Network Science for All: Positioning High Need Youth for Success in Pursuing STEM Pathways

May 1st, 2020 in #DataNetSciK20, News

Boston University, in partnership with Sociedad Latina, will investigate the role that a middle school network science curriculum plays as both an input and outcome of science learning. This $1.5M 4-year project funded by the National Science Foundation will focus on development of skills to investigate real-world problems that have meaningful consequences for humankind across social, technical and scientific domains. This project will make use of publicly available data to allow students to be involved in project-based activities in and out of their classrooms that can have societal impact. The project team will leverage previously developed data-driven curriculum in the context of a network science lens, synthesize highly promising technical and STEM resources as well as in-school and out-of-school programs, and embed new education research advances on effective career development to evolve a construct that will best position high-need youth for future learning of science. The curriculum and career development resources will directly reach 600 principally Latinx students, 12 teachers, parents and other key stakeholders. For the purposes of this project, resources will be implemented in a range of after-school programs in Boston as well as in-school programs in Boston. Through a collective impact approach, the project will be replicable, scale to more schools throughout Massachusetts, inform related projects, and evolve to regional and national impact.

The project will create novel learning opportunities for middle school students to explore real-world project-based problems addressed through data analysis, data visualization and network modeling. This study will advance the field of interdisciplinary teaching and learning as well as strategies for supporting students and teachers through three interdependent strands: (1) Network Science for All workforce readiness curriculum modules, (2) applied evaluation metrics based on comparing students to peer groups through statewide data, and (3) sustainability and scalability embedded in the structure of the program. The project will be informed by several advisory boards aimed at leveraging the program in order to sustain and scale the effort. At Boston University, an internal advisory board will embed the project into the broad ecosystem of the university as part of a collective impact culture. A STEM advisory board will inform the science program. A formal independent external advisory board will guide the project’s efforts. Research will be conducted in two phases. In Phase 1, design-based research will be used to iteratively refine curriculum and programmatic interventions. In Phase 2, the research will examine the degree to which the program construct positions youth for success by examining the (1) varied acquisition of next generation STEM competencies for future workforce needs, (2) motivation and engagement of students and their support system, and (3) impact on shifting STEM-related career goals and pathways to achieving these goals. All materials will be available in electronic forms on a Boston University project website, will be licensed under open-source code and open content licenses, and will be freely distributed to teachers, curriculum developers, and researchers. Research findings will be widely disseminated through publications and conference proceedings.

Government & Community Affairs (GCA), Physics Department, Wheelock College: A New Model for BU Involvement in Workforce Development

GCA is the main contact with area residents and elected leaders, informing the public of community interest projects and efforts undertaken by the University. GCA has cultivated special, long-standing relationships with our local communities and strives to connect our community partners with the resources and expertise found across the University. Since 2017, GCA has been partnering with the after-school organization Sociedad Latina. We have provided Sociedad Latina with space on campus to run their six-week ‘Emprende’ entrepreneurship summer program, and organized campus tours for students. In addition, our office is proud to sponsor their annual gala and support their many events. GCA is always interested in fostering relationships that go deeper and that connect the academic mission of the University to our host communities. Together with colleagues from Physics Department in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Wheelock College of Education & Human Development, we are creating a new model which brings together academic and research expertise in STEM education, professional development and career pathways, to provide a unique opportunity to collaborate with Boston-area K-12 student programs to pursue programming and research that will have a lasting positive impact on student achievement and open up pathways for career development.

Modeling and Visualizing Science & Technology Developments

December 12th, 2018 in #DataNetSciK20, News

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a special issue co-edited by members of our team. For details, see the introductory/overview article Forecasting innovations in science, technology, and education. The research contained in this special issue, has implications for giving students an entry-point to understand and make meaning of science and technology (S&T) network models, data visualizations, and the role of forecasting.

Red Hat CO.LAB Retrospective & Digital Exhibit

May 18th, 2017 in Events, News

Boston University was honored to be a partner in the Red Hat CO.LAB event.

For more information, visit: Red Hat's CO.LAB and via #RedHatCOLAB on our social media channels.

BU Today “Close Up” of Project Co.Lab

April 24th, 2017 in #DataNetSciK20, Events, News

Curriculum Lead for Red Hat CO.LAB

April 18th, 2017 in Events, News


We are excited to be a partner in the Red Hat CO.LAB initiative, leading the curriculum for a three-day empowerment experience for 25 of Boston's middle school girls, April 19-21, 2017.

The five-year research partnership creating the Red Hat Collaboratory at BU's Hariri Institute for Computing available at Red Hat Collaboratory @ BU is aimed at advancing research into emerging and translational technologies, such as cloud computing and big data platforms. Our partnership is also committed to the broader impact of open source and collaboration. The CO.LAB experience is meant to empower participants to collectively take on the challenge of advancing diversity and inclusion in STEM.

From a mobile CO.LAB trailer stationed at Boston's City Hall Plaza, middle school students from after school programs Sociedad Latina and Boston After School & Beyond will engage in activities mentored by Boston University graduate and undergraduate students and Red Hat engineers and innovators:

Day 1 (April 19, 2017): We’ll give the girls an introduction to Red Hat and Boston University and talk about what it means to be a female in technology. The girls will engage in collaboration activities and learn to code Raspberry Pis to create digital cameras.

Day 2 (April 20, 2017): The girls will explore the city of Boston to photograph themes around Emily Dickinson's poem "Hope is the thing with feathers", helping them interpret and capture images that bring the poem to life.

Day 3 (April 21, 2017): We’ll collaborate to build a digital installation that curates their photographs into a cohesive story that represents the CO.LAB experience. The installation will be on display in Boston’s City Hall and at various locations at BU.

For more information, visit: Red Hat's CO.LAB and via #RedHatCOLAB on our social media channels.

Related post-event media:

BU, Red Hat & City of Boston Sponsor Co.Lab Workshop for Middle School Girls (via BU Hariri Institute)

Roundtable on K-12 STEM Education

March 21st, 2017 in #DataNetSciK20, Events

On May 4, 2017, we are hosting a roundtable on K-12 STEM education at Boston University.

The purpose is to establish a working group that will explore ways in which we can collectively propel BU’s K-12 STEM efforts to new heights, working together to integrate varied efforts into the broader impacts mission of BU, bridge K-12 outreach and undergraduate and graduate education, and perhaps most importantly inject momentum into K-12 STEM initiatives so that efforts can sustain, scale and achieve their full potential.

For more information, please visit us at BU K-20+ STEM Education Collaborative or contact

Data & Network Science Festival Registration

January 30th, 2016 in #DataNetSciK20, Events

When: Tuesday April 19, 2016 from 12 pm to 3 pm
Where: Boston University, Science Center, 590 Commonwealth Avenue

Data and network science aims to solve some of the most complex problems facing our society today. In this series of discussions and workshops for teens, families, educators, learn to see the world around you in a whole new way… through the lenses of data and networks! Data and networks are everywhere, embedded in our society, biology, technology infrastructures, and so much more. Data and networks are at the interface of science and art.

The workshop will cover the following:

Data & Network Science All Around Us

Discover the many ways in which data and network science is changing the ways we explore our and make meaning of our interconnected world. Through hands-on activities, learn about the spread of viruses and how people are connected and what that means for politics and organizations.

Design Your Own Networks

In these hands-on activities, you will build your own networks from the ground up and discover what makes some resilient and others susceptible to attacks.

Art & Visualization

Explore some of the principles of design in computational visualization of data and networks by surveying a wide range of data visualizations, and have the opportunity to program your own!

Registration is now closed. By Friday, April 15, we will be sending email to all registrants with further information.

The Data & Network Science Festival @ BU is an event in support of the Cambridge Science Festival, an annual celebration of science, technology, engineering, art and math during April school vacation week for K-12 students.

For any questions, please contact Paul Trunfio at

Information Visualization MOOC 2016 @ Indiana University

January 25th, 2016 in Hub Spotlight Series, STEM Education

The Hub Spotlight Series communicates advances in Data, Network & Systems Science, STEM Education, and Art & Visualization.

Our friend Katy Börner at Indiana University has announced registration for the 2016 IVMOOC. The course provides an overview about the state of the art in information visualization. Among other topics, the course covers: (i) data analysis algorithms that enable extraction of patterns and trends, (ii)
major temporal, geospatial, topical, and network visualization techniques, (iii) discussions of systems that drive research and development, (iv) students will have the opportunity to collaborate on real-world projects.


Art of Networks II Exhibition

January 13th, 2016 in Art & Visualization, Hub Spotlight Series

The Hub Spotlight Series communicates advances in Data, Network & Systems Science, STEM Education, and Art & Visualization.

Students who participate in NetSci High engage in critical analysis of many of these, and other, visualizations, and make group presentations. They ask questions such as:

  • Who is the intended audience?
  • What is the purpose of the visualization?
  • Is the visualization the best way to convey information? If so, why?
  • What functions does the visualization enable? Can you filter data? Can you search items? Etc.
  • Did you learn from the viz? If so, what?

For context of these in our workshops, see Why do we need visualizations? (presentation by Isabel Meirelles at NetSci High 2014) and also the Design Analysis of Visualizations Workshop Materials.

The Art of Networks II Exhibition was displayed at the 6th International Workshop on Complex Networks (CompleNet 2015).

Networks are everywhere. We find them in a myriad of areas, from metabolic to social networks, from transportation systems to power grids. Networks describe how entities—people, objects, organisms, etc.—are connected and interact with each other. The focus is on relationships, what happens between things, not within them. By studying the patterns of connections between elements in a system we can learn some governing principles of physical, biological, and social phenomena.

Over the years, scientists from several fields have developed a set of tools for analyzing, modeling, and making predictions about complex systems using network science. Given the mathematical, computational, and statistical nature of these tools, visualizations have played a key role in network sciences by adding visual insight and intuition to the numerical analysis. Broadly speaking, information visualizations can help us make sense of complex phenomena by structuring data in ways that facilitate detection of patterns and trends, and ultimately, transform data into meaningful information.

The Art of Networks II brings together nineteen network visualizations examining issues in political and social sciences, biology, technology, transportation systems and cultural phenomena. The authors are representative of top visualization research labs and studios around the world who are producing some of the most innovative work in this area.

Physical network systems, such as transportation networks, provide the spatial attribute to locate both the elements (nodes) and relationships (links) into the spatial structure of maps, for example. Most networks, however, are of abstract data, such as those we find in social or cultural relationships, and do not have a priori spatial properties for positioning elements in the visualization. There are five projects in the exhibition where entities are geo-located and fourteen that use other types of layouts, such as node-link representations, that use symbolic elements to stand for nodes, and lines to represent the connections between them.

The large prints in the gallery provide a glimpse to the content and format chosen by the authors to visually examine recent topics. You can explore the corresponding interactive applications in the iPad station located at the window sill, or by pointing your smart device to the QR code located in each panel. To further learn about networks, visit the exhibition The Many Shapes of Networks.

The Refugee Project is an interactive map that uses United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees data and United Nations population data to tell the histories of refugee movements over time from 1975 to 2012. The map visualizes the size of refugee diasporas from dozens of unstable or repressive nations each year. Concept, Design and Production by Hyperakt, a social impact design studio, and Ekene Ijeoma.

Ekisto is an interactive visualization tool aimed at imagining and mapping online communities. Reproduced at the exhibition are the algorithmic portraits of Stack Overflow, a question and answer site for professional and enthusiast programmers, and of Github, a web-based code repository hosting service, where people share code and build things together. Alex Dragulescu, visual artist, designer and programmer working at the intersection of art and technology.

The Digital Attack Map is a live data visualization of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks around the globe. The tool surfaces anonymous data related to these attacks, letting users explore historical trends and make the connection to related news events. The collaborative team behind the application includes: Fernanda Viégas, Martin Wattenberg, Colin McMillen, CJ Adams. Google Ideas. Google Big Picture Team. Arbor Networks, Inc.

Sourcemap was conceived as a crowdsourcing platform open to the general public—a sort of Wikipedia for supply chains. Anyone can register to contribute knowledge about the various phases of a product’s transformation from raw material to finished good. The software draws the material flows on a map of the world, overlaid with impact metrics such as water use and carbon footprint. Leonardo Bonanni, founder and CEO of Sourcemap.

Visualizing MBTA Data is an interactive exploration of Boston’s subway system. The set of visualizations presents information about how Boston’s Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA)  operates on a daily basis, how people use the system, how that affects the trains and also how this ties back to Bostonians daily commute. Mike Barry, software engineer at Twitter and Brian Card, software engineer at ViaSat.

The Clubs that connected the 2014 World Cup is a
set of visualizations published at the New York Times in June 2014 for occasion of the World Cup held in Brazil. The interactive tools examine how the global tournament is mostly a remix of the professional leagues that are in season most of the time. Gregor Aisch, graphics editor at the New York Times.

Lostalgic is an online application that depicts ABC’s television series Lost. The application encourages both the analysis and enjoyment of the televised narrative by means of interacting with a set of visualizations. Visitors to the website can explore all 115 episodes of Lost in four ways, that includes a timeline, spherical node-link graphs and matrices depicting relationships between characters in each episode, and a reenactment of the whole show. Santiago Ortiz, head at Moebio Labs.

Friends in Space is a digital platform aimed at fostering real-time human connection between people from all over the world and the first Italian woman astronaut, Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency. The online application invites you to say hello and directly communicate with Cristoforetti insofar as she is orbiting your section of the Earth. Accurat, data-driven research, design and innovation firm with offices in New York and Milan.

Connected China combines investigative journalism, data and historical context to offer five gateways to understanding China’s political structure. It was built for the iPad as an HTML5 application, and is available on the Web. This unique and powerful information engine was the result of a collaboration between Fathom Information Design and Thomson Reuters. Fathom Information Design, a design and software consultancy.

An Ecosystem of Corporate Politicians is an interactive visualization of the relationships between members of Portuguese governments and companies for the period of 1975 to 2013. Data is approached as an ecosystem, where each set of interdependent relations are regulated by physical conditions. Pedro Cruz, data visualization specialist and explorer.

A Network Analysis of Hubway is an online interactive visualization depicting multi-modal commuting patterns from a selected Hubway bike-sharing station to more than 8,000 MBTA bus/rail stops over the Boston metro area. Based on multiple objectives such as travel times, the number of transfers, and convenience, the tool presents optimal commuting patterns that are obtained using service information from the GTFS feed provided by the MBTA. Virot “Ta” Chiraphadhanakul, data scientist at Facebook.

Sequence Bundles is a novel visualization method that enables bioinformaticians and other scientists to explore biological sequence data: proteins, DNA and RNA. It allows researchers to gather new insight about their data, generate new hypotheses and potentially—further down the path—aid new discoveries in biology, drug development and beyond. Science Practice  in collaboration with the Goldman Research Group at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, European Bioinformatics Institute.

StratomeX is an open source visualization tool for cancer subtype analysis that allows experts to group patients based on multiple criteria toward discovery of relationships between such groupings. It combines visualization and algorithms in one interactive system to enable and speed up the scientific discovery process which can lead to more personalized treatment. Harvard University (Cambridge, Mass.), Johannes Kepler University Linz (Austria) and Graz University of Technology (Austria).

Epidemic Rapid Transit Map is a visualization showing a hypothetical pandemic scenario with the same parameters pandemic starting in Hanoi, Vietnam. The epidemic simulations are performed with the Global Epidemic and Mobility model, that counts about 220 different countries and integrates an individual based epidemic dynamic with global air travel and short-scale traveling/ commuting data.  Modeling of Biological and Socio-technical Systems (MOBS) Lab, Northeastern University, Boston.

An Examination of U.S. Gun Murders uses data from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Report, to visualize the gun murders that took place in 2010 and 2013. Periscopic, data visualization firm.

The Life Cycle of Ideas explores the ebb and flow of scientific theories. It tries to capture how long a hypothesis lives in the collective consciousness of scientists before being either disproved or accepted. The infographic originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of Popular Science magazine. Collaboration between Katie Peek, information editor at Popular Science and Accurat, a data-driven research, design and innovation firm with offices in New York and Milan.

Serendipity Search is two visualizations depicting Columbia University Libraries collection: Catalog—an interactive visualization of the Columbia Library’s holdings, circulation and activity, and Crossing Disciplines—a digital library tool for multidisciplinary exploration. The visualizations were developed at the Spatial Information Design Lab at Columbia University in collaboration with Columbia University Library.

EdgeMaps is a novel visualization technique aimed at showing the propagation of ideas and influence among philosophers across epochs and interests. The technique treats influence connections as explicit and similarities as implicit relations. A demo of EdgeMaps is available online.  Marian Dörk, Institute for Urban Futures, Potsdam University of Applied Sciences (Germany), Sheelagh Carpendale and Carey Williamson, Department of Computer Science, University of Calgary (Canada).

The Iranian Internet between Freedom and Isolation is a series of infographics examining the complexities of internet censorship in Iran. It explains who the users are and how the authoritarian regime regulates the internet. Maral Pourkazemi, design activist.

Art of Networks II was organized by Isabel Meirelles, information designer and Professor at OCAD University, Canada, in collaboration with Catherine Cramer, Stephen Uzzo and Marcia Rudy at the New York Hall of Science, and Ronaldo Menezes at the Florida Institute of Technology.

Bringing Big Data to Bear on Organ Failure

January 8th, 2016 in Data, Network & Systems Science, Hub Spotlight Series

The Hub Spotlight Series communicates advances in Data, Network & Systems Science, STEM Education, and Art & Visualization.


Plamen Ivanov is a Research Professor in the Center for Polymer Studies in the Department of Physics at Boston University and Director of the Laboratory for Network Physiology.

When Plamen Ivanov walked into Massachusetts General Hospital last year, Ednan Bajwa wasn’t sure what to make of him. Ivanov, a physicist at Boston University, was not sick and hadn’t come seeking medical care. Instead, he had a proposal for Bajwa, who is the director of MGH’s medical intensive care unit: He wanted to collect hours and hours of data on vital signs from Bajwa’s patients and analyze it to see if he could create an atlas of how organ systems interact. Bajwa recalls that initially he was mystified.

“If you’re a physician reading this stuff, you’re like what the heck is he talking about,” he says.

Ivanov is a founding member of a field that he calls “network physiology.” At Boston University he leads a research group composed of people with backgrounds in statistics, physics, and signal processing — very different fields than the ones usually associated with cutting edge medical research. These perspectives are necessary, Ivanov explains, because he’s trying to develop a whole new way of thinking about how the human body works.

“The complexity behind the anatomics of individual organ systems and the dynamic coupling between systems,” Ivanov says, “is such that it requires a special preparation that physicists and computational scientist have, not necessarily biologists, physiologists, and clinicians.”

Medicine today takes what’s generally referred to as a reductionist approach to understanding disease. In this view, physicians consider the body on an increasingly fine scale, from organs down through cells, proteins, and molecules. This way of thinking about how the body works is similar to trying to understand the macro-scale physical world by studying its most basic parts — elements, atoms, subatomic particles, and so on down the rabbit hole.

There are limits to this approach. In particular, the reductionist view can leave doctors at a loss to explain sudden overall changes in a person’s health.

“A lot of this is a function of us not understanding physiology all that well,” Bajwa says. “Organs shut down sometimes for unclear reasons. There’s a bad infection, kidneys stop functioning, we don’t always know exactly why that happens.”

Physicists refer to the sudden shift from one state of matter to another — like a liquid into a solid — as a phase change. To study these shifts, which may provide a framework for thinking about similarly dramatic shifts in the human body, they work by the credo, “more is different.” This means that you can understand the properties of atoms all you want, but when you put enough atoms together in the right way you get water, which is something completely different and far more complex than its component parts. Condensed matter physicists are trained to think this way, to take a broad view of a system and study the forces and interactions that shape it.

“When you look at really complex systems, most people would try to reduce it into individual elements,” says Kang Liu, a postdoctoral fellow in physics at Boston University who works with Ivanov. “But even when you have simple elements, they interact with each other and you’ll see emergent behavior that can’t be described as the sum of the individual elements.”

Ivanov, whose work is supported by a recent grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation, wants to take this perspective from physics and apply it to the study of the human body. To do this, he’s taking a big data approach. Patients in hospitals are hooked up to all sorts of instruments that produce data on how their organs are functioning — EKGs, EEGs, mechanical ventilators. Ivanov wants to collect as much of this data as he can and probe it statistically, to see if he can tease out how organ systems communicate with each other and coordinate behaviors. In one of the group’s first papers, Ivanov and his colleagues analyzed vital signs from healthy patients to detect three different ways in which respiratory rate is coordinated with heart rate.

This approach to discovery, of collecting a lot of data and seeing what kinds of patterns emerge, is very different than the way research in medicine usually unfolds. The more typical approach is to generate a specific hypothesis and devise an experiment to test it, and Bajwa says this difference made him slightly skeptical when Ivanov introduced himself.

But, the more he learned about the idea of network physiology and Ivanov himself, the more receptive he became. “I asked colleagues in similar fields and [Ivanov] came well-recommended, his story sort of checked out,” Bajwa says. “We met several times, he was very persistent, he kept on asking and asking and eventually broke down our resistance over here.”

Within the next three months Bajwa expects that MGH will begin sending Ivanov vital signs data from patients in the medical intensive care unit. Ivanov and his colleagues will analyze that data, with the goal of creating maps of how organ systems interact. If the research proves fruitful, Ivanov imagines that one day hospital patients will be hooked up to a whole new kind of monitor. Instead of narrowly measuring blood pressure, heart rate, and brain activity, these devices would track the relationships between key organ systems — alerting doctors to cataclysmic phase changes in human health before they occur.

Reprinted from an 11/11/2015 article in The Boston Globe