Week Six

A few years ago, a good friend of mine convinced me to attend one of her yoga classes. I had never liked the idea of yoga, in large part because my body has never been very flexible, but I decided to give it a try. Fast-forward to today and yoga has become an integral part of my life. I find that the practice helps me feel both grounded and centered, especially sequences that focus on balancing postures. That’s why I was especially curious when I discovered stand-up paddleboard yoga was being offered through the campus outdoor adventure center. Wednesday this week we arrived at the lake in the early evening. I had never used a paddle board before, but after a few wobbly minutes, I got the hang of it. Our instructor then led us through a sequence that culminated in some challenging balancing postures. As could be imagined, this resulted in more than a few people plopping into the lake! Back on shore, we ate smores and finished out the evening watching a perfect sunset over the lake. It was a great night!

Balance has been my mantra this week. In general, it seems like one research question leads to many more and it can be easy to get lost along multiple investigative paths. That’s why I continue to remind myself of the need to balance scientific curiosity with focused completion of specific project deliverables. This week I created a simple feed-forward dense layer neural network and ran my data through it for the first time. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the network was classifying the data with an initial accuracy over seventy percent, with lots of room for improvement. Since then, I’ve adjusted the data input slice size (allowing for incrementally larger representations of change in flight path) and the number of epochs (the number of times the network iterates over the data) and have increased the network’s accuracy to more than eighty-six percent. 

While I plan to continue making adjustments to improve accuracy (enhanced network architecture, data input-methods, etc.), I also made sure to spend time on specific project deliverables such as revising my literature review, drafting my methods and results, and outlining the sections of my poster. My graduate student mentor Mike gave me some great feedback on my literature review which I have been implementing. In the lab this week, Dr. Detweiler led a discussion that focused on thinking critically about the research process. We were each asked to give a two-minute description of our projects. This was helpful for me because I had to think about explaining my project in a succinct but comprehensible manner. We also learned more about how the research funding process functions. Overall it’s been a great week and the next will be very busy as well as our first poster draft is due!

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