Another day at SUNY Stonybrook’s Rehabilitation Research and Movement Performance Laboratory..
Racing from an abbreviated swim session, I headed to the lab with a wet head and tired arms from a hard 3000 yards, but excited to have my bike on top of the car and a new plan for the morning. Schlepping my fancy schmancy wireless power trainer into the lab in one hand, and my bike in the other I was fuelled on high octane (decaf) coffee and ready for another brain blast. Greeting the other lab rats (undergraduate and post-grad students), I switched on the computer, set up the trainer, bike and settled into the basics of lab work..figuring out how to make my dissertation hypothesis actually get tested.
Today was a basic run-through, as a prep for a pilot study and basic data collection. I really needed to determine whether this crackpot idea of mine could actually come to fruition. With skin dry as dinosaur scales after my chlorine immersion, I hardly needed the alcohol swabbing prior to sticking all the reflective markers on my body, but submitted to the protocol. Loaded up with reflective markers, I rode my bike at the pre-ordained 90 rpms, and 150 watts, standardizing seat height to limb length, and keeping a straight face as Christos took photos while Jeanette did the keyboard magic. Spotting too may “ghost” points (reflective spots outside my body), she had instructed my colleagues to tape over my shiny silver bike shoes, and any other shiny bits on my bike, with blue masking tape. Fancy. Now my shiny racing bike and fancy shoes looked like we had had a run in with that crazy blue guy group.
For each measure of an independent variable (in my case, one independent variable, 3 levels: with orthotic/ wedge @ 3degrees, 5 degrees and no orthotic) the computer operator must identify every single reflective marker in 3-D, and give it a name. There is a running competition in the lab for the speed at which the computer guru can label all 42 body points, accurately! Jeannette was doing marvellously, followed closely by Christos. Being stuck to the bike, and thus limited in mobility, I was running a close third. Every time I wanted to participate in the computer work, I had to get swaddled in a white hospital bed-sheet, so as to make myself invisible to the 12 cameras surrounding the lab. Feeling like the poor kid on the block at Halloween, I stuck to my role as lab-rat, making Jeanette promise to help me figure out the recording process on the next visit.
I recorded some of the fancy screen shots using my i-phone, swearing to myself to lose some of the “OMG this is so crazy” factor before my next session. I can’t help it, this stuff is so much fun, so interesting, and has such a high geek factor for me.. I love it. I truly can’ t stop feeling excited every time I see a million data points moving / cycling on the screen in front of me.
Dr. Sisto and I conversed as I pulled little silver balls from my body, and we tossed about ideas about other potential measures that could be used. I wanted to include “stance” or basic pedal width,and a reference point on the saddle, necessitating a few more markers, also true “Q” angle, from the ASIS on the pelvis, to the tibial tuberosity, via the center point of the patella. This would allow me to immediately refer to the (limited) cycling literature, and compare my findings with those of the giants in the cycling industry. She concurred that this information is important, and so we took some preliminary measures of standing Q angle, with and without wedges underfoot. Since the basic premise of my dissertation involves examining the effect of wedges on the lower extremity kinetics/ kinematics, collecting some standing data was a good place to begin. And since my shoes were tightly taped up with masking tape, there was no way that I was going to get any wedges inside without a struggle. Next time, black, zip-on booties. Such is the process of acquiring a PhD. Slog slog slog for the didactic work, then problem-solve with masking tape in the lab. I love that the brainy, academic work is in some way balanced by the completely practical, that the reality of post-graduate research involves making-do, compromise and juggling. Just like life.