Friday, July 1, 2016

Brussels, Bikes, and Brainwaves

Brussels, it turns out, has a Grand Place. Seriously, that’s the name of its central square, as I found out when I visited with the other interns last weekend. The skeptical side of my mind senses an ages-old translation error here, but for whatever reason it is now ingrained in the local psyche and written on maps. To be fair, the square is impressive: every building touching the Grand Place is liberally coated in gold accents and decorated with carved stone figures that probably predate the Gutenberg printing press. Besides seeing the Grand Place, Lakyn, Stephanie, Michael, Chris and I also visited three local art museums and caught the Belgium—Ireland game at a local pub. The entire country is avidly following the European Cup, so we joined an exuberant crowd in cheering Belgium on to the elimination rounds. It was awesome.

This has been an eventful week for a number of reasons. Academically, I’m gearing up to do some human subject studies with our EEG headset. Until now I’ve been analyzing old data and using it to test my classification algorithms (read: if I multiply this fancy matrix by that fancy matrix, can I tell if the subject is wiggling his right hand?). However, my real goal this summer is to add a no-movement state to the classifier, and none of our past experiments have no-movement data. This means it is my job to abduct – excuse me, recruit – fellow IMEC employees to sit still while wearing the headset so I can record no-movement data. It should make for a nice break from coding.

Unfortunately, not all breaks are the pleasant sort. Thanks to two consecutive bike crashes this week, I now have a fracture in my left wrist and right knee. Fortunately Belgian health care is merciful beyond reason: in addition to getting two days off work to recover, IMEC is covering my medical bills. All I have to do is recover and exchange my rental bike for one with handlebars. Oh yes, the handlebars came off while I was riding it. Twice.

Despite how it sounds, I’m basically fine and ready to get back to work and exploring. I made it to the Belgium vs. Sweden game last week on foot, but it’ll be nice to be able to bike again. This week I’m hoping to get my protocol for human testing approved and maybe even tidy up my algorithms a bit before we start recording. It turns out there’s a second set of old data that I haven’t tried to classify yet, so I’m cautiously optimistic that it might yield some useful information. Outside of work, my primary goal is to catch all the upcoming Belgium soccer games. My secondary goal is to not crash off my bike again. Priorities.

Lydia Carroll is a 21-year-old biomedical engineer on her first excursion to the European mainland. In her free time she enjoys taking things apart, putting them back together, volunteering with the Maryland SPCA, and reading any paperback novel she can get her hands on. 

From left to right: me, Lakyn, and Stephanie in Brussel’s Grand Place.

Oude Maarkt in Leuven before the Belgium vs. Sweden game.

Olli and Chris geared up for the Belgium vs. Sweden game.

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