Student Forums
A journal of social practice & professional engagement for the Antioch community
HomeArticles Posted by Keenan Grundy

Author: Keenan Grundy


Electrodes, Brains, and Live Subjects: Grundy ’17 at Wright State Research Institute in Dayton, Ohio

Feb 23, 2016

For my second co-op term, I managed to land myself a local gig not but twenty minutes up the road at Wright State. Well, not at the university per se, but rather at a cozy little building just off I-675 called the Wright State Research Institute (WSRI). My job? Brain research! More specifically, transcranial direct current stimulation research, or tDCS for short. There will be a more thorough explanation of what this is later on but, for the time being, all you need to know is that it involves electrodes, brains, and live subjects. Make of that information what you will. It’s certainly not what you would expect from such an innocuous-looking building. Yet, while this theme of office-like mundaneness might transfer over to the aesthetic of the interior as well, make no mistake, there is some incredible research happening inside.

After a rocky start involving paperwork and the official start date, my co-worker Megan (another Antioch co-op student) and I became acquainted with the team that we have come to share a workspace and workload with over the past couple of months. At its head is Mike Weisend, an outspoken fellow who is not so unlike a mad scientist with many of his ideas. His knowledge and experience in the field of tDCS are invaluable assets (assets that are, unfortunately, tied up in travel or meetings a lot of the time, leading to a difficulty in access). If Mike is the brain, then Jess, a quirky graduate student who, while soft-spoken, has a range of knowledge able to be expelled at a moment’s notice, and Matt, a talkative full-time research institute employee, are the right and left hands. And, finally, we get to Jeff, an upbeat guy with a passionate love for all things math, who I have had the supreme pleasure of chatting with on a daily basis. They’re all unique and create an irreplaceable vibe at WSRI. Oh, and did I mention that all of them are wicked smart? It has been an absolute pleasure getting to know them while picking their brains through conversation, listening, and observation. I’ve definitely needed it.

The primary project I have adopted could be described as the most curiosity-satiating, headache-inducing endeavor I have undertaken in recent memory. My task seemed so simple initially: build an interface that generates arbitrary current waveforms and sends them out, independently, to a host of electrodes attached to the head. Easy! Right? Well . . . not so much. As it turns out, my proclivities for software over hardware have proved aggravating to my efforts to progress in this project. While I can conceptualize the programmatic design of operation for such a system, my limited knowledge of circuit design has led to a steep learning curve. With all the factors to consider, I soon found myself swamped by concerns of safety, output, feedback, channels, portability, and the appropriate hardware to implement all of it. It would be safe to say I’ve become obsessed with the completion of this device before my co-op is finished. Whether or not this will manifest into actuality is still to be determined. The stress this has caused me is certainly noticeable. Luckily, as of today, I believe I have found a path through the labyrinth. I never thought I would say this about such a short period of time, but it’s been a long road, one made enjoyable and possible by those walking beside me.

I like to think that the work we’re doing is going to someday ensure the safety, effectiveness, and practicality of such devices. The possibilities for application seem endless right now. Indeed many organizations are treating the technology as a bottomless reservoir of opportunity without much regard for patient forethought but, if this co-op has taught me anything, it’s that such notions of sweeping, idealistic grandeur only signal a lack of appropriate questions being asked and roadblocks being encountered. This means there is still a need for redoubled effort into ensuring the integrity of tDCS and other brain stimulation methods to ensure long term success. It is this niche role of critical analysis from within the field that I feel has been the most meaningful contribution of both my work and the WSRI tDCS team as a whole. It has and will continue to be a wildly stressful blast, full of more information than I can manage at times, but the numinous nature of the experience has led to heaps of personal growth. I simply hope that by the end of this term I will have offered them as much as they have given to me.

Photo credit:


Work Sets You Free: Grundy ’17 at Chroma Technology Corp in Rockingham, Vermont

Feb 09, 2016

Where else to start on this river ride of introspection than by stating clearly, firmly and loudly, “Chroma has been a blast!” I have not felt this impending sense of liberation, achievement, and exuberant spunk in quite some time. Why impending, you ask. Well, it’s due to the nature of the position Chroma holds as “The First” within this new journey of mine. The first Co-Op. The first experience as a truly independent entity. The first step on a journey which I am now ever more sure will contain an abundance of the above three qualities.

“Work sets you free!”, a phrase with some questionable history behind it, contains an element of truth, regardless. To some, work is just a job, to others it’s a career, and yet still, to some, it remains a symbol for anything dull, monotonous, or “un-fun”. But, despite all this, there remains a group of people for whom work is the very fabric of what ties them to the world and their existence.

My work: When I first arrived at Chroma, I was given two tasks to accomplish. “Assist the Steering Committee with 2-way communication” and “Create a dashboard for the coating halls”. In the process of carrying these out, I soon found myself in a host of projects all around the company with a variety of people in a myriad of departments. This widespread involvement permitted the creation of a “capstone” project. This project took the form of an in-depth analysis of Chroma’s communication infrastructure which was accompanied by a series of presentations on my findings made available to the entire company.

For the most part, I met the above goals as well as the personal ones I had set for myself at the beginning of the term those being: learning SQL, improving my dashboarding and developing my own communication and information management skills. But if you had asked me where I thought I would end up at the end of this Co-Op, I would not have said here. “Here” being a point far beyond those now, seemingly simple landmarks that I have integrated and moved past on my developmental journey.

The amount of personal, technical, and educational growth I experienced this Co-Op was staggering. I gained a variety of skills, made a great many contacts, but, most importantof all, I gained some much needed perspective on what a change of circumstances can offer with its novel challenges, its dynamic environment, and its test of your resolve in rising to the occasion, all of which I embraced with each misstep as well as each triumph. Not so bad for a first Co-Op, if I do say so myself.