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Posts tagged “student

The tightrope of mental health

My mental health is like walking on a tightrope, one slip and I’m done. Getting back up could take years for someone like me. The truth is, things are hard on the best of days. Getting out of bed, shaving, cutting my hair at regular intervals, things that would come easy to some require sheer force of will to accomplish. All the small choices through the day eat away at what little energy I have until I’m drained before breakfast. Yet here I am, pushing forward. It’s days like today remind me that for all the progress I’ve made, it’s still just a tightrope I walk.

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Back to outreach

Just hanging out with the bots.

Today was the finish line, like it or not the R21 grant had to be finished. My Co-PI seems happy enough about the outcome, so we’ll have to wait and see what the result is, it could be several months before we know anything. It was a marathon of work, data process, experimenting, and now… nothing. I’m finally done so I can actually focus on other projects, which is the topic of the day!

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R21 Deadline

Today is the FINAL day for me draft before we send the R21 proposal off for internal review. Technically I think we have all day tomorrow too, but I need to get this back to my Co-PI for review and his final edits before we can submit it. The good news is the scientific writer was very thorough with their edits and suggestions, the bad news is I told my Co-PI I would get it back to him tonight before realizing how much there was to do!

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The zero factorial

Permutations and combinations and math, oh my!

Today I’m doing some stats homework and was reminded of an odd quark in math, the zero factorial. It’s not very intuitive and I absolutely love weird math, so I thought I would share the fun. I never said I was normal… Anyway today we’re going to go over why 0! (zero factorial) is so interesting!

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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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R21 Grant update

We’re not even two weeks aways away from the deadline for the grant submission that I’m working on with my Co-PI and things are getting close! It feels like there is still so much to do that I don’t see how we would ever make it to the end, but really a lot of it comes down to polishing everything to make it look pretty. Part of writing a grant is telling a story, that story needs to be backed up by science, but without the story the grant will fall flat.

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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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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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A new science outreach project

Today we’re making a movie! Okay, it’s not a movie persay, it’s a virtual outreach project I’ve been tasked with by my main-PI. Unlike most outreach I do, this is going to take some planning, a bit of script writing, a easy to do exercise that can be followed at home, and lastly a little write up on everything going on. So when I say some planning, I mean a LOT of planning!

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Second grant experiment

Data processing…. now in parallel!

Ever have one of those days that is so packed full of stuff to do you don’t think you’ll get a chance to eat? Well today is one of those days for me, I’ll be busy from morning to evening today between my experiment and class I don’t get a break! Since that’s the case, I think we should look at what’s on the agenda for the day in a bit more detail and how I plan on managing my time so that (hopefully) I won’t be late for anything.

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More experiments!

*Cue mad scientist laugh* It’s alive!!! ALLLLIIIIVVVEEE!! No, I’m not reanimating corpses, I just work with human participants so if they weren’t alive it would be awkward. I mean really, really awkward. Thankfully since they are non-invasive experiments the risk of serious injury is almost zero. All this build up to say I’ve got some new experiments starting today, as in MY experiments! *Cue second mad scientist laugh*

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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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I’m getting my COVID vaccine today!

Today is the day! About a week ago I got an email letting me know that I could be vaccinated. While I’m a researcher in a hospital, my work involves a high risk population (people with spinal cord injury) so I’m front facing with patients on a regular basis. I’m also disabled which may have factored into my group placement. Whatever the case, I got a spot in line and now it’s my turn. My Co-PI who’s lab I work out of already got his, but he was in a higher group than I was. As usual I have some thoughts on all this…

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Time off!

Today was the last experiment that I’ll be doing for the next couple of weeks and since classes are over it’s time to kick my feet up and relax. Okay, not really. There are still some odds and ends that I will probably be working on while I’m “taking a break,” but overall I’m excited to not have things I NEED to do. I’ll probably be doing some house stuff too, but hey at least its a change.

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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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Outreach

I just finished with my Skype a Scientist session! You can do it too if you want, just sign up. I had a lot of fun and while today was going to be on a slightly more depressing topic, I figure we can talk about how it went instead. I love doing outreach, it’s probably one of my favorite things about being a scientist and I got to show a whole bunch of interesting things I get to do as a scientist. This was an interesting group, so that’s also a good reason to talk about it.

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More data surprises!

Data’s the gift that keeps on giving. Okay not really, but I wish it were!

Well I’ve finished with the new dataset I collected for my PhD project, it was a fast analysis so there is still a lot more I can do with it, but I’ve finished at least the initial processing and plotting. Overall it’s good news so now I’m just waiting to hear back from my Co-PI to confirm my findings or more than likely temper my excitement.

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On the importance of vaccines

Once upon a time polio was more feared than the atomic bomb. Thanks to the vaccine we’ve practically (not completely mind you!) eliminated polio from the planet. We successfully eliminated smallpox, the only existing strains live in special labs now. Vaccines are a triumph of science and are so successful that people have forgotten they are necessary for a reason. In short, vaccine fear is a byproduct of vaccine success.

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The art of doing nothing!

That’s right kids, it’s time to let my hair down and relax! Time to change out of my fancy sweatpants into the causal ones. We’re going all out and I’m moving from the computer next to the couch to the dammmmn couch! I’m going from bare foot to bare foot, I’m talking comfy shirt to pajama shirt, the whole works! Okay so maybe the comfy lifestyle in a pandemic makes taking a break a little less obvious, but it’s still worth it!

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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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Outreach in a pandemic

I’ve been matched! No, not with a dating service, with an outreach program called Skype a Scientist. If you are a scientist (any type will do) you can get involved too! I’ve talked about some of my outreach activities in the past, but heck let’s run through why I think outreach is so awesome and how the pandemic has actually made it easier to do!

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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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More data, more problems

Maybe the title should be no data, no cry. Anyway here we are another day and there’s a lot going on, but I finally did it! I got some results from my new dataset that I hadn’t had a chance to process yet. And would you believe (despite the title) that I found something!? Yep, which is great news… except there’s more I need to do! My Co-PI who likes to temper my excitement when I come to him with results has reminded me that I should wait to celebrate until the rest of the data are analyzed.

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An early present

Since my deadline has come and gone I can look around for a moment, but more importantly I don’t feel the pressure to hyperfocus on a single project. So today instead of working on that dataset I’m switching to a dataset I need to get done before my PhD proposal defense. It’s data that will (assuming I find something) further help make my case for studying my new “super secret” technique for the next 2-3 years depending on how long everything takes.

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A mental health day

Today the fatigue of the past few weeks has finally caught up to me. With the adrenaline rush that came to a head from the presentation I did yesterday wearing off, I feel exhausted. So today I am taking some time to recharge and rethink what the next few months will look like. This is me taking a mental health day, but let’s talk about the events leading up to today and what the plan is, at least for today.

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How to fail giving a presentation

Today is the big day! The day where I showcase the stuff I’ve done. It’s a bit anticlimactic to be honest because I haven’t had time to do a full analysis, just a very general overview. It was COVID you see, we shut down for a few months there so I didn’t get any data collected. When we finally got started again I had weeks to do the analysis, not months. Needless to say it’s not good.

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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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The art of coding

Well I did it. I got all the code written for the next two (of three) steps for processing my data. I can’t do the third until the second step is done for at least one dataset, but I’m almost there and the last bit of code is to visualize the data, which is substantially easier. So let’s talk about what I did and why I won’t have to do it again now.

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How can we record from the brain non-invasively?

Still my favorite photo, which I took showing the EEG setup process we use these days!

We can read your mind! Okay, not quite, we can read the electrical activity going on in the brain and we can do this non-invasively. That’s right, you can do it from your own home if you wanted (here). It’s easy and since you don’t have to break the skin, it’s about as safe as can be. The real question here is why does this even work? For that we need to talk a bit on biology so let’s do this!

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Stay home for the holidays

Yet again, here we are. We shouldn’t need to do this, but people are quick to kill off grandpa and a whole lot of other people in the process, so once again we need to use uncommon sense. Stay home. Seriously, don’t visit family, there are plenty of other holidays post pandemic to celebrate, for now just keep you, your family, and all the families your family comes in contact with safe. Stay the fuck home.

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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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Disability and Education

Per the VA, I am 100% totally and permanently disabled. I wasn’t always given that designation, I had to fight for it, go through years (yes, years and in fact almost a decade) of medical tests and several diagnoses before they finally acknowledged it. Thinking about how hard it was to get to this point, reminded me of an important issue, disability and education. The system isn’t accessible, but don’t worry that’s by design.

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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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The due data

It’s time, my data and the results from the experiment are due today. Okay, if we want to get technical the due date is tomorrow. HOWEVER, and that’s a big however, I need to get it to my PI today to review before I submit it. Which means he needs to see it today so I can send it off to the center for review.

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Computer rebuild

Okay, lots of work and not a lot of time to do it in, but today I thought I would show off the internals of my computer since I had to swap out the watercooler for one that wasn’t garbage. This is a follow up to this post, so with the background out of the way, let’s go!

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A race to the deadline

Yet another day closer to my deadline for this EEG project and I’m still trying to pre-process my data so that I can make sense of it. We’re racing the clock here and my PI is pushing me to get it done, sure I think I can do it, but then again… maybe not?

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EEG, not quite mind reading

Still one of the best photos showing how we set up EEG, that syringe has a blunt tipped needle and we use it to apply gel to the scalp. Don’t worry, we don’t break the skin, so it just looks scary, but it’s really safe.

Well I’m behind schedule and even though I was given an extra week (6 days now) I don’t know that I’m going to meet my deadline. It’s not me, it’s my computer, things take time to run so I’m stuck waiting for it to do its thing. Today let’s talk about what EEG is and how we make sense of it.

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The politics of education

It’s time to make a minor shift back to the focus of my little daily posts and that’s getting a PhD. Technically even the most political of posts are part of this journey, but I think it would make sense to discuss the link a little more explicitly since we never made the connection and I think it’s important.

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Out of my hands

November 2nd at 11:59 pm. That’s the deadline for this years NDSEG application. Which means that today is the last day for me to get my application materials ready, double check that I have all the boxes ticked, and that my references did their part (they did). Then we play the waiting game.

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The end of the experiment

Well today was a milestone for me, the end of an experiment I wasn’t too excited to do in the first place! Of course, now comes the semi-difficult part. I need to process the data, draw some conclusions, probably publish a few papers, and get a presentation made. Things need to happen quickly too, so while I’m done, I’m not. At least, not yet.

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I’m writing a book chapter!

Well talk about spoilers am I right? The title gives away the surprise for sure, but we can talk details since that’s probably why you’re even reading this. I get to write a book chapter, as in a actual published book you could get at the library, book chapter. Not something technical either, something more personal. Don’t worry I’ll explain.

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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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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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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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