Project Management Report – Entry 2: Ethics and overall reflection

So the Ethics application is much more lengthy and complicated than I had originally envisioned. Also, one of the neighbours is getting their front drive, no, front garden and front drive entirely redone which is involving a lot of drilling and is giving me a flipping headache.

I have completed a reasonable amount today. Would be good to stop expecting too much of myself.

The ethics application needs to be my main priority this week.

As an overall reflection of my work on this project so far, I have managed to focus on getting literature searches done without dragging it out or trying to open too many tabs whilst I’m doing it which has been a previous difficulty for me. As the literature snowballs quite naturally and I get recommendations from my supervisor as well, there was no point spending ages finding papers – especially as there’s no point finding loads if I don’t have time to read them!

Setting deadlines for things, such as meeting with RN, helps motivate me. It doesn’t matter too much if I miss these deadlines as it’s the pressure I need to keep the ball rolling.

I want to crack on with my literature review, especially with building a design for my project. That is straightforward as I know which papers I’m looking at to get started with it.

What’s less straightforward is the Ethics application. I didn’t realise how lengthy it is and how many steps are involved. Plus RN used some abbreviation in his email about it that I definitely do not understand – academics!

I still have my list of researcher skills I want to start on. Unlikely to get onto that today but maybe later this week. Or in lulls in my energy.

Key points:
1. Set yourself DEADLINES
2. It will be difficult to get the Ethics done without a solid design based on the literature.
3. Start on researcher skills to break up other work, i.e. in mid-afternoon time.

Project Management Report – Entry 1

And so now begins my summer research project. All other assessments are done and out of the way*. PhD funding application is submitted. I am now suffering from a sneezing fit but honestly the research project is now my main focus (once this sneezing has gone away, I promise. I do NOT have hay fever!). I have gone through all the emotions over the past month: relief, despair, panic paralysis, excitement, boredom, frustration, invigoration and genuine joy. I have decided to give up this masters on several occasions. I have been persuaded to continue on several occasions. And now, here I am (the sneezing has passed!) with only one goal and less than three months to go. A real slog.

Before beginning a review on the project thus far (which is minimal) and an account of my first proper supervision meeting, I will provide some extra context to explain my frame of mind. *As mentioned above, I said all my other assessments were “out of the way” but in a sense that isn’t true until the end of next week. I had a meeting yesterday for academic misconduct and I am waiting for the outcome of that. For the record, I never imagined being in this situation ever. I think of myself as too smart and too moral. But here I am. And I am starting to second guess myself – was I clear enough about it not being intentional? Do they think it wasn’t intentional? I have already submitted my student statement but I should have slept on it and now reading it back it looks like I am admitting to purposeful plagiarism. AH crap. So anyway, two of my essays for that module were flagged as plagiarised. Not the entire thing or massive chunks. But bits and pieces and I am now wondering if they will just give me a mark of 0 for the whole thing. Mark reduction (to a certain extent), I can deal with. ANYWAY, I can’t spend the whole day dwelling on it. If it does get to being a mark of 0 then I will contend it. There. My point is, I am now acutely aware of how important it is to stay on the ball and to not let stress and poor time management get the better of me again. I am also starting this with quite a bruised ego, but a little humility every now and again is good for character, I believe.

So, onto the research project itself. I have RN as a supervisor and I was previously a bit wary of this as he seemed forgetful and too laid back. I thought I had bitten off more than I can chew with a very scientific topic surrounding Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, pain and temperature mechanisms. I also remember feeling much more of a connection with another supervisor, ET, who had a topic that I would find easier. Thankfully, after our last meeting, these fears have dissipated. We got on, we laughed, his informality set me at ease, and he just felt like such a contrast to my previous research internship supervisor, MB, that I can already feel much more of a lightness when I think of academia (all doom and gloom before!).

In the meeting itself, we discussed quite a lot in a short space of time. We started with discussion of how to induce and measure pain perception without causing actual pain. In his previous studies, he has tended to use skin conductance to measure threat perception as an indication of pain reaction, which is what I thought we would be using. However, he stated that skin conductance has a lot of flaws to getting the data, matching the data to time points and to actually always having “normal” results. Skin conductance doesn’t always necessarily predict pain sensation, either. What he suggested was reaction time, which gives an indication of embodiment issues. Chronic pain, for example, gives slower reaction times in mental rotation tasks. Recent pain, on the other hand, creates faster reaction times. This is obviously something I will need to do more research into myself for the literature review/design justification.

Therefore, his initial idea for a study, which is much more straightforward that what I had envisioned, was using an ice bucket to change the temperature of one hand, and then see if this causes slower or faster reaction times (either due to cold which will detract attention or pain which will focus attention).

This gave us a 2×2 factorial design: before and after immersion, immersed and non-immersed hand.

I then suggested at this point that dominant hand may have an effect so we decided it would be easiest to counter-balance this in the study. I also wondered if gender would play a part as women tend to suffer from chronic pain and CRPS much more than men. This is something to look into, and may need controlling for.

This study still has a relevance for CRPS as it is looking at a lateralised, thermal effect, but remains straightforward to analyse as it does not introduce too many factors. We did, however, introduce one other factor (but left it at that!) which was different hand positions. This is because that while imagined movement is used often for rehabilitation, it is often fine motor tasks that CRPS patients find most difficult. Therefore, we are going to examine if fine motor hand postures are harder to mentally rotate.

We discussed the need for an immersion thermometer for standardisation or if we could use ice blocks instead of or as well as an ice bucket. This is something to establish in a pilot study, along with using an insulator to keep the opposite hand from becoming cold, as well. We can also use the pilot study to work out how long the study will take and how long the hand will stay cold for.

I also queried if looking at a different hand to your own would modulate the effects of a cold hand, maybe making it easier if you do not embody the hand you are seeing. This is because me and my supervisor would use pictures of our own hands in the study, as using the participants’ would take too long. Therefore, this introduced a second, separate study to compare the use of an individual’s hands with the hand of another on reaction times.

All in all, a very productive, positive experience.

Action tasks:
Researching reaction times as an indication of pain and embodiment problems. (DONE 22/06)
– Researching mental rotation/imagery
– Different effects of cold/heat/temperature asymmetries on embodiment and mental imagery
– Is gender an important factor for pain? How to control for this? (DONE 26/06)
– Fine motor movement for CRPS
– Different ways to induce coldness in studies
– Begin working on Ethics Approval (Started 21/06)

 

PhD plans

So I guess some things have changed, but everything remains the same. Difficult to not fall into a real lull between assessments. They’ll hit me like a ton of bricks if I am not careful. The internship is still going at snail pace (the research internship is a module where you work with someone for approx. 80 hours, helping with their study and writing something useful for them e.g. a Methods section) but I feel like I’ve tried my hardest to get it going. Still, it’s 20 credits that I don’t want to do badly on, but I feel least motivated with that module, shame.

Me and my boyfriend just hit one year! Big landmark for me, never got this far in a relationship before. It’s been weird learning about compromise and trying to stitch up your life with someone else’s. Especially as he’s three and a half hours away! Applying to the University of Reading was a tough one for us. He doesn’t want me somewhere else that’s not Bournemouth for three plus years, and I can’t blame him. But we’ve been looking at the various options and we’re happy to both be flexible! So I am having one more shot at funding for that. The final push. So I’ll be applying to the Parkinson’s Society and seeing how we get with it. 🙂

(http://wp.me/p8abcF-2j for my previous PhD mention.)

Didn’t quite meet expectations, did it?

As part of the course, we all need to complete a module called Professional Skills which has multiple elements to it (that are all then submitted together as a portfolio). One of the elements is signing up to some of the courses put on by the Graduate School. In theory, these shouldn’t take longer than 2 days max., and most are half days. The one that I am working on at the moment is called Introduction to SPSS. Now, don’t get me wrong, I did plenty of stats at undergraduate and I loved it. And I made the terrible assumption that more stats would just be a compulsory part of this course. However, it isn’t, and I am somehow two thirds through with no idea what a t-test is. Because I finished my first degree in 2014 and probably haven’t done anything statistical since the end of 2013 in all honestly. My memory did not hold onto much, I tell you! So now I am desperately trying to get my stats skills up to scratch via extra-curricular mini courses, because if I finish this Masters with no idea how to analyse data, then the whole world will take me for a fool.

 

(Also, part of the Professional Skills module is to demonstrate reflexivity regarding this “extra” learning. Think this might be more of an outburst than reflexive post…)

Meeting with my project supervisor

It’s Doris Day today. I prayed this morning that the storm would get so bad that I wouldn’t need to go in and meet with my supervisor because of my fundamental lack of ideas. Although I had one, it was someone else’s. Anyway, the time came and I got in my car and the journey was fine. By the time I was on campus, the wind had picked up and my once sturdy and dependable (and very pretty) umbrella is now in a bin.

If it wasn’t clear, I was kind of dreading this meeting. He wasn’t in a swell mood, either, as his lab has been flooded. But we did um and ahh and we’re going to see what we can do with my stolen idea. I am just glad he isn’t scary like my internship supervisor. The idea is looking at temperature asymmetry in limbs/hands, to see if this changes body perception and pain, based on what we know about complex regional pain syndrome. I’ve got a week to crack on with the research to build a solid hypothesis!

But back to my presentation for now.

Getting into the swing of things.

Hi there. Long time, no speak.

 

After the initial disappointment (which I oft described as ‘bummed out’) of not getting the funding for my dream PhD research had passed, I realised that whilst it was a shame and that the system is against me etc. etc., I actually had had a wonderful opportunity to go after something that I wanted which is rare for me. I like the easy routes, the guarantees of feeling good about myself. I had also got to the interview stage and, according to my potential supervisor (PS), that was impressive based on the level of competition. I have since applied for some ‘lesser’ funding and have heard nothing back since. As my PS is on maternity leave, I doubt I’ll be at the front of her mind anyway, so I am going to let that one drift for now.

 

As for my assessments, well. Never have I ever been so stressed. I was genuine when I told my tutor how concerned I was about my grades. It felt like a trainwreck to me. But it seems I am that person that whines about how terrible she is only to get very good grades. Yeah, I hate me, too. I am happy with them, and outstandingly shocked with glee over one of them (thankfully worth the most credits so far, as well, kerching!). This has probably given me the confidence to look at the rest of my Masters with much more enthusiasm. It’ll be over quickly I know, and I don’t want to think I spent the whole time acting like someone forced me to do it.

 

That being said, I have a sinking feeling in my gut which is a somatosensory response to presentations. I can’t help it, I wish I could. I have one next Tuesday which is preluded by having to contribute to games activities over the weekend. Double whammy of ‘Oh, heck, all eyes are on me.’. Classroom discusssions, or clowning around with people, and I get a kick out of being centre of attention. As soon as I am standing and it’s formal, then suddenly I want to run and/or puke. So the next few days are going to be excruciating and I guess that’s unavoidable.

 

In brighter news, I have discovered an interest in consultancy and looking into ways to help Psychology branch out a bit more into mainstream relevance. It’s exciting to discovere potential new passions.

Waiting

This week, so far, I’ve been waiting to hear back about a PhD application. I was told I’d probably hear by… yesterday. I know it’s pointless, but I keep thinking that the more time goes by from that point, the less likely it is that it’s me they’ve said yes to. Which is disappointing, but I can deal with that. I’m just not very patient, and I hate not knowing.

In the meantime, I’m trying to get myself back on track for the new semester which starts next week. Mondays are 9-5 and then we have Professional Skills workshops on Tuesdays (the only reason I started this blog, although I have not kept to the guidelines one bit). The rest is up to me.

I don’t want a repeat of the last two weeks. It was intensely stressful and I knew I could have produced better pieces of work. However, the whole PhD application thing was unexpected and uncertain. Difficult to plan for. Which meant other things (i.e. assessments!) got pushed to one side. I wrote a very poor essay in 24 hours. On the other hand, my exam went better than expected! Not all doom and gloom, ha. So, yeah, the aim is to read up, excruciating detailed plans, and kill any lesser priorities (basically, everything else). If anyone has any tips about time management, when you feel like you’ve literally tried everything? That would be grand.