Feeling like a real lab
Although it’s still only early February, our academic calendar says that it’s the fourth week of the semester. That means, there really is stuff to discuss, issues to address, and activity to promote among many of the members of the lab. Not everyone is in West Lafayette right now, but there’s still activity engaging all of the students. Jeff is in Maryland, working on the background section of his dissertation. Melvis is in Hong Kong, updating her research design. Natalie is in Spain, providing Kelly back here at Purdue with coding structures for the new Pharmacy / CHF medication study data collection and analysis. Yes, we’ve got that distributed performance thing covered–we don’t just study it, we do it. (That sounds more impressive than it felt two weeks ago. These things go in cycles.)
Jeremi met with her committee today to discuss her thesis concept. She proposed some pictures as illustrations of where the thesis might eventually be able to go (“I don’t know what that means, but it’s HOT!” was one comment). In lab meeting yesterday, we talked about Jake’s work with control room visualization and sonification, and its potential use in new generations of control rooms. (I find it interesting when news stories in the media, such as the expected licensing of a new power plant in Georgia, generate a response: “Oh, that’s what we talked about on the phone last week–it looks like our work has even more relevance now”.) However, it wasn’t just the topics of these discussions that fills me with enthusiasm; it was the process. The discussion of Jake’s research also became a primer on how academics put together research proposals–not just the cool ideas, but how to write deliverables, and craft budgets, and manage timelines. Jeremi’s thesis committee helped talk about how to organize a project that makes real impact on a field, but has enough grounding in existing research to give others a sense of continuity and comprehension. The folks at the National Science Foundation talk about Intellectual Merit and Broader Impact; a good project considers both, and communicates them both well.
The album by the lab’s alter ego musical persona, Surviving December (a hip-hop emo group), is filling out its tracklist. (These are, in fact, humorous references to comments actually made during lab meetings.) The new hit is “Doin’ 2 B Doin’ 2 B Doin'”–a reference to this sense of additional productivity and generativity. Let’s look at tools to help with increased project activity. We need access to the shared drive. The new monitor helps a lot in discussing the Statement of Work–what else do we need? Mendeley has most of the lab’s references and cited papers in it: over 2500, including the merged set from Caldwell’s EndNote collection. [If you’re not in the lab, you can’t see us. But we’re there.] So, the persona and the tracks are a bit of humor to lighten the mood and add a sense of shared identity and experience. But the work is real. And so is the lab’s activity. Let’s do real things, with real impact, in real settings. Because that’s what engineers do. Ideas to reality.