MDI Computational Bits and Bites Program Kicks Off The New Semester

Written by Paige Kupas, MDI Journalism Intern

MDI Computational Bits and Bites returned this fall on September 21. It is an opportunity for postdoctoral students with an interest in computational research to talk about their work in an informal setting with their peers. MDI fellows Dr. Nathan Wycoff, Dr. Le Bao, Dr. Helge-Johannes Marahrens organized the social.   

Wycoff explained that most meetings consist of one or two postdoctoral fellows sharing slides about their research, which opens the door for other fellows to learn something new and make suggestions about whether or not the presenter should consider a different type of regression or model their data in a different way. Last year, presentations included a wide variety of topics, like an Earth Commons fellow sharing their research on the impact of mosquitos on climate change in Hawaii and a medicine fellow talking about the use of mobile phones for contact tracing in epidemiology. 

The attendees work on research ranging from forced migration to environmental psychology to social media to survey methods. While at Bits and Bites, attendees discussed their own research, what other members of their cohorts are working on, getting research published, and plans for the upcoming year.

Dr. Paul Valcke, a postdoctoral fellow at Georgetown’s Environmental Justice Program whose work focuses on developing models for economic organization and migration, makes time to attend Bits and Bites meetings because of their interdisciplinary nature. “Sometimes it feels like there are a lot of silos, and that’s why I appreciate Bits and Bites so much. It seems there is a bigger and bigger movement to break the silos, and I think that is quite exciting,” Valcke said.

The collaborative and educational nature of Bits and Bites is what makes it such a worthwhile experience, according to Valcke. “What I really appreciate with this type of meeting is that you have the technical things still presented in a way that is easy to understand when you are unspecialized, but at the same time, because it’s very friendly and relaxed, you have good discussions,” Valcke explained. 

Wycoff stressed that Bits and Bites aims to be a welcoming environment where “any postdoc who defines themselves as doing computational research, or just enjoys talking about computational things even if they don’t do them, is welcome.”

While the Bits and Bites group met for a bagel brunch for this first meeting, they plan to return to pizza dinners for the rest of the semester. More information about the next Bits and Bites meeting can be found here.

Bits and Bites