Dan also recommended that I spotlight Allie Morgan. Allie is a second year PhD student working with Aaron Clauset. Allie’s research in computational social science explores ways we can use new computational methods to answer old sociological questions.
Allie’s path to Boulder is also her path to computer science. Allie studied computational physics at Reed College, and her first interaction with computer science was through the creation and installation of an interactive musical staircase. When Allie wrote the code for the art piece, she realized how much she loved how tangible her changes to code could be. Physics involved a lot of abstract thinking, but CS offered projects and opportunities like this that could make people directly excited about science. After graduating Allie worked for two years as a data scientist, but her passion for lifelong learning brought her to CU to study computational social science.
Allie answered this question without hesitation, “My Mom.” Allie’s mom has ben a lab scientist at a blood bank for the past 30 years. As Allie grew up her mom emphasized how important it was that she and her sister were in the best programs they could afford, sending them to private schools, summer camps, and trips to the ballet. During the recession her mom worked a graveyard shift and a day job so that her daughters could have this enriching childhood. Her mom’s dedication to her children and her persistence as a fellow woman in STEM, have influenced Allie’s educational career, and now her research as well.
Allie likes to bike around town and has studied dance her whole life. She takes a weekly contemporary dance class at the gym. The teacher’s background is in parkour and Allie has been doing lots of handstands!
The implications of Allie’s work are really important. If someone can identify the reasons why academia, or any work force, is inhospitable to women, to underrepresented groups, to anybody, then it can be addressed and we can begin to fix it. This is a passion of Allie’s and she believes it’s important for work and academic environments to be welcoming to everybody. Allie also loves the process of collecting a lot of data. “There is something thrilling about seeing an unstructured data set and creating a computational tool that will help you understand it.” This appreciation lies in Allie’s desire to build things, to organize and find pattern in chaos.
Allie has seen all 8 Fast and Furious films, has worked at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, and taught ballet to junior high students her sophomore year of college. In high school, Allie won the senior award for fine arts for her involvement in the creative writing, dancing, and visual arts conservatories. When Allie lived in Portland, a man calculated the circumference of a specific traffic circle, and Allie joined other cyclists to ride around the traffic circle 500 times—a total of 100 miles! Keep Portland Weird!
Never stop learning, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and make sure you schedule fun time—it’s so easy to be a workaholic, and balance can be hard to find unless it’s a part of your calendar!
What is the worst way to get home? There is one shortest path, but infinitely many silly and inefficient paths. “Like, what if you really avoided all of the cracks in the road?”