Category Archives: Uncategorized

Data Science Digi Breakfast

This morning I attended the Digi Breakfast on Data Science at Aalto University’s Open Innovation House. Bringing together researchers and practitioners from across the Aalto University and Helsinki data science scene for a quick series of talks was super fruitful and informative, especially for a newbie like myself. I came away with ideas — always dangerous! Here are some highlights:


Aalto Media Lab Exhibit Opening

The Aalto Media Lab’s 20th Anniversary Exhibition in the LUME Centre opened this evening. It was a great opportunity to view and interact with projects that students and professors have created over the past 20 years. Exhibit pieces ranged from animated gif generators to interactive educational games and every piece showcased a different way that creative scholars have used technology for communication, artistic expression, learning, or design. I particularly enjoyed an interactive touchscreen displaying a digital facsimile of a map of Mexico from 1550 created by the Systems of Representation group under the direction of my advisor, Lily Diaz.

Two woman interacting with the map of Mexico

Two woman viewing map of Mexico

No sex and no future

Photo of pigs with overlaid text that says: sika-hyvä
Photo of pigs with overlaid text that says: sika-hyvä

I have started taking a Finnish language course. My main takeaways so far:

  • Finnish nouns have no gender, and there is no differentiation between “he” and “she.” There is just one word for both genders: hän. Hence, Finnish language has no sex.
  • Finnish verbs do not have a future tense. Hence, Finnish language has no future.
  • Double consonants are really fun, but double vowels are even more fun. Telling people I live in “Töölö” is an adventure, each and every time.
  • I am really appreciative that Finns speak such excellent English.

My favorite Finnish phrase: sika-hyvä. It literally translates as “piggy good” and means that something is SUPER good.

Back to School

Student lounge space at the Arabia Campus
Student lounge space at the Arabia Campus

For my research project I am embedded as a visiting scholar in the Systems of Representation research group in Aalto University’s School of Art, Design and Architecture. With courses at both Aalto’s Otaniemi and Arabia, I get to dive back into everything wonderful about university life at two very different campuses. The Otaniemi campus is home to the School of Engineering, which has its own unique culture and student activities made immediately evident by the swarms of students walking around in colorful coveralls, and my host institution, the Media Lab. The Arabia campus is home to the majority of the School of Arts programs (although there are plans to move more departments to the Otaniemi campus). All of the Arabianranta district is an “Art and Design City” where all building developers are required by the City of Helsinki to donate 1-2% of the construction costs to art. The university is housed in old Arabia factory buildings and the massive building is brimming with galleries, studios, work stations, and design-in-action! Between seminars, events (there’s a Department of Media exhibit opening tomorrow), and staff/student activities I feel like I have been immersed in a grotto of creation where I can ferment and be all deliciously inventive for the next nine months.

Happy birthday, Leo Tolstoy.

Screenshot 2014-09-09 20.39.38 homepage doodle in honor of Tolstoy.

In honor of Tolstoy’s birthday, here is one of my favorite passages from War and Peace in loving memory of my kindred spirit and the inspiration for my Russian studies:

‘No, life is not over at thirty-one,’ Prince Andrei decided all at once, finally and irrevocably. ‘It is not enough for me to know what I have in me – everyone else must know it too: Pierre, and that young girl who wanted to fly away into the sky; all of them must learn to know me, in order that my life may not be lived for myself alone while others, like that young girl, live so apart from it, but may be reflected in them all, and they and I may live in harmony together.’



Moving to a new country can be difficult. Here in Finland we are insanely lucky to have a tight-knit Fulbright alumni community of both Americans and Finns who organize events, give lots of helpful tips, and are generally awesome. Here is a list of Finland life hacks that I think will be useful during my time in Helsinki:

  • Catch flash sales on the VR train (with routes running throughout Finland) by signing up with Veturi
  • Get cheap tickets for excursions within Finland on the Onni Bus or OnniExpress
  • Find awesome summer cottage rentals around Turku through Archipelago booking
  • Plan trips in the Helsinki and Tampere regions with the Reitti GPS app
  • Check out a weekend trip to Nuksio for a Finnish countryside experience close to Helsinki
  • Beat the expensive Finnish prices and find great secondhand finds on or (this is where I plan on finding a used bike!)
  • Get the best weather forecast (essential here!!) from the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI)
  • Catch great concerts at Musikkitalo
  • Find convenient co-working spaces in Helsinki at the Helsinki Think Company

I’m sure there are way more — please leave suggestions in the comments! I also met a Finnish alumnus who claims he can give me a tour of the speakeasy scene, but that is not something I will be making publicly available… 🙂

funny infographic cartoon about life in Finland
A hilarious cartoon of “Life in Finland” I found on Twitter @Matkamessut


Be your best American self

We had a fabulous reception tonight at the American Embassy in Helsinki. Ambassador Bruce Oreck gave a warm and engaging welcome to all of the new Fulbrighters in Finland in which he stressed our twofold mission as visiting American scholars in Finland: to develop a deep area of expertise in our specialized project areas and to facilitate meaningful cultural exchange by being our general American selves in everyday life. He entreated us to

share not just what you know, but who you are.

He also quickly won me over by discussing the immense challenges and opportunities presented by the deluge of digital information and big data, stressing that it is more important now than ever to invest in scholarship. At the reception I had the pleasure of meeting academics from our Finnish host institutions, members of the American Embassy’s public diplomacy team, Finnish and American Fulbright alumni, and, last but certainly not least, the ambassa-dog!


Fully Bright: an orientation

Today we kicked off our Fulbright orientation with coffee and pulla, a delicious cardamom-spiced breakfast bread. We received a kind welcome from Jeffrey Reneau, the Counselor for Press and Public Affairs at the American Embassy in Helsinki, and lots of useful information from the ever-helpful staff at the Finland Fulbright Commission. I am beyond excited to be one of over 1600 people (including our very own Librarian of Congress) who have participated in the Finnish-American Fulbright program since the 1950s.