With the beginning of the dissertation phase of my PhD @RMU, calling in the friends and favors has begun. I had put a request on FB for some assistance the week prior to going to the lab at SUNY SB, and had been delighted to have a list of people to call on, from the curious cyclists, to my prior Bikefit+ clients, all willing to spend a day covered in electrodes and wires in the name of science.
I picked up Emi bright and early; she was bright, I was early. I was dragging my feet after a night of fitful sleep, somewhat overwhelmed by the long road still ahead. Nevertheless, a cheery friend and a stiff cup of java was helping. Emi climbed in the car and I popped her bike on my rack, we hit the road to StonyBrook. She has been the prior victim of inadvertently reviewing many of my papers in the previous years, as I troweled through tendinopathy reviews and made critiques and analyses of experimental studies. She and I share a love of athletic endurance endeavors, as well as a history of surgery on a cranky Iliotibial band, so we always have a lot to talk about. Her practice as a veterinary physician, and travels abroad, always steer towards a fun conversation of human and canine body parts, rehabilitation and training. We met up with Jen Gatz, another fellow triathlete/coach, and now also a PhD student at SUNY SB in science education. Braniacs all round. Jen and I have has parallel paths through triathlon, into business together with Runners Lab, and now into (more) school. Always fun to share time with. Jen quickly connected with Dr Sisto, director of the research lab, and a few of the research PhD PT’s who teach on the SUNY SB course. Within minutes, they were talking credits, coursework and qualifying exams. Yummy. In the interim, I had my trusty lab assistant (long chinese name prefers the convention of American “Joe”) hook Emi up with a full-body-gait set of reflective markers (36) and many leads for bilateral lower extremity muscle surface EMG collection (16 leads). Emi clambered on the bike and waited patiently while Joe and I calibrated the VICON, the EMG and the high speed DV cameras, then waited again while Nexxus crashed then re-booted, then waited again while I repositioned her sternal and C7 reflectors. This humdrum part of the great scientific experiment is not for the faint of heart, as the excitement might be too much. Jen sat patiently as I fumbled though one independent variable (medial wedge on foot-pedal-interface) with 3 levels (control/ no intervention, 3 degree wedge, and 6 degree wedge. Kudos to Paul Swift who had hooked me up with a kit of 12-18mm long cleat bolts, a pick for getting the muck out of cleats, and to Dennis for “loaning” me his fancy schmancy ratcheting screwdriver which made the process faster and made me look like a tool aficionado. I often have difficulty in my bikefit clinic with switching tools out, and promised myself a toolbelt, to minimize dropping, losing, misplacing the very tools I was looking for. One of my patients gifted me a tool belt designed for women, having heard me complain one day about the hardware store belts dropping from my skinny athlete hips onto the floor when fully loaded. I needed a tool holster, and BarbaraK delivered! Note to self to bring it to RRAMP next time..
Onwards with science: three hours of fiddling, recalibrating, revising commands to my patient subject, and I had collected a sum total of 3 minutes of data. Too much for my 250 gigabyte external hard drive, between EMG, 3-D motion analysis and high speed video. Holy cow. Joe and Dr. Sisto advised me to bring the 2 terabyte drive that I had in reserve, for back up of the back up of the back up. This is apparently a normal process in data collection, in case the computer that backs up the computer that backs up the computer s****s the bed.
Despite the long lab day, I was internally delighted since the night before, I had received notice from the university registrar in Utah, of “unconditionally” PASSING my core curriculum and specialty qualifying exams, and thus was allowed to proceed with CANDIDACY status in the PhD program at RMUoHP. yaaay.The sisyphyean boulder of stress had rolled off my back, as I entered this next phase of the PhD. After today’s arduous process with a single subject, I re-calculated the time that was going to be required to get through the pilot study, then the IRB, then the actual data collection. And figured that I might be using a walking frame and have a long beard by the time I was done with 40 subjects. I planned on reviewing my G*power analysis, doubling down on efforts to refine measurements for increasing accuracy, thus increasing my effect size and reducing the number of potential victim/ subjects needed in order to graduate before the next millennium. Or at least before I qualify for Medicare.
Next step: IRB application. Bring it on. I am strong.