of you this is the end, not the end of the posts because we have a lot more to cover, but the end of the spinal cord. Let’s talk the cauda equina!
Here we are at day thirteen of knowing your spinal cord! As always, we have a whole special category for these posts called neuroanatomy and if you’re not after a specific topic, I recommend starting at the medullary pyramids. Today’s post is about something important that we haven’t touched on very much, the cervical and lumbar enlargements of the spinal cord, so let’s get started.
Day (or really post) twelve on knowing your spinal cord. We have a whole category for the posts, neuroanatomy. Today we are going to talk about the curious case of the central pattern generators (CPG’s). Unfortunately, we cannot talk about them without talking about the experiments that found them, meaning we will be covering animal studies. In particular, some animal studies that might not sit well with some people. I attempted to be general where I can, just know that it is coming.
Day eleven, we’ve almost spent two weeks covering your spinal cord! Tomorrow we will take a brief break as every two weeks I have a review paper due to my PI in the spinal cord feild, so tomorrow I will share it with all of you as well. For today, remember we have a neuroanatomy category with all of the posts we’ve done. If you’re new I would suggest you start with the medullary pyramids post and work forward, for the rest of you or those of you who are only interested in reflexes, let’s talk about some legos.
Here we are on day ten of knowing your spinal cord. As always, you can find the aggregated posts in my totally new, fresh off the line category, neuroanatomy. There posts are organized in reverse chronological order, so the first post on the medullary pyramids would be at the bottom, which is where I recommend you start if you’re new. For everyone who’s followed along or those of you who are just interested in this one tract, let’s talk about the spinocerebellar tract!
This is day nine of know your spinal cord. Now for my usual bits, we have a whole category that I created just for these posts. They are in chronological order with the newest posts first, so I would recommend you start from the beginning post or dive in where you’re interested. That said, we’re going to tackle one of the smaller, but still important tracts, the rubrospinal tract!
Today is day eight! I can hardly believe it, but here we are, day eight of spinal anatomy. For those of you who are just joining us, we have a whole new category just for these posts and they are in order from newest to oldest, so start at the bottom and work your way up. For those of you who have been following along, today we are tackling the grey matter of the spinal cord, a somewhat complex region where all the action takes place.
Here we are, a week into knowing your spinal cord (remember we have a new category for you to find these posts). If you’re just starting out, you may want to look at our new neuroanatomy category and start with the first post. For those of you who have been following along, we covered some of the major tracts of the spinal cord, so let’s dive into the structure some! First up, let’s talk about spinal nerves and what exactly these guys do.
Day six already! Today is day six of knowing your spinal cord and we’re talking about the spinothalamic tract today. If you’re interested in the other posts, the first covers the medullary pyramids and I even have a category just for these posts. Of all the tracts of the spinal cord, this is probably my favorite becuase it is just so weird! You’ll see what I mean, so let’s get to it.
Here we are day five of knowing your spinal cord. If you’re just joining us, I’ve created a new category where you can find all the posts. Or you can start at the beginning with the medullary pyramids (technically not part of the spine, but close enough). If you’re all caught up or just want to learn about this specific tract, then let’s get started.
We’ve made it to day four of knowing your spinal cord. I’ve introduced a new category just for this, which makes these posts easier to find for future reference (yours or mine). For those of you just starting out, you may want to go from the first post on the medullary pyramids. For the rest of you, you’re probably here to learn about the corticospinal tract. This will be fun, so let’s get started.
One of the outcomes of my recent meeting with my PI (my main one), is that I am going to be actively working on my writing. While I do this to improve my writing, this is far more informal than the writing I would be doing for a confrence or journal paper (both of which I’ve written). That isn’t to say that I cannot improve, there’s always room for improvement and I could use a LOT of improvement.
Now that I’m somewhat out of my anesthesia sickness (seriously not fun), I figured I would give a rundown on what having surgery through the VA looks like and some of the things you have to do pre-surgery to get ready. Since I’ve never had a surgery outside of the VA, it would be interesting to see how much of this applies to other hospitals, but I suspect that the answer would be not much.
Well I’m alive, despite the VA’s best efforts. I’m struggling with some serious nausea to the point of vomiting, which has never happened to me before. I’m also in a lot of pain, but that was expected. In any case, start to finish (start as in the operating room and finish as in getting home so +30 minutes or so to the actual finish time) it took ~9 hours total good times for everyone. Anywho, I feel like death so I’ll write more later.
Well we did an experiment. I wish I could talk more about what we did, how we did, and why we did. Alas, I cannot. So instead, let’s talk about the vague how it went metric as in, maybe we found something maybe we didn’t, also this experiment highlights several quarks between the my school lab and the clinical lab.
Today is day one of ten for the time that I have to do some experiments. It’s an awkward time for sure, I mean surgery, school, etc. However, that’s just the way things work in academia, I actually had a break, so I’m ready to go to be honest. Which really means this isn’t horrible timing. I’ve already discussed the million things going on these weeks, but let’s talk about what goes into experiments, really.
Today is the first day in the lab since break. It was nice to have some time off, I got some housework done, got to spend the bulk of my time sick (not my idea of fun), and best of all I got to see some of the city. It’s been good and now that I’m ready to get back to it, the week is looking to be busy.