SHD Boston 2015


Science Hack Day is back in Boston!

Science Hack Day will be happening on January 24-25, 2015 at the MIT Media Lab, in Cambridge, MA. The weekend will include cool hacks, cool people, and hopefully you! Edit: The event starts at 10am on Saturday 1/24; a full schedule can be found here!

For attendees: Stay tuned to this site, and/or follow @SHDBos on Twitter for updates. A detailed information and signup page will be launching soon.

For potential sponsors: Check out the sponsors page.


Boston’s first Science Hack Day – congrats and thanks!


Demonstration of Evolutionary Music, a cellular automata/MIDI tracker. Photo by Cameron Myhrvold

We held the first Science Hack Day in Boston this last weekend, October 19-20th in B-100 and B-103 of Northwest Labs, on the Harvard campus. It was a blast!

Photo by Saul Tannenbaum

Discussing hack pitches on Saturday afternoon. Photo by Saul Tannenbaum

After hearing exciting lightning talks and project pitches on Saturday morning, groups formed around a huge variety of different interests, including transcranial stimulation, cellular automata, the human gut microbiome, and the language of science communication.

The next 24 hours was filled with discussions, brainstorming, prototyping, coffee, and couch naps. A few inspirational die-hards hacked on their project all night long!

On Sunday afternoon, groups demonstrated their work to judges, who named their favorites.

Tied for Grand Prize: Wikipedia Women in STEMWikiWomen

Women are underrepresented in Wikipedia, both as editors and within articles. In an impressive solo effort, Jessica McKellar built Wikipedia Women in STEM, “a proof of concept project that programmatically identifies Wikipedia articles on women in STEM that lack important basic features, making it easy for casual contributors to take on bite-sized projects.”

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Archival recordings

Tied for Grand Prize: A “Laser” phonograph

The Harvard Poetry Archive needs a way to screen through lots of unlabeled lacquer discs that are too fragile to be played mechanically. Many are likely to be uninteresting, so it would be too expensive and time-consuming to digitize them all with state-of-the-art technology. However, some contain things like Robert Frost reading his own work. To find these, this group developed image processing tools to convert grooves in a record to sound files so that anyone with a commercial photo scanner can digitize old records. At the time of the presentations, the audience was able able to hear a second-long snippet of (clearly musical) sound they had extracted from one groove, but they didn’t stop there. Stay tuned for more exciting updates from this group!

In addition the two grand prize winners, judges also named two honorable mentions.

.Honorable mention: Fads and Impact Factor

ST impact

The brief fame of “deep sequencing” and “synthetic biology.” Photo by Saul Tannenbaum

What’s considered hot in science? This team found that the answer to that question changes rapidly from year to year. They developed a tool to look at the relative impact factor of PubMed keywords over time. Using this, they showed that many fields rise and fall out of glamour journals with alarming speed.


Photo by Cameron Myhrvold

The topic of Impact Factor was also touched on during Christina Szalinski’s talk the previous day.

Honorable mention: Open Source Collaboration Software: File Previews

This group worked to extend the file preview capabilities of the Center for Open Science’s Open Science Framework. It’s a collaboration tool that allows scientists to archive and share data in a variety of formats, and several file types were added this weekend!

Congratulations to all the hackers! Watching the feed of the presentations below, you’ll be able to see why the judges had a difficult time deciding on winners. You can also read about all the awesome hacks here.

In addition to the fantastic groups that presented hacks, we have many people and organizations to thank!

  • The generous sponsors who made this possible: FAS Center for Systems Biology, NSF Physics of Living Systems, American Society for Cell Biology, swissnex Boston, Wyss Institute, HMS Postdoc Office, and Boloco.
  • Our fantastic speakers: Dan Novy, Buz Barstow, Michael Baym, Melissa Lewis, Sikander Hayat, Christina Szalinski, and Jose Gomez-Marquez.

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    Hardware hacking

  • Our judges: Pamela Silver, Professor at Harvard Medical School, Henry Holtzman, Vice President at Samsung, Jessica Rosenkrantz, Creative Director of Nervous System, and Jesse Louis-Rosenberg, Chief Science Officer of Nervous System).
  • My co-organizer Willow Brugh, for all her guidance and help with every aspect of the planning process, and for her amazing facilitation skills during the event,
  • Our patient and generous host Ethan Garner, who secured and coordinated our beautiful venue,
  • Jenna Eun for her help with organizing publicity and sponsorship, and manning the registration desk together with Lyre Calliope
  • My lab mates: Cameron Myhrvold for his photography skills, and Tyler J. Ford and Steph Hays for baking morale-sustaining brownies and an truly epic cake,
  • Ariel Waldman for providing helpful advice!

And most of all, thanks to everyone who came to brainstorm, hack, and observe!

We are already looking forward to the second Science Hack Day in Boston, which we’re planning for next year! To be notified with registration opens, please sign up here. If you’re interested in helping with organizing or sponsorship, please email me at


Surviving (and smiling) hackers on Sunday afternoon. Photo by Cameron Myhrvold

Speakers confirmed!

We’re pleased to announce a fantastic lineup of speakers for the morning of Saturday, October 19th! Each of these presenters will be giving a brief 10-minute talk to inspire hacking.

We’ll also be encouraging all interested participants to come prepared with a 90 second pitch for a specific hack.

DanNovyDan Novy
Research Assistant, MIT Media Lab
Science Fiction to Science Fabrication -or- Pulp to Prototype
Science Fiction to Science Fabrication combines the analysis of classic and modern science fiction with the fabrication of actual physical prototypes or code-based interpretations of the technologies depicted therein.

michaelbaymMichael Baym
Research Fellow, Harvard Medical School
“Real science from consumer parts”
Consumer equipment (cameras, office machines, smart phones, etc.) are become so cheap and powerful they now rival or exceed specialized laboratory equipment. We’ll look at some examples of how hacked together devices are being used in scientific research, and perhaps get inspired.

MelissaLewisMelissa Lewis
Center for Open Science
The Role of F/OSS in Scientific Collaboration
The Center for Open Science builds free infrastructure to improve documentation, archiving, openness, and collaboration in scientific research using exclusively free and open source software. This talk will briefly describe what we’ve already built and what we hope to build in the future (including this weekend)!


Sikander Hayat
Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard Medical School
Make phylogenetic trees more fruitful
Multiple sequence alignments are essential for many computational biology methods. I propose to visualize them on an interactive 3d sphere instead of conventional 2d plots.



Buz Barstow
Burroughs Wellcome CASI Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard Medical School
“Bacteria that Eat Electricity”
Bringing together the efficiency of electronics with the flexibility of biological metabolism to make photosynthesis better.


Christina 200x200Christina Szalinski, PhD
Science Writer and Program Coordinator, American Society for Cell Biology
“Reassessing Research Assessment”
Funding agencies, institutions that employ scientists, and scientists themselves, all have a desire, and need, to assess the quality and impact of scientific outputs. But how can we assess research output accurately?


jgmJose Gomez-Marquez
Director, Little Devices lab
“Hacking Medical Technology”
Learn to use constructions sets, toys, and everyday parts to create DIY medical technology, around the world and at home in America. Our lab brings together antibodies, Legos, remote control cars, and people from all backgrounds to make healthcare more affordable and more accessible.