REU Week 9

Welcome to the second-to-last blog of the summer! Seriously, there’s only one week left. I really don’t know what to think.

We definitely had both some wins and some frustrations this week, and I feel like the best way to sum up our week is just by listing them. Here they are:

Win: The camera and the voice recorder are both integrated into the app and work! Hooray! We’ve still got a little touch up that Arash and Michael are working on for the camera, but those three features are working well!

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Frustration: We struggled to get Github to work for us in the merging process, and that took up some time. Grrr.

Win: Our database is now set up, and I was able to download MySQL Workbench and connect to it!

Frustration: Our help ticket got misplaced in the system, so it wasn’t set up until Wednesday. Also, we’re currently waiting on a Virtual Machine to be set up.

Win: After having a conversation by phone with James, we decided to go with a usability study to evaluate our app, which will be more structured and will give us much more quantifiable data than what we were originally planning!

Frustration: This means we need an IRB. Grrr.

Win: Arash was able to crank out the IRB application in one day! We also have some questions for the study lined up.

Frustration: We haven’t heard whether or not we were approved, and we were originally planning on holding the study on Monday.

Win: Michael presented at our meeting on Friday! He did a good job, and we got some good feedback.

Frustration: James wasn’t able to be there to see it. He’s been out of the state and will be for the rest of the REU due to health circumstances.

Shew; okay, I think that sums it up. Overall, there was very little progress on the backend, which is frustrating because we were originally hoping to have the app ready to deploy, backend and all, by the end of the day this past Wednesday. Unfortunately, there’s little we can do about what’s not on our end.

I’ve been working more extensively on our paper this week. We’ve been so wrapped up in our project that it’s been slightly neglected, but I think we’re on the right track again. It’s amazing how much our project has changed these last few weeks.

This last week is really going to be crunch time. Monday through Thursday, we’re working on getting our deliverables finished up and cranking out our usability survey. Michael is working on our poster this weekend, and I’ve got a PowerPoint set up that will function as our video. Unfortunately, without project results yet, we can’t display a final video yet.

As for the project, we’re really just praying that the IRB goes through on Monday, but I’m planning on having that conversation in case it doesn’t on Monday. As for the backend, I’m really torn at this point between trying to get as much done as possible with the very little time I have or handing it off and prioritizing clean-up of the front-end. The deeper I get into learning about back-end, the more I’m leaning towards the latter, but we’ll see!

I’ll wrap up with five things I wish I knew going into the ProHealth REU this summer and five pieces of advice to future REUS.

Five things I wish I knew going into this summer:

  1. A huge part of research is learning what others have done. After ramp-up week, I was excited and ready to jump right into conducting research myself. I was kind of frustrated when we spent the first week or two essentially just reading, but it’s pretty crucial, if only so you don’t repeat what others have already done.
  2. Research projects aren’t necessarily set and can change at the tip of a hat. I’ve really had to embrace being flexible this summer because our project and research goals have been in flux since day one.
  3. The people you work with can make or break your experience. It’s been really interesting hearing other REUs talk about their positive and not-so-positive experiences with mentors and partners this summer.
  4. Research is a challenge. There’s a lot of moving parts in research: funding, the project, meetings, IRBs, etc. On top of this, you’re going into a very specific area, looking to answer a very specific question that no one has answered before, which leads me to my next and final point.
  5. There’s no instruction manual here. Like I mentioned, we were trying to do something that no one else had done before. Others had done similar things, such as build iOS apps as part of mHealth, or build a software program that helped parents track milestones, etc, but no one had done exactly what we were doing. I did a lot of learning on my own this summer, both in terms of teaching myself to code and learning about this topic.

Five pieces of advice:

  1. Be flexible. Research can change significantly in a very small amount of time. If you roll with the punches rather than freak out every time a shift occurs, your summer will be a lot smoother and more enjoyable.
  2. Choose your mentor alongside your project. Remember, your mentor can make or break your project. It’s important to try to pick a project you’re interested in, but at the same time, make sure to keep an eye out for the professor’s qualities also that first week.
  3. Pull your weight. Remember, this is a team effort. Don’t leave your teammates in the dust; that’s so not cool. Also, people are watching you and talking about you, and you don’t want to be known as the slacker of the group.
  4. Work hard, no matter your circumstances. Maybe you’re facing a slacker partner or an absent mentor. If so, don’t let that slow you down. Again, people are watching you. If you put in the effort and do a good job in spite of your circumstances, people are going to notice, and you’ll be rewarded for that in some way or another.
  5. Remember that you’re being paid with taxpayer money and act like it. You signed the contract when you accepted this job to work for 40 hours a week, so you need to be working and working diligently at least 40 hours a week. Prove that you’re not just sucking money from the government doing some “research” that doesn’t matter.

Have a great week everyone! See you back next week for our final blog!