IoT Spectrum Devices: Unusual Design Choices in Amazon Dash Button

Amazon recently announced that it will be partnering with over 50 additional brands in deploying its Dash buttons, small electronic buttons that can be sprinkled around the house and clicked to order the product a button represents. There are now more than 150 buttons available, covering products both ubiquitous (Doritos, Huggies, Gatorade) and niche (Greenies, L’il Critters Vitamins, Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein).

amazon_dash_buttonA Dash button in its intended deployment.

From an engineering point of view, Dash Button is a curious creature. Other smart buttons, such as the Flic Wireless Smart Button, exhibit the design choices that an engineer would naturally come up with: a smart button is a small device with a replaceable coin cell battery, communicating over Bluetooth. If you come up to me, or any other engineer, and ask them to sketch on a napkin a smart button design, you’d get something like Flic.

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Why I Volunteer On The Grace Hopper Conference Scholarship Committee

I am finding it exceptionally rewarding to be serving on the Grace Hopper Conference Scholarship Committee, that is, reviewing Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference travel grant applications. I’ve served on this committee in 2015 and 2016, and plan to continue doing it in the foreseeable future.

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Posted in Academia, Career, Communication skills, Conferences, Exciting! News and updates, Ph.D., Tips and tricks, Uncategorized, Women in technology | 1 Comment

I Wish I Could Dance: Science Magazine Dance Your PhD Contest

Science Magazine announced its 9th annual Dance Your PhD Contest — a competition for best explaining your PhD research in an interpretive dance.

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Offbeat Tidbits In Scientific Publications

My treasure of a dentist, the most caring of all dentists I ever had, said the darnest thing to me the other day: “You do research, really? Good for you. I could never do it myself, it’s so boring.” She said it as she was reaching for a sharp triangular implement which, she explained earlier, was “like a cookie-cutter, but for the gums.” Cookie-cutting gums is fun for her, you see. Research is boring. My jaw would have dropped if my mouth was not already propped wide open with a different triangular (this one rubbery, not sharp) implement.

Research, boring? I mean, seriously!?

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RIP Andy Grove

I was saddened by the death of Andy Grove, the former Intel CEO who drove the growth of Silicon Valley.


Andy Grove’s “High Output Management” has been my go-to book on running teams and improving business processes. I have seen few books like it: it offers a clean, clear, distinctly common-sense engineering perspective on day-to-day issues that managers face. I have internalized multiple messages from this book, such as its approach to one-on-ones (their importance and structure) and its guidance on team sizes. This book stands in sharp contrast to many “Leadership BS” books: it offers practical no-nonsense advice and guidance, rather than noble-sounding but impractical tidbits.  Continue reading

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Improvisation Theater Training for Creativity and Communication Skills

An activity that enhances both creativity and communication skills — wouldn’t that be a fun activity to try? Uri Alon, a scientist at Weizmann Institute of Science, promotes creativity of improvisation theater training as similar to creativity of truly innovative scientific discoveries [ link to Uri’s TED talk ]. In the keynote speech of the 2015 Supercomputing conference, Alan Alda, an Oscar-nominated actor and a long-time host of Scientific American Frontiers show, talks about the benefits of improvisation training for scientific communications.

Alan Alda’s talk gives me a push I need to give improvisation theater training a try. December 2015 through February 2016, each Monday evening I spend 3 hours learning how to do improv at NYC Magnet Theater .

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Posted in Communication skills, Creativity, Humor, Public speaking, Tips and tricks | 1 Comment

What Is Harder: An Ironman Or A PhD?

I recently ran across a curious question on Quora: what is harder, completing a PhD or completing a marathon (a 26.2 mile run)?

Having done both [ PhD, races ] , hands-down, the answer is the PhD – there is simply no comparison.

What about Ironman races though? What is harder, completing a PhD or completing an Ironman (2.4 mile swim + 112 mile bike run + 26.2 mile run)?

IronmanPhoto phd-survivor
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Posted in Achievement, Ph.D., Races, Sports, Triathlon | 3 Comments

Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2016: Does It Affect My Purchasing Decisions?

Coming to the Consumer Electronics Show is like stepping into a geeky adults’ version of a candy shop, except that some of the candy you see won’t be on sale for several months (if it reaches the market at all), and some is priced at several multiples of what a reasonable person would pay for it.

A lot of what I liked at CES I will not truly consider buying at this time. For example:

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Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2016: First Timer’s Impressions

The legendary and glorious Consumer Electronics Show. A congregation of more than 170,000 people (for comparison, I grew up in a city of only 30,000), in the shiny artificial Las Vegas. A happening that takes over tech pages in all the media for the week before it and multiple weeks after. An almost 50 year old event where a camcoder, an HD TV, and an Xbox were first shown to the excited public.

I dreamed of going for the last 3 years; I served as a judge for the CES Innovation Awards this year; and I finally made the trip happen.

CESIt was all I expected, and more. I expected big — it was bigger. I expected the coolest new technologies — there were more technologies, and they were even newer and even cooler than I anticipated.

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The Onion At Its Best: ‘Seek Funding’ Step Added To Scientific Method

The Onion spots a much-needed addition: ‘Seek Funding’ Step Added To Scientific Method.

Quoting from the article: “After making an observation and forming a hypothesis as usual, the new third step of the scientific method will now require researchers to embark upon an exhaustive search for corporate or government financing,” said the group’s president, Gordon McBean, adding that the new stage of the process, which will be implemented across every scientific discipline, also entails compiling and forwarding grant proposals to hundreds of highly competitive funding sources.

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