Dissertation Year: Day 87 -- IRB, proposal, pilot

This is a blog series on my (hopefully) final graduate school year, detailing my dissertation project from beginning (ish) to end.

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TL;DR IRB and my RAs are all ready, my dissertation proposal is not -- I'm feeling disjointed.

IRB revisions

So the IRB got to my protocol and (per usual) sent it back with revisions. Most were very simple to deal with (mostly to the consent form -- needing more specifics about EEG) so I'm hoping it will all be fine (and timely).

Unsure how quick the turn around is for revisions, but I'm hoping it will be faster than the current timeline (wouldn't want to wait another two months for this to be reviewed).

Proposal edits have been... very, very confusing for me

On one side, my advisor is 100% in support of my document. That's great. On the other side, she is the only person who is well-versed on human cognitive neuroscience -- the rest of my committee are either behavioral neuroscientists or people who have used human neuroscience methods but wouldn't claim to be neuroscientists. It's been a struggle to get everyone on board with my proposal simply because I'm writing in depth about theory of mind and game theory strategies but missing out on tiny details that they believe are necessary. But when incorporated, they say something different?

It's been frustrating because I have been writing and re-writing for a full year now. And I still can't make my committee happy with this document. So I'm really feeling useless and helpless.

Par for the course, I suppose. Although, in comparison, my peers who have also proposed have spoken about how easy theirs have been. Making me feel even more useless. Unsure if it's because I'm a terrible writer or because my idea is just terrible. Maybe a mix of both?

Pilot part 2

I've been training my assistants on how to code in MATLAB and use some toolboxes that I learned when I was an undergrad learning EEG. We created a pipeline for pre-processing EEG data for their specific projects -- all the way through data visualization. So they should be mostly able to process and analyze data on their own (once data collection is done). Through our first pilot and training, we noticed certain things were missing -- markers and the timing of certain screens in all of our tasks -- so we went back and made changes.

This week is our pilot week (part 2) with people a handful of people in our lab. Ideally, all of the kinks have been worked out of the experiments and they can run smoothly. Then, our pipelines for pre-processing are all built and just need to be scaled for batches of participants. Assuming all of these tasks go smoothly, we should have approved IRB to start collecting actual data very soon. Since we have money for these experiments now, we should have all of our data collection done in a few weeks (optimistically). In the meanwhile, the first handful of participants will serve as data for our abstracts to be sent to the Human Brain Mapping meeting (deadline is Dec. 15th, so the window is pretty tight).

But since most of the heavy coding is all done, data collection should really be the limiting factor here. I'm wildly optimistic, but I also believe it's all possible in this 4-6 week time frame. As Abraham Lincoln once said, if I had 6 hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend 4 sharpening my ax. In this case, we spent most of this semester sharpening our code. Waiting on IRB and data now.


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