One of the best things about my job is that I get to play with all kinds of interesting biological data. Especially interesting is being involved in gathering data to develop mathematical/computational models of biological processes. In my particular area of research, the processes I try to model and understand are related to how humans age. These data are expensive and difficult to obtain, requiring laboratory facilities, expensive robotic equipment, powerful microscopes, laser dissection tools, access to rare tissue samples for example.
My background and principal interest is in computational and mathematical modelling. Although interesting, complex biological problems are definitely the most satisfying applications for these tools, I sometimes enjoy applying these tools to other problems for fun. For example, much of the video and digital image work I've done over the past few years has involved taking other kinds of data (image data from scanners, DSLRs, telecines, DVDs and DV cameras, audio data as MIDI instructions or sampled waveforms) and analysing and manipulating these mathematically. These data are in some sense rich (there are a lot of pixels/frames/samples -> a lot of numbers -> a lot of data) and are easy and cheap for me to capture, which makes them enjoyable to work with.
Lately I have also become interested in biological data that are easy to capture for fun. Over the past year or so, I have gathered some interesting datasets about myself. I've been thinking about writing a massive blog post describing them all, but I am struggling to find the time, so I think I'll just start with one, and hopefully add to this later.
I've written before about my return to running, but recently, I've been given a GPS training device, a Garmin Forerunner 405CX (much cheaper to buy from Amazon). This device records GPS coordinates and heart rate simultaneously, roughly once per second, for up to several hours, and if you wear it while training, you can use it to plot your route, calculate how your speed changes with time, and how your heart rate reacts to speed, terrain and durational exertion.
These data are presented in a nice website hosted by Garmin, which you can have a look at here. They can also be downloaded as .xml files for more detailed analysis. Hopefully this will come later once I've gathered more data. For now, I will go for a run!