This year the eScience Institute hosted another summer of our hackweek programs, including OceanHackweek, SnowEx Hackweek and NeuroHackademy. The sudden shift to a remote setting in spring 2020 brought new challenges for our eScience research team, and we came away with some valuable lessons learned and ideas to incorporate into this year’s iterations of hackweeks.
Hackweeks are intentionally designed to foster an environment of collaboration among participants, with these year’s programs being either fully remote or hybrid, and including participants from around the world. Here are some reflections shared by participants in our 2021 programs:
The OceanHackweek program is an event that explores computation and analysis workflows for large and complex oceanographic data. This year the team organized its first hybrid event, with participants joining in person at the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in Maine or attending virtually from across several continents like Africa, Asia, and South America. The hybrid aspect of the event proved to be very beneficial in promoting more diverse collaboration across the globe. Participants especially enjoyed working on projects with participants in opposite time zones because it allowed them to advance their work further as they took turns working on the projects when awake.
Jacquelyn Veatch: “I came to OceanHackweek with the expectation of learning some cool Python and meeting some cool people. These expectations were monumentally exceeded! The unique collaborative environment of [the program] allowed me to organize a project team that brought expertise and enthusiasm to a data problem I had been facing in my own research… Our project also produced many collaborations that I believe will last far beyond OceanHackweek. As an early career professional, I particularly benefited from the exposure to many different approaches to ocean data and the many different people who work with ocean data. The tutorials were engaging and comprehensive, and the mentors were extremely knowledgeable… It was also beneficial to meet people of very different career paths who all work with ocean data. I recommend OceanHackweek to anyone considering attending!”
Noraini Mohyeddin: “Thank you very much for allowing me to participate in OceanHackweek 2021. [The program] really provided intensive tutorials and project work that exposed me to state-of-the-art methodologies in oceanography, and provided interactive peer learning between myself and other participants. I am excited to use what I’ve been exposed to in my study, and gain a better understanding of the complex air-sea interaction in my region. I have recommended this program to all my friends and colleagues, and I will definitely recommend it to anyone who wants more exposure to modern data analysis. Thank you to all the awesome OceanHackweek organizers, mentors, and participants. Hope I can join again next year and contribute to hacking more!”
Maurício Rebouças Rocha: “OceanHackweek has an important message, especially to young scientists: ‘It is impossible to do science alone.’ Therefore, we were very encouraged to work in groups and use open source programming languages like Python and R. We shared codes and exchanged experiences throughout the week. As each participant had a different background, everyone had something to teach and learn, which provided a democratic and inclusive environment. After attending OHW, I feel even more motivated to use Python and repositories on GitHub. I am also more aware of the importance of open science and the real possibility of establishing cooperation anywhere in the world.”
The SnowEx Hackweek participants collaborate with the NASA SnowEx team to utilize satellite data to model and estimate seasonal snow levels. The event was offered remotely in July with the goal of fostering a collaborative learning environment and sharing datasets across teams.
Giulia Mazzotti: “The SnowEx Hackweek has been my first hackweek and a truly enriching experience throughout. The team spirit, the helpfulness, and the enthusiasm of instructors and participants created a most inclusive and motivating learning environment. I was impressed by the effort the organizers put into preparing data and tutorials, which I am sure will remain helpful resources for my future work with SnowEx data and beyond. It was inspiring to see how every participant, regardless of their level and skills, contributed to the success of the projects. I’m thankful to have been part of this!”
Todd Mitchell: “I worked for 20+ years as an observational climate researcher at the University of Washington. I found the [hack]week to be stimulating intellectually, and energizing with a positive, welcoming atmosphere both in the plenary and my cohort that applied machine learning to camera-trap snow images. Our group was based in 3 different cities, and Zoom videoconferencing, Slack, and Google docs made our communication very efficient. The SnowEx datasets span a broad range of sampling techniques and formats for point-, airplane-, and satellite-measurements for which the tutorials were very helpful in describing the snow world. An unexpected bonus is that tutorials posted helped the Youtube algorithm point me toward videos of data methods from a previous OceanHackweek. There are a lot of procedures to be learned to manipulate the new world of datasets, and it is a resource that I expect that to use again in my studies of geophysical data.”
The NeuroHackademy program this summer partnered with Sparkle Spaces to design an online conference where the interactive map to all the program elements was inspired by a human brain. Participants navigated Orbitofrontal Hall, Thalamus Hall, and Premotor Hall to join the presentations and tutorials, and enjoyed connecting through fun activities hosted in the Corpusocial Callosum and the Occipital Karaoke Lounge!
Alberto Mario Ceballos Arroyo: “I began exploring neuroscience just over a year ago with the interest of contributing to this amazing research area using my computer science knowledge. I decided to apply for the 2021 NeuroHackademy, and [although] I was scared at first due to English not being my first language and lack of in-depth neuroscience knowledge, the organizing team and the other participants made me feel welcome from day one. The event itself was an amazing experience: from the first week’s talks and tutorial with one-on-one interactions, to the group project during the hackathon week, as well as the extremely funny karaoke hour. I felt that the organizers put all of their effort in turning NeuroHackademy into a very inclusive experience. Having finished the academy, I can say that I’ve started building a network of neuroscience colleagues, and I am confident I can become much more involved in this amazing area.”
Yukai Zou: “Participating in NeuroHackademy is unmatched by my postdoctoral experience. My mind was truly blown: the instructors were very knowledgeable and supportive to share resources in data science and machine learning. I got to engage with the leading experts who are strong advocates for open science and reproducibility. One exciting aspect is being able to interact with other enthusiastic scientists and researchers around the world, which makes me feel connected to the broader scientific community. During the hackathon week, my teammates and I quickly implemented new ideas that we had, and at the end of the week, we accomplished a full pipeline that processes, analyzes, and visualizes large-scale neuroimaging dataset! After NeuroHackademy, I’ve matured professionally as an interdisciplinary researcher for open science, and I’m more confident to reach my career goal of becoming a faculty member in neuroimaging and neuroinformatics.”