Monday, March 30, 2009

Last Meal

One of the cool things about being a grad student is the abundance of research studies going on all around.

I think all college campuses get those flyers about sleep studies - recruiting volunteers to record how long they sleep, sleep less, or sleep more, come in overnight to be monitored while sleeping, hand over your firstborn, whatever the research requires. My campus has these in abundance, papered everywhere. Not so much the "you sleep too much" kind. Mostly of the "we want to study you because we CAN'T BELIEVE YOU ARE STILL ALIVE with the amount of sleep deprivation" variety.

But I think graduate-heavy and medical-heavy schools in particular have a cooler variety of research studies recruiting volunteers. If I see one that looks interesting and pays enough to be worth my time, I'll rip off the contact info and volunteer.

I trained on the next generation simulator intended for NASA astronauts to use to learn and practice how to run the manipulator arms on the space station. It was a bummer because there were two joysticks and hand control sets, with the dominant ones for the right hand. I generally choose to be left handed. I asked if I could switch the controls, but I was told that since on the space station they are, um, BOLTED DOWN, I couldn't really be moving those around. However it turns out I am really good at inspecting nose cone tiles, and maneuvering space-walking astronauts around on the end of the arm. I am not so good at moving tools around. Hey, if you've got to lose something, better it's not the astronaut, right? By the end of the study I had earned the highest grade of achievement that the simulator awards - whatever that means. I don't really think "Master Flight Controller" is gonna earn me any points at NASA....

I did a short, two hour study on hand-eye coordination and depth perception. I had to thread needles with one eye closed, stare at checkered grids, and other slightly dizzying tasks. They wanted me for this study because just like I'm almost even between dominant right and left hands, I'm also almost even in which eye is dominant. Remember the archery? I'd do the eye-dominance tests repeated times, and half the time get the right eye and half the time get the left.

And then last year I saw an advertisement for a really well-paying, interesting looking medical study. It turns out there is a six week screening procedure. I made it through the screening procedure, and they handed me a check for an amount half my monthly stipend just for getting through that!

The reason it pays so well is that it's long - two years. Of course, since I'm chained to my lab chair getting a PhD, I know I'll be around that long. The study centers around food - they provide food for you to eat for the first month of the study, and then after that you can eat whatever you want, they just want you to write it down. And come in once a month for a blood draw.

So the month of provided food starts tomorrow morning, and lasts through April.

And what was I doing tonight? Making a batch of brownies, of course. Of which I had four helpings. :)

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