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Michelle Borkin

Researcher and scientific visualiser (Harvard)

in mac, researcher, scientist

Who are you, and what do you do?

I am Michelle Borkin (Twitter) and I work on creating new approaches to interdisciplinary scientific visualization and data exploration. I co-founded the "Astronomical Medicine" project at Harvard and collaborate with both astronomers and doctors to help them analyze and visualize their multidimensional data, and cross-fertilize visualization and analysis techniques across scientific disciplines. I am an Applied Physics PhD candidate at Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and a TED Fellow.

What hardware do you use?

Part of my work relates to applying stereographic 3D visualization techniques to my scientific data visualization projects. Since I like to keep things mobile, I have a Sharp 3D laptop with a parallax barrier style screen. With this type of screen there is a "sweet spot" at the center where the image will pop-out in 3D, and no glasses are needed! (Not ideal for having multiple viewers, but good for on-the-go.) For when I'm not dashing around, my computer science office is equipped with a 73" Mitsubishi 3D TV with multiple shutter glasses for group viewing/watching. (A new Microsoft Xbox 360 and Kinect are ordered and on the way, too! Those are for researching how scientists could use hands-free interactions, with devices such as the Kinect, to explore and manipulate their data.)

On the "normal" hardware side of things, since I am constantly running between my two offices (one in the computer science department, the other in the astronomy department) and the Harvard Medical School, I like to carry my office with me thus I rely on my 15" MacBook Pro (, iPhone, and iPad. I also have external monitors in both of my offices (one is 24", the other 30"). Both offices are also outfitted with Mac keyboards, mice, and nifty Griffin laptop stands which simultaneously put the laptop screen at an ergonomic height/angle and keep the laptop cool.

And what software?

Since my daily bread-and-butter is visualization, here is the variety of what I use to get through my work every day: Paraview for generally working with my 3D scientific data, OsiriX and 3D Slicer for working with medical data, APLpy and ds9 for viewing astronomical data (and the WorldWide Telescope to figure out where/what I'm looking at!), Processing for developing quick beautiful prototypes and interactive visualizations, and Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator for general 2D image editing and design.

In terms of more general use software, I use the usual run-down of stuff on the Mac (e.g., Pages, Keynote, etc.), Papers for keeping all my PDFs organized, Skype and Basecamp for working with and keeping in touch with my collaborators, and any and everything Google (e.g., Gmail, Google Docs, etc.).

What would be your dream setup?

My dream set-up would definitely be some combo of the AlloSphere, and the SixthSense wearable gestural interface.