Posts in: Venture Grant

Buzzword: Fun, Nina: Out.

We have come to the end of my journey at EyeWire. I plan to venture into the office every so often in the coming months, but I will no longer have an official schedule.

So let us reflect

reflection

 

on the experience. First off, I am so glad I had the opportunity to involve myself in such a project. Shout out to the Keller Family Venture grant, as well as the universe for helping me make this possible. I learned about neuroscience, but I also learned about the ways I interact with the working world. I think this experience makes me fear my future less- leaving school and beginning outside life seems more achievable now that I have a better taste for it. In my future career path I am going to assign myself more deadlines. I am going to request more feedback from my coworkers, and I’m going to request it specifically. I am going to put my ideas out on the table more often, and I am going to take full advantage of “grace-periods” at the beginning of my jobs where I know nothing and am allowed to ask everyone questions about everything.

 

I’m also going to add as much enthusiasm and fun to every job I encounter. Enthusiasm makes everything more fantastic and I think it’s productive too. Everyone wants to be a part of your project when the project is fun, and everyone who can’t be a part of it will want to here about it. Speaking of fun, I will end my blogging journey with some fun photos:

Yesterday we decorated the new office we are renting. Here are printed out versions of badges you can win in game. They now grace the walls of WeWork!

Yesterday we decorated the new office we are renting. Here are printed out versions of badges you can win in game. They now grace the walls of WeWork!

We plank daily at 3:30 with our office neighbors! I thought it would be fun to try a group push up for extra athleticism :)

We plank daily at 3:30 with our office neighbors! I thought it would be fun to try a group push up for extra athleticism :)

A Potpourri of Posts

Hello people of BlockFeatures! I come to you from the land of 50 degrees, at last we have Spring in Boston! Today’s post will be heavily illustrated with photos!

EyeWire neurons are pictured on the title page of every chapter in this new neuroscience textbook! So cool- this is the book that both CC and MIT use. (Animation by Alex Norton)

EyeWire neurons are pictured on the title page of every chapter in this new neuroscience textbook! So cool- this is the book that both CC and MIT use. (Animation by Alex Norton)

This is another set of EyeWire neurons used in the textbook. Shown is a synapse, and though synapses often connect the part of the cell called the "axon" to a different cell's "dendrite", here we see one cell's dendrite connected to another cells dendrite. If you look closely you'll see that the labels are incorrect... so they must have arbitrarily decided which projection they thought was the axon. Interesting methods Mr.Mark F. Bear... (Animation by Alex Norton)

This is another set of EyeWire neurons used in the textbook. Shown is a synapse, and though synapses often connect the part of the cell called the “axon” to a different cell’s “dendrite”, here we see one cell’s dendrite connected to another cells dendrite. If you look closely you’ll see that the labels imply this is an axon to dendrite connection. This is incorrect. They must have arbitrarily decided which projection they thought was the axon. Interesting methods Mr.Mark F. Bear… (Animation by Alex Norton)

 

Will brought his 3D doodler to work so I tried to make a bistratified neuron. I like to think of myself as 3D-Cajal, but you can call me Al for short.

Will brought his 3D doodler to work so I tried to make a bistratified neuron. I like to think of myself as 3D-Cajal, but you can call me Al for short.

 

After my 3D doodle of a neuron, I 3D doodled a strawberry... or did I?

After my 3D doodle of a neuron, I 3D doodled a strawberry… or did I?

I CALL IT A STRAWBERRAIN!

I CALL IT A STRAWBERRAIN!

Moving on from 3D doodling, I’m going to present you with two photos from the common space at WeWork, the coworking office space that EyeWire HQ calls home.

WeWork is super young and hip. They, like google, hope you will combine your workspace with your playspace. Readily available complementary cornhole and beer are two ways WeWork carries out their mission.

WeWork is super young and hip. They, like Google, hope you will combine your workspace with your playspace. Readily available complementary cornhole and beer are two ways WeWork carries out their mission.

 

And you know, WeWork carries out their mission well. Here is Michael Murney enjoying some WeWork amenities.

And you know, WeWork carries out their mission well. Here is Michael Murney enjoying some WeWork amenities after hours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think I would enjoy falling for one of these coworking space schemes after college. If I can combine my workspace with my playspace then everyone wins. You can get more hours out of me if you treat me well, sure, why not? How is my internship going, you ask? Good. I’m working on some science blog posts for the website, I’ll link to them when they’re up. My time at EyeWire is winding down. It’s sad but I think I’ve done most of what I can there. I’m excited that I have been able to experience a different culture while so close to home. The culture of biotech and the culture of EyeWire that is. We will end this blog post with a section I like to call

“Professional Lessons from the Office”

#1 The best way to both make an impression and learn at work is when a project outside of your assigned area is lacking manpower. Volunteer to help out with these projects and you’re a shoo in for those jobs in the future. -Will and Chris

#2 Concerning grants: “Ask for money and you’ll get advice, ask for advice and you’ll get money.” -various venture capitalists

I’m “Digging” EyeWire (See First Photo For Evidence)

Last week the Great Office of EyeWire had another visitor from the Colorado College Neuroscience department.

Michael Murney in virtual reality. Picture by William Silversmith, friendly mocking by Nina Friedman

Michael Murney in virtual reality. Picture by William Silversmith, friendly mocking by Nina Friedman

Here, Michael is having his first virtual reality experience using the Oculus DK. He is suspended in a neuronal circuit in the retina, so all he sees is neurons in space. When he turns his head to the right, he appears to have turned his head to the right in the virtual world, and he sees the neurons from a different angle. These are neurons traced in EyeWire. I had done this earlier, and was super excited to show it off!

Currently I am working on in-game trivia for EyeWire. I am creating questions for players to answer in the chatroom, and players will receive points if they are correct. Some of my questions are about neuroscience, and some are theme based according to competitions. The most recent competition I wrote for was Cryptozoology themed. Here’s a sample of in-game trivia, where a bot named “inquizator” presents the questions:

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I’m learning tons from the Wikipedia bottomless holes I get to travel down when looking for trivia questions. I’m still learning the most just from being in the office. I think a lot of my learning is unconscious, but I am also thinking about the little things that EyeWire does that I hope my future employer also does. I am also still picking up tech vocab and such. Stay tuned for a post about silly happenings in the commonspace, aka Nina essentially presenting you with a wework ad.

Farm to Function: Pre-Research Rambles

“What is it you research here?” The German guy in the backseat asked in broken English as we drove out of Frans Josef and towards Fox Glacier on the West Coast of New Zealand. His name was David (pronounced Dah-veed) and the first of many hitchhikers to ask me about my research.

Initial conversation with hitchhikers usually goes something like this:

-       A brief discussion of whether or not I’m heading somewhere helpful to them

-       A lot of shuffling around and asking “think you’ll fit?” as we move bags from the backseat to the trunk

-       An exchange of where we are each from

-       An exchange of our names

-       A gift of chocolate from the glove compartment

-       An exchange of how long we’re in New Zealand

-       An exchange of what brought us each to New Zealand

-       And natural conversation tends to flow from there

It’s in the exchange of what brought us to New Zealand that I get asked about my research. I told David, like I told the rest of the hitchhikers, that I was in New Zealand to research wool and fabric production. Everyone has been interested and wants me to tell them more, so I dive into the story:

“Well,” I say, “it all came from this realization that people (myself included) are very disconnected from the processes behind the objects we are so attached to. My goal is to illuminate one of these processes- the process behind wool fabric and clothing.”

I go on…

There are so many components (human, animal, and machine) that play a role in the making of fabric that are hidden in the final product. When we see a wool blanket, we see a wool blanket- we don’t see sheep and farmers, shearers and mills, dyeing and spinning, weaving and knitting, artisans and machines- just a wool blanket. This concept of mistaking a part for a whole is termed the “fallacy of misplaced concreteness” by philosopher Alfred North Whitehead. He’s a big guy in the pre-research part of my research.

I want to illuminate the forgotten process in a way that people are interested in learning about it. While might be thrilled to curl up with a whole novel about fabric production, I know I’m among the few. People have no reason to want to sit down and read a research paper about where fabric comes from. As a photographer, I think a much better and more accessible way to bring this process to light is to really show it through a series of photos. People need to see the process from farm to function.

I often compare the idea with the “Farm to Table” movement sweeping over the U.S.- people are getting more and more concerned with knowing where their food comes from and how it was raised, so why not get more concerned with where our clothing comes from and how it was made?

This whole idea sparked my interest several months ago during my second block class, Reenchanting the World. Side note: if you are a student and ever have a chance to take that class- please just do it. Before I could illuminate this process for others, I felt as though I needed to go through the whole process myself. I had the opportunity to do that for my final project for that class and made this short film:

After I went through the process myself, I wanted to figure out a way beyond the little film to show the process to others… so here I am. Sitting at some strange, but really rad café/found item art gallery called The Lost Gypsy in the Caitlins.

Why did I come all the way to New Zealand to photograph wool and fabric production? Well, New Zealand is home to 4 million people and 31 million sheep- a pretty good ratio for what I’m looking at. Before I started my research, I toured around a little visiting people and places and thinking I was going to stop at every sheep farm I passed… that was a bold thought. You can’t drive 10km anywhere in this country without hitting another sheep farm. Here’s some proof and sheepy eye-candy for those interested:

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Next up on the blog: a mill visit in on the South East coast of the South Island… Stay Tuned!

Very limited wifi during my travels, but I’ll do my best to keep everyone posted!

On Automation. Read Me Even Though There are No Photos.

Happy St. Patty’s day-week from the land with Sean Fitzpatricks o’ plenty! This past week I’ve been thinking a lot about automation.

(Excuse me while I go on a tangent, I promise to return to the topic of EyeWire soon) With the current technological boom paving the way for computers and robots to automate most back office processes, the job market for human labor may shift. I have no idea whether automation will mean less work for humans to complete, or different work for humans to complete. Thinking about just the United States, I don’t believe that past technological booms have ever permanently decreased the job market, as today it seems most people take part in the workforce, with the unemployment rate hovering around 5%. Using this oversimplified “unemployment rate” statistic, we decide that any automation that has occurred thus far has only shifted the job market, creating jobs as it automates them.

So now, some of the jobs that were created through automation involve software engineering and computer programming. Human’s have made some pretty far out computers and robots. It almost seems we can automate anything. Well… we can’t yet because we haven’t automated neuron tracing clearly (or EyeWire would not exist). But EyeWire does use Artificial Intelligence trace neurons, it’s just that the AI makes extensive mistakes. This is where humans come in- they trace what the AI has missed. EyeWire’s AI actually uses machine learning, meaning that the computer teaches itself how to get better at coloring by looking for patterns in the way players color in EyeWire. So EyeWire’s AI, which was built by people, is now improving on its own. It is now building itself.

Woah. We’re building computers and robots that can improve themselves. And there are self-building robots out there. I think this technological revolution could actually lead to a decrease in human labor need because of this. In the not so far off future the EyeWire AI will be able to map neurons itself. Eventually AI will be able to do everything that humans can do and more. And when this happens, we’ll have more free time. And playing EyeWire is about being productive with one’s free time, and getting value from contributing to something real. I wonder where citizen science and other crowdsourcing projects will go if people have more free time because of technology. Will there be a surge in these projects, because people have so much free time to spend? Will we need to crowdsource manpower when technology is so advanced that people have this free time? Will the work of people be too obsolete to use manpower instead of AI?

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out, and to be a part of the world as this plays out.

I cannot offer you photos on this post because my internet connection has been sad recently. I will go on a quest to find good internet and post SO MANY PHOTOS soon.

PAXperience

Ugh guys I’ve been horrible about taking pictures. This past weekend I went to PAX East, the massive game convention. I took some un-representative pictures while there.

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These are unrepresentative because they don’t show that there were hundreds of tables where people were playing board/card games and at least a hundred booths for game companies (like the YouTube one seen above). I went in the context of EyeWire. I don’t consider myself a gamer, but I did realize that everyone is a gamer in a sense, because games are ubiquitous in all walks of life. Games are not just Halo and Legend of Zelda, they are also Scrabble and Candy Crush and ping pong and tag. I should have connected with this idea better before attending the convention, as I am working for an unconventional game, but I was a bit intimidated by those who knew so much more about gaming than me and thus I did not want to define myself as a gamer. At the convention I did feel out of the loop, not recognizing any of the big names in the gaming industry, but I still had a lot of fun checking out the booths, seeing different concepts that people have dreamt up, and people-watching. I am less intimidated now, and even more fascinated by this culture that I could know so much more about. The whole gaming industry is so relevant to citizen science projects like EyeWire, as they too are trying to create an online environment of fun, relaxation, and community.

FYErtility, Creationism, and Readbaiting Titles

In my FYE (First Year Experience course) a man named Dennis McEnnerney played professor. He did outstandingly. During some of our discussions he would claim that the small liberal arts college scene was a matchmaking business in disguise. He would claim that going to one of these colleges was a way for young, fertile, intelligent, upper-class lads and lassies to meet each other and fall in love and create more fertile, intelligent, upper-class lads and lassies.

It’s an interesting theory. It seems somewhat true, though maybe applicable to all relationships, not just romantic ones. Other applicable relationships include friendships and professionalships (cross those fingers for that last one being true).

I think that Boston is the city version of Dennis’s theory. Greater Boston has over 20 colleges, including Harvard, MIT, Wellesley, Tufts, BU, BC, Northeastern… the list goes on. Then people graduate and stay to take on biotech jobs and launch start-ups. Boston is brimming with young, intelligent, upper-class lads and lassies. As for fertility, Here is how fertile Massachusetts is (in a lot of words). Public Announcement: no one told me to censor myself in this “blogging about your time at EyeWire” thing, and so I’m interpreting it loosely.

Here’s another photo of me at a desk.

Back row: super cool eyewire neuron poster F]Front row from left to right: the edge on a monitor, a stuffed neuron, a mini glass neuron sculpture thingy majig, me.

Back row: super cool eyewire neuron poster
Front row from left to right: the edge on a monitor, a stuffed neuron, a mini glass neuron sculpture thingy majig, me.

I made a lesson plan for secondary school teachers who want to use EyeWire to teach neuroscience in the classroom. It’s estimated to take 3 hours. An average class at CC is 3 hours. Coincidence? Yeah… but like even so maybe CC should teach my lesson…

I doubt the audience for the block features blog is thick with secondary school biology, psychology, and technology teachers but here’s my lesson plan and definitely holla at me  in the “comment” section if you do fit that description.

Other things I’ve been up to at EyeWire: Emailing, odds-and-ends, using words such as “collaboration” and “gamification”.

I had a thought way back in the day when I found out that I would be working on education outreach with EyeWire. Here is the thought: I am taking a field of research (connectomics) that is controversial and still in its exploratory stage, and I am promoting it to be taught to children and teens in school. What separates me from someone who promotes creationism in schools? I know, I know, I know… it’s a huge stretch to compare these two things but I think it was valid to question my job, if only for a moment. I found that the biggest thing that makes my curriculum different is that I end my lesson asking teachers to promote critical thinking, and to hope for students to have questions that cannot yet be answered. I’d like to help motivate students to have their own thirst for knowledge. Enough thirst that they pursue knowledge independently. I wonder if anyone will use my lesson plan. Probably, I guess. I’m glad I’ll be miles away from whoever does, because just the idea of it makes me nervous. And feeling this way makes me feel young.

Desk Job Jests

Due to the “desk job” -esque nature of my last week at EyeWire, here are the photos I have taken:

Me at my desk. Pictured from left to right: Monitor #1, Monitor #2, Nina Friedman. (I have not reached 3 monitor abilities yet, see last post for details). Also pictured: 3D printed neurons mapped by EyeWirers. Unreasonably cool.

Me at my desk. Pictured from left to right: Monitor #1, Monitor #2, Nina Friedman. (I have not reached 3 monitor abilities yet, see last post for details). Also pictured: 3D printed neurons mapped by EyeWirers. Which are out-of-this-world-unreasonably cool.

It looks like the 3D printed neurons shown are a bistratified ganglion cell and a J Cell, both found in a mouse retina, but both found in the human retina as well.

Me in the elevator leaving my building at the end of the day. Can you say #thrillsoftheofficelife 5 times fast?

Me in the elevator leaving my building at the end of the day. Can you say #thrillsoftheofficelife 5 times fast?

 

 

Work isn’t actually boring. I still get to play on the internet (read: look up cool neuroscience content and blog). I just have to make fun of the office life, especially as a shout of to my CC student readers. I know y’all say you would never take a desk job, but desk jobs can be exciting too. And though I work at a desk, I’m allowed to leave it to go to the bathroom, for lunch, for calls ect. I am told this is the case with many desk jobs, and I encourage you to consider it as an option, due to the perks of playing with many monitors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below in pink you will find the golden product of my time so far at EyeWire.

I recommend this link to middle and high school science teachers and others looking for interactive online intro neuroscience content. If you don’t fall in those categories, hope you enjoyed mah pics.

**************~~~~~>EyeWire Edu Blog Post <~~~~~**************

MySQL, YourSQL, HisSQL, HerSQL

I went to the Jewish Community Day School in Watertown to speak about EyeWire during the middle school STEM day. Presenting is always difficult for me but this day was fun nonetheless. The kids were super psyched on science and this has provided me with an opportunity to directly chat with some teachers who know more about curriculum development than I do. They’re also my consumer. The teachers are receiving the curriculum I create, and they know what they need.

Ways the wonderful institution of Colorado College prepared me for this day of teaching: I taught classes to some of the students of Colorado Springs as an outreach assignment for my Neuroscience and Organic Chemistry courses. Also the CC Psych department requires students to lead lectures and discussions during 400-level courses. Shout out to Colo Coll.

Marissa (a gamemaster) and I. I swear that right outside the frame are inspired preteens.

Marissa (a gamemaster) and I. I swear that right outside the frame are inspired preteens.

Below you will find tidbits of knowledge I have due to my internship. The Laws of the Internet state that if I number these then this post will be more popular:

1. It doesn’t matter if you speak the same language, you will not understand each other if there is a big difference in dialect. All of my coworkers speak English. Some of them speak computer-programmer-developer dialect. All of them speak tech dialect. I will probably have a metaphorical nightmare soon where I am at a long dining room table with all of my coworkers, but instead of food on the table there will be handwritten APIs, raid cards, and tablets filled with databases. And one of my coworkers will say “Hey Nina! Can you pass the OS Platform for MySQL?” My gaze will dart between the unfamiliar objects on the table. And then in my confusion I wake up.

2. Someday will always need to be the first day that I speak up. I good at talking with one or two people, and I can talk in larger groups when I’m called upon by another person. I do struggle to speak out unprompted. This applies to EyeWire, CC class discussions, and life. At EyeWire group meetings I’ve spoken here and there, and I don’t necessarily need to talk in every group meeting. But if I have something to say, shyness should not be the reason I hold back.

3. A Squid must be at least 20 inches to be classified as a Giant Squid. My new big task is to create a list of science trivia questions for a bot to spit out during the next EyeWire competition. If you play in the upcoming Cryptozoology themed competition, you now may have the tools to answer one of the questions (see the beginning of this paragraph for further clues).

4. Fame does not always mean fortune. EyeWire is hot- it was featured heavily in the media for a couple of years now, most recently as the cover story of New York Times Magazine, and even in the Chinese media. Before coming to EyeWire, if I had seen a project on the cover of anything important I’d think: “Cool, this project has made it. They are doing well, they have succeeded.” But no- publicity is sometimes only a nudge towards huge cash flow. And with EyeWire, each time it hits the media is clearly is only a nudge; only a tiny bragging point when the team tries to score grants.

5. Faking it til you make it is real. I don’t know much yet, and I’m not really supposed to. You have to stumble while you pretend to have a clear plan the first time you do anything. But what’s even more real than faking it is asking questions. Then you won’t have to fake it because you’ll learn things, and know them for the future.

6. All of the cool adults use at least three monitors at a time. I don’t really understand how to use more than one monitor yet. I have three desktops on my mac, but they’re all on the screen directly in front of me. It’s hard to type and have your words pop up way off to your right. This takes a lot of coordination- who knew geeks had so much coordination?

More snow photos- we are now at 7feet with no sight of it slowing down. These are relevant because the photographer(credit to Will Silversmith) and the other photograph-ie(Chris) are EyeWire HQ employees:
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Making snowcones from real snow.

Making snowcones from real snow.

 

 

BLOCK BREAK NO RULES

Just kidding I have work tomorrow. Let’s see where I left off… Well there has been another snowstorm so that’s another 1.5 feet on Boston. I didn’t work Tuesday because the MBTA stopped service. Every transportation method, even walking, was non-functional.

And what do you have to say about this, Shel Silverstein?

And what do you have to say about this, Shel Silverstein?

When I have been in the office, I have experienced Google Hangouts(video calls) non-stop. A Hangout over here, a Hangout over there, Hangouts left and right. I wonder what people did just 5 years ago when this wasn’t a thing? We Hangout with Sebastian, with the part of EyeWire that’s with him at Princeton, with office members when they work from home and when they travel. We Hangout with the crew that’s in the office 15 feet down the hall. And almost half of the time it goes smoothly! The other half of the time there are internet failures, audio failures, video failures ect. There are almost enough failures to make me question why we Hangout so much. Cumulatively, we may spend hours a week trying to fix the malfunctions of Hanging out. Or at least it feels that way. But all that said, there’s something really magnificent about being able to see a person as they speak, especially when everyone is scattered beyond two locations. It’s easier to coordinate who’s speaking, who’s listening, and how everyone feels about what’s going on. It’s easier to pay attention and verify that you are communicating clearly. I guess easy access to video chat is a pretty cool opportunity. I just wish that setting up wasn’t such an ordeal. I also thought about how little Google Hangout is probably used on the CC campus in comparison.
Are we behind times CC or are we all just concentrated in a smaller space?

Ok! Time for a super fun topic. “Business Flirting”. No, I’m not talking about scoring yourself a date, though I did join Tindr to try to meet people/friends/climbers in area.

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What’s this “modesty” you speak of?

It’s Thursday evening, I’m wrapping up my week at work, and the sound of hustling and bustling is growing in the building’s large common/social space, which is down the hall. Jazz music begins. It’s another company’s launch party, and it’s getting busy. Our office decides to close up shop for the evening and join the party in an effort to connect with other people who work in our building. Also for the free entertainment/food/booze/fun. A few of us begin to chat with a couple of guys from another start-up. They’re nice, fun, a couple drinks in. We’re all chatting; I lean in when I have something to say because the music is loud. I’m explaining what EyeWire does, trying to advertise it and show it off. I’m laughing, and making jokes myself.

I think to myself, hm, this is just like flirting but I’m showcasing my company and myself as a worker while trying to avoid showcasing myself as a mate. But then again… what’s the difference between these two demonstrations? Some of my coworkers leave and some get separated. Now it’s just me and one guy from the other company. I guess we’re talking about slightly different stuff than if we were at a bar… but maybe we aren’t. If we were at a bar, we would talk about work too. We begin to discuss his past Colorado ski trip, as I had brought up that I had recently moved from the state. Now this is becoming a challenge. Can I maintain that we are in this conversation together to Business Flirt and only to Business Flirt? Can I clearly advertise myself as a worker and not a mate? He brought up Colorado marijuana legalization and asked for my number. Damn. I had failed. Well, I’ll put this on my To Do list. “Master the difference between Flirting and Business Flirting: Keeping it Fun, Compelling, and Professional”.
I guess next time I have to Business Flirt, there probably will be brighter lighting, less noise, and less alcohol. I think in a different context maybe I’ll be able to add this particular checkmark to my to-do list.

And to wrap up the post, more of my commentary on snow, below we have a metaphor:

Boston is hosting an interpretive reenactment of “That Child Who Pretends He Ate Spaghetti But Really He Just Pushed the Spaghetti To the Sides of the Plate”

CAST LIST
Boston: The Plate
Snow: The Spaghetti
Plow: The Fork
I think Charlie Baker is the boy… sorry, but you auditioned I guess.