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Emily Niespodziewanski

Emily Niespodziewanski


August 31, 2012

Reveal and review: Talus through development

August 31, 2012 | By | No Comments

Well, kids, it’s finally here. Please, allow me to present the mobile web app version of:


Check it out on your smartphone or shrink down a browser window to see it in reasonable dimensions.

I set out with a pretty clear vision of the product I wanted to create. Starting from total zero, besides an inclination towards technology, I learned the basics of html, JQuery, and am more oriented in terms of product creation – both for websites and apps. Although the presentation was up in the air at the beginning, I’m fairly pleased that the “meat” of this project was right on from the start.

I gathered the material that I wanted to create a home for, then learned how to structure its home by reading Information architecture for the World Wide Web, colloquially known as the Polar Bear Book. This early-web structural guide explained rules and logic for the layout of a Read More

Emily Niespodziewanski


August 7, 2012

Open Source Programs & Coding in a New Environment

August 7, 2012 | By | No Comments

Recently, I visited the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command Central Identification Laboratory (JPAC/CIL) at Hickam Joint Base in Honolulu, Hawaii. (For another post chronicling my personal experiences, click here.) Although the big name is complex, you might guess from the “POW/MIA” part of it that their mission is to identify and bring home all unaccounted-for American military servicemembers. What I did there relates to the “Until they all come home” mission, but mostly I worked on a methodological research project. This means I was in the lab daily, playing with some really expensive toys and using open source software in ways I hadn’t before.

In addition to a NextEngine scanner (3D-imager), I used Meshlab and R Project for Statistical Computing. Meshlab simply processed our 3D triangular meshes (manipulating those images reminded me of the behind-the-scenes videos of Pixar!). On the other hand, R is a flexible environment in which the user can generate Read More

Emily Niespodziewanski


July 11, 2012

Building a mobile app as a novice: tools review

July 11, 2012 | By | No Comments

Going into building TALUS, I had minimal understanding of programming. Maybe in the 90s, I learned that if you surround text with <b> and </b>, that text will be bolded. And something about the existence of a hexadecimal number code system (weird). But that was pretty much it.

However, as a consumer, I feel more knowledgeable. I can tell the difference between a smoothly functioning app and a crappy one. I’ve noted broad trends in the evolution of internet and mobile aesthetic. Of course, most self-aware consumers can say the same things. And none of that vague understanding meant that I could make anything at all. One of the most basic obstacles I faced was not knowing how different programming and mark-up languages interacted with each other.

If you’re starting from the ground up, like I was, you may not know about the W3schools tutorials. They are an easy way to learn the Read More

Emily Niespodziewanski


April 7, 2012

Digital Dissertations – not only for the Humanities

April 7, 2012 | By | One Comment

Image from Flickr user ginnerobot

For a while now, I’ve been listening in on discussion in Digital Humanities about the pros and cons of digital dissertations. From Seventeen Moments in Soviet History to a master’s thesis on composer Henry Cowell, my colleagues have promoted the digitization of dissertations in the humanities.

The discussion of the benefits of open-access (in concert with the “security dangers” of the same) has played a big role in departmental, institutional, and online discussions among scholars. For a review of this issue, see GradHacker’s recent post on access to dissertations. But that’s not the topic of this post. My question is:

What about the social and natural sciences?

If the discussion to move into the digital age with theses and dissertations is happening in the sciences, maybe it’s just not happening online. As you can see from UMass Amherst’s list of open access dissertations, a variety of Read More

Emily Niespodziewanski


February 16, 2012

(Digital) State of the Field: Physical Anthropology

February 16, 2012 | By | 2 Comments

Image credit Flickr user karen_roe

Social media is largely overlooked by physical anthropologists. This is due in part to the nature of the data that goes into research. Someone studying vitamin A deficiency in infants in relation to the mother in Kenya does not need to use social media to interview or retrieve the blood nutrient levels of her research participants. Likewise, as I mentioned in an earlier post, forensic anthropologists in particular are constrained by ethics and the sensitive nature of the cases they work on.

Leading academic institutions in this field have yet to embrace the public outreach power of tools like Twitter, but this is changing slowly. At the same time, many graduate students (and some more senior academics) use Twitter personally and professionally to network. A good faculty role model would be @JohnHawks: this paleoanthropologist blogs, he’s engaged with the online community via Read More

Emily Niespodziewanski


January 27, 2012

Translating trusted tools to 21st century technology

January 27, 2012 | By | No Comments

You won’t find much if you search Twitter for forensic anthropologists. This is partly due to the sensitive nature of the work they do. For ethical and legal reasons, casework involving active investigations (e.g., homicide or positive identification of a John/Jane Doe) cannot be shared. As a field, we have remained very pad-and-pencil. However, the integration of methods and traditions of human osteology with the user-friendly, readily-accessible technological platforms will be critical to our continued relevance and growth as a field.

Recent methodologies have been developed in forensic anthropology using complex 3-dimensional imagery and statistical methods like Elliptical Fourier Analysis. These methods are sound (and new and exciting!), but there are equally valid methods that have been developed through the 20th century using simpler math.

The problem with our tried-and-true methods is that they are mired in their original journal articles, spread out through many volumes of various journals over many decades. Read More

Emily Niespodziewanski


January 13, 2012

Institutional Tweeting 2.0

January 13, 2012 | By | No Comments

Say you’ve set up a Twitter account for your [insert institution here: lab, office, international space station]. With personal accounts, you follow whoever you want, find your friends through your connected accounts, and proceed on your merry way. However, I found myself directionless and hesitant to make mistakes as I created and began administrating my lab’s Twitter account.

In my last post, I talked about justifying an institutional account to The Boss and covered the information for which Twitter is a platform. Once the barrier of creation has been crossed, though, and The Boss recognizes Twitter’s value, you suddenly represent the office.

The Boss almost always has a strong idea of how they want to handle public relations. I recommend a short conversation on the topics below to get an idea of their preferences. Be prepared to explain the alternative answers for each topic – like the benefits of following 25 vs 400 Read More

Emily Niespodziewanski


December 12, 2011

Institutional Tweeting: Bridging the gap

December 12, 2011 | By | One Comment

A few months ago, I initiated a push to create social media accounts for the lab in which I am graduate student (read: free) labor. The Lab Director was curious whether such accounts would be appropriate for the Michigan State University Forensic Anthropology Laboratory (@MSUForensicAnth). After all, the lab consults with law enforcement across the state on sensitive cases. There are very real legal reasons in addition to the obvious ethical ones not to tweet: “We’re off to CityName to recovery a body from ClandestineLocation!” Nearly all lab activity is confidential. Although the reasons in our case are unique, hesitant bosses/leaders usually question whether their group has anything worth sharing when approached by someone eager to branch into social media.

The anthem of the resistant “I don’t care when someone’s eating a sandwich” appeared in my own conversations with other lab employees. It was difficult for me to articulate what is tweeted Read More

Emily Niespodziewanski


October 16, 2011

Sense of Humerus: Emily Niespodziewanski, digital scholar

October 16, 2011 | By | No Comments

I am writing to you from the trenches of my second year of the graduate program in Physical Anthropology at Michigan State University (@msuforensicanth). And although this particular semester’s coursework is melting key bits of my brain, I’m in it for the long haul: I intend earn my Ph.D. in Anthropology with the goal of working as a professional forensic anthropologist. In an academic capacity, this will hopefully entail teaching, casework with local law enforcement, and bioarchaeological field research.

My advisor has already allowed me the opportunity to work on some very exciting extracurricular projects: cleaning, curating, and collecting data on 450 medieval skeletons in the MSU Nubian Bioarchaeology Laboratory; analyzing medieval human remains at the University of Salento in southern Italy; and collaborating with the military’s Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command Central Identification Laboratory (@JPACTeams) on a validation study. These are all opportunities to participate in research, although only the last project Read More