I was dismayed this afternoon to see the following in the Capital Times:
Free bacon makes UW-Madison research project sizzle
If you cook the bacon, they will come.
That's what a team of food science researchers at UW-Madison learned Tuesday, when their bacon tasting drew more samplers in a matter of hours than similar events usually draw in days.
Man, what a gyp! Last time I took part in a UW-Madison research project, all I got was a needle in my arm and an MRI.
The project was run by a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Kinesiology. It studied blood vessel structure of the brain; brain blood flow responses to exercise, breathing air with low oxygen levels, and breathing air with high carbon dioxide levels; and which chemicals are important for allowing brain blood vessels to get larger. Don't think from what I just wrote that I have any particular understanding of what the study was about; I just copied that text out of the consent form they gave me when I signed up.
Luckily, I didn't need to understand it to take part. All I needed to do was report to the Wisconsin Institutes for Medical Research, have some blood drawn, take some pills, and get an MRI; and then return a few days later to have it done again. The only difference between the two visits was that on one, I was given a placebo, and on the other I was given indomethacin, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that you may know better as C19H16ClNO4.
The blood draw was actually kind of neat. They needed to take several samples over a period of 90 minutes, presumably to track the process of the indomethacin through my system. Rather than jab me with a needle six times, they just put a peripheral venous catheter into my arm, and every fifteen minutes they would open a valve on the catheter, draw the blood, and shut the valve. As I said to the researchers at the time, it made me feel a little bit like a cyborg.
Once the blood draw was complete, it was time for the MRI. Before putting me in the tube, they had me put in a mouthpiece through which they could regular the airflow. The first scan was performed while I breathed regular room air. The second scan was done after inducing hypoxia, by using the mouthpiece to deliver an air supply that contained a lower-than-normal amount of oxygen. The third scan was done while I breathed from an air supply containing elevated amounts of carbon dioxide, which put me into a state of hypercapnia. I was hooked up to a sphygmomanometer throughout the scanning process, and they checked my blood pressure several times during the scans. All told, that part of the study took about an hour.
I actually ended up going to WIMR thrice, because the MRI malfunctioned on my first visit. Unfortunately, they didn't determine that until after they'd drawn the blood and put me in the tube. The good news is that they were paying $15 an hour for my time, so I ended up getting more money out of the deal that I would have otherwise.
I imagine at this point you're asking why, if I was getting paid, I would complain that I didn't also get bacon. $15 an hour can buy a lot of bacon, after all. It's true! But all I'm saying is that free bacon is better than bacon you pay for, not to mention better than having a catheter jabbed into your arm or being shoved into a tube.