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image borrowed from a great thrillist post about at-home workout hacks. Check it out here.

In times of stress (and self-quarantine), working out is critical. There’s a lot of content to choose from, but for those used to going to classes or gyms it may be hard to switch.

With that in mind, I’ve made a list of a few of my favorite online workout platforms, classes, and apps. Most of them at least offer free trials (yay!) and some of them are always free.

Even more exciting, they’re super varied — from boutique NYC and LA workout classes offered digitally to running apps, Instagram Live Streams, large scale platforms, and even a magazine offering free online workout videos, there’s something for everyone. …

Looking at data and data representations through a new lens

a data craft where there are pipe cleaners of differing colors used to map temperature of a weather even at different times
a data craft where there are pipe cleaners of differing colors used to map temperature of a weather even at different times
A great example of data crafting from one of our participants, Tianqi Zhou.

I recently led a workshop on Data Crafting. The idea (of getting our hands dirty by crafting with data) spontaneously arose in a conversation between myself and Natalie Vladis, a Quantitative Fellow at Harvard Medical School.

Here’s what happened: Natalie loves crafting and lives in data. I love data visualization, occasionally hodgepodge things, and believe that adults don’t play enough. In the month of January, we wanted to facilitate a creative, hands-on play date with data — to make data approachable AND to build a space where experts can explore new facets of their data.

The value of play is scientifically grounded. But play in the context of data? That’s relatively new. Most literature in the space focuses on building data literacy in children, and while design has often integrated facets of play to inspire new work, it’s failed to effectively trickle down into its interdisciplinary neighbor, data visualization. …

What we learned, what we didn’t expect, and (most importantly) what we keep at our desks to survive as first-year PhD students.

At MIT, there’s an age-old adage about drinking from a fire-hose. That fire-hose is school, and research, and generally transitioning to a new home, all of which we choose to do because the institute has called our name.

In hopes of easing future students’ transitions — to slow the flow, you know? — I surveyed a few of my nearest and dearest of peers and will now share our cumulative takeaways with you.

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the firehose. because same :0


“… the main thing I learned is that nothing is ever as big a deal as I think it is.”

This is a pretty big one: you have four to forever years in your PhD. That’s a small blip in your life, and “big” things that happen — even when they’re painful — are not going to matter in the long run. Communication challenges with your advisor, difficulties in class, TA’s questioning your intellect, none of that is going to mean as much next month, let alone three years. …

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I’m organizing this list as three collections: one is a list of fellowships and grant opportunities for women specifically, one is a general list of fellowships that computer science students can apply for, and the final one is for diversity fellowships and interesting opportunities that I find over the next 5+years as PhD student at MIT.

This will be updated as I find more applications and when I have time :)

For Women:

  1. AAUW American Fellowships support women scholars who are completing dissertations (nearly finished PhD students), planning research leave from accredited institutions (post-docs), or preparing research for publication (faculty). Applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Candidates are evaluated on the basis of scholarly excellence; quality and originality of project design; and active commitment to helping women and girls through service in their communities, professions, or fields of research.

If you’re anything like me — essentially a noob in all things functional — you’ve heard about Elm, but have little actual experience developing in it. At this point, I’ve taken a class that spent two-ish weeks on Elm. I wanted to share my initial feelings on the language for those of you who have heard of Elm, but are unsure as to whether it’s worth the time to get emersed in the community.

With that in mind (and the fact that I’ve wanted to make a blog for a while anyway), here’s an introduction to web development using elm.

What is Elm?

Elm is a functional language that compiles to Javascript. It was structured in order to avoid many of the pitfalls and confusion found in Javascript development. For one, there are NO runtime exceptions. …


Aspen Hopkins

Hi! I’m a PhD student in the MIT Vis group. I’m interested in AI, HCI, data visualization, and how tech impacts human experiences. Find me @

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