electrodes and electric fencing (2007-10-05 - 8:53 p.m.)
Today I learned to attach electrodes to a participant's skull in order to measure their brainwaves. Psych postgrad was a great idea! Where else could I learn these useful skills?!
Seriously, though, it was pretty cool to be given the opportunity to try that (though I won't lie to you - it's extremely tedious). It came up in a lab meeting and I looked interested and my supervisor asked if I wanted to learn. Er, yes please! This school has incredible equipment lying all over the place. (Well, not literally, and you have to be very careful and not waste any gel etc etc, but still). So basically, you make the participant wash their head to get rid of any oil and whatever else, then put the electrode cap on them and use conductive gel to try and get the electrode to pick up. The gel's abrasive and gritty and you have to sort of scrub at the scalp to try and get rid of dead skin cells that impede the current. Takes ages. Then you put one electrode above and one below the eye to catch eye movement and blinks, and run 'em through the experiment. But it is incredibly tedious and I'm not sure I want to do too much more of that. Also involves touching strangers' faces, which I'm squeamish about. That said, it does allow you to actually see what the brain is doing at a given moment, which is incredibly interesting.
In other news, classes have started with a vengeance and I'm in at the deep end in at least one of them. That would be the fMRI module, where I barely followed the lecture and am struggling with the "homeworks". The class had about six masters students and twenty or so faculty and PhD students, though, and so I do believe the prof scaled up the level of the lecture just a tad. ArGH! Will park my butt in the tutorial all day Monday and attempt to catch on. We are learning a new programming language this week (!) which we will need for all the other homeworks, and I don't know about anyone else but sometimes it takes me a bit more than a week to learn a programming language. Perhaps I'm just slow.
Also tried fencing the other day, which I believe I mentioned. It's a long way away (relative to most places in Bangor - ie. it's a 40-min walk roughly) and I wasn't really in the mood but figured I should try it to say I'd tried it. So I get there and the beginning isn't promising, being a warmup of running and skipping around the gym with some psycho fencing-prodigy girl behind me going on about how she "ALWAYS warms up for at least an hour! We can't be done already?" Bah.
Then we had to put on the kit, which is that weird white outfit with the funny breeches. There's a sort of an undervest or cloth breastplate, literally for girls (though it's, er, more like two hard plastic cereal bowls). Then a cloth strait-jacket that does up the back, a glove (only one) and a helmet. This last caused me no end of trouble because I have a funny-sized head and none of the helmets fit. The medium was way too loose and the small way too tight. In the end they found an old crappy one that no one had used since the '60s, and sadly, it fit. Hurt like crazy trying to get it over my ears, though.
So we learned the fencing step (always in a straight line) and how to parry and thrust and then got to hack at each other with foils and it was great fun, actually. You talk about hitting each other with surveyor-stake swords in the back yard - THIS is the natural next step, not the Bangor Wargamers. I was still undecided about whether to join but was coerced into coming to the pub and had such a good time that I am now seriously tempted to return. There's another free class next week and I'll go to that and see how it goes. Really though, it's only twenty pounds for the year and that includes loan of all the kit and weapons. Can't really argue with that. I'm more worried about the time as it's Tues and Wed night AND Saturdays. However, I might only go once or twice a week and not learn as fast and leave some time for homeworks (and maybe to learn to sail, which I try on Sunday, except there's not supposed to be any wind so we will see).
By the way, when you get better you get to do something called "Electric Fencing". This would personally make me feel like a farmer rather than a fencer. You can take the girl out of Alberta...
Last night was the Departmental ceilidh. I'm not sure why a uni in Wales is welcoming newcomers with a ceilidh, but I was very happy to attend as they were hard to come by in Edmonton. I danced quite a lot and drank the free wine and ate the free food and had people pointed out to me in a stage whisper by Jen and salient bits of information and gossip passed along. Not that I will remember. The high point (or rather low point) of the evening was when I was dancing with a rather nice man who was asking me all about what I was up to at Bangor. So I told him all about my masters, etc etc, and then said, "Oh, and what do you do?" "Er.... well, run the department, really. I'm the Head of the Department."
Luckily he took my complete obliviousness rather well.
Also danced with my fMRI instructor, despite the fact that he's rather the bane of my existence at the moment.
Haven't been up to much else. Participated in another experiment for cash, which involved pulling faces in front of a video camera. Had to sign a thingy saying they could then show it at conferences. Really hope they don't. Also pilot-tested some stuff for Jen and Helena in the lab and met up with my supervisor to discuss the Experimental Consumer Psychology module, which is going to be a heckuva lot of work and very, very interesting. She gave me a huge pile of books to read and a lit review to start on.
Hmmm, actually looking over this entry I've been doing quite a lot. Beats the heck out of a day at the office, homeworks or no homeworks.
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