A Day in the Life of a Research Assistant
6:45-7:30: I wake up, eat breakfast and get ready for work.
7:30-8:00: Palo Alto is a bike friendly area, so I bike 5 miles to the Menlo Park campus of the Palo Alto VA Healthcare System.
8:00-10:30: I begin my day by reviewing the statuses of my projects and taking care of administrative tasks to keep them on schedule. Research projects require extensive behind-the-scenes oversight, including composing protocols, drafting budgets, securing IRB approval (ethical approval) and scheduling meetings. These responsibilities vary depending on the projects' different stage — from grant writing to data collection to paper submissions.
10:30-12:30: Once the administrative tasks are complete, I turn my attention toward research activities. I conduct qualitative research, so I use a program called Atlas.ti to code interview transcripts, then I write about those findings in scientific articles. I also spend this time reading relevant papers and joining teleconference meetings with collaborators.
1:00-4:00: My fellow research assistant and I then travel to the Palo Alto VA's primary care clinic to gather data about how physicians ask about and manage pain. One of us recruits patients to join our study and the other hands them a Galaxy tablet with our survey app loaded onto it. The tablet survey asks patients about different pain screening techniques ("On a scale of one to ten, how bad is your pain today?") then reports the results so that we can figure out the best way to ask about pain.
4:30-5:30: At the end of the day, we drive back to the office, transfer our data, and make sure all sensitive information is stored securely. I then head to the gym to play basketball with coworkers and veterans getting treatment for PTSD. Hearing their stories has given me a deep respect both for their duties overseas and for their daily struggles assimilating back home.
5:30-6:00: I conclude my day with the same 5-mile bike ride back to my apartment.