The Process of Research
March 6, 2020
I cannot believe almost a month has passed since I got here. I’ve learned so much more about what grad school is like since I’m part of the research team now. I’ve also gotten a better sense of what it’s like living on my own in a large city. I could definitely see myself living in Seattle in the future because it reminds me so much of Minneapolis. Both cities are really diverse in a variety of ways and that’s something I really value. I’ve also learned how to budget my money in a realistic way because I still get to do some enjoyable things like go out to eat and site see, but this experience has taught me to be more careful about buying things impulsively because it really does add up quickly. I’m proud to say that I’ve made it work here on a really tight budget without sacrificing some of things that I enjoy doing.
In terms of my research, the project I’m working on with my grad student mentor (Janelle) has seen some setbacks. As I’ve stated before, we’re conducting HRV analyses through ECG data. However, when we’ve compared our independent analyses on the same participant files to make sure we’re consistent before we divide and conquer, we found that we were below the expected consistency threshold. This means that we weren’t cleaning or trimming the ECG files in the same way which would affect the results of our study if we were to split up the remaining files and work on them independently. So, we’re going to have to start from the beginning and figure out just what we’ve been doing wrong and get on the same page again. It’s frustrating to have to restart this whole process but I’m trying to look at this in a more positive way. At least now we both have a better understanding of what we’re doing, and for me, I now know what the expectations and procedures are for working with ECG data, so I’m already in a much better spot to redo the files. Also, these setbacks do happen but that’s a part of research. Even though we’re going to have to redo these files from the start, we’re both in a better position to approach this again and it’s just going to make our findings more compelling since we will have way more confidence in our analyses once we figure out how to do it.
I also began a new project with my mentor, Dr. Law. After brainstorming some ideas we decided that I would pursue a project that looks at the relationship between various components of social anxiety and suicide risk. Basically, fear of negative evaluation, shame, and other features relating to social anxiety may confer a risk of developing suicidal thoughts and behaviors. We’re trying to assess this relationship from an existing data set that my mentor used for her thesis project in grad school. This week I tried to determine which variables I would use and then I worked on trying to perform the statistical analyses on my own. It was somewhat challenging but I’ve managed to make progress with it.
I really think that the block plan at Cornell has helped me so much with my research here at SPU. I’m working full days but it doesn’t really feel that long. I think that’s a good sign because it means I’m enjoying what I’m doing here. I’ve noticed that certain deadlines for projects don’t feel as overwhelming. This week I wrote two abstracts and a prospectus (an outline of a new project) and it didn’t feel like too much work. I think the volume and intensity of this kind of work is comparable to the block plan, so it’s been a relatively smooth transition. I would say that I feel very prepared for the demands of grad school because of the block plan. I’m so accustomed to working quickly and getting a lot done in a very short time. The block plan takes a lot of time and energy as people know, and the same goes for grad school. But I think what sets students up very well for grad school after coming off the block plan is that we’re so used to the pace and the volume of work that the transition to other fast-paced environments is less of an adjustment. At least that’s what I think from my experiences here when I’ve compared the workload and pacing at Cornell.
Well, that’s all for this week!
John is a psychology major and philosophy minor from Fridley, Minnesota.