All posts by Daniel Wong

Early Voting in Massachusetts, New for 2016

Election laws in Massachusetts were changed in 2014 to allow early voting during a two-week period ahead of the November General Election Day every two years, starting with the 2016 general election. The early voting period for 2016 will begin Monday, October 24, and end on Friday, November 4.

There are two important things to know about early voting in Massachusetts:

  1. Massachusetts-registered voters may cast their ballot at any early voting location
  2. Early voting locations may be different than your usual election day polling location, do not have the same hours, and may not be available every day during the early voting period.

If you wish to participate in early voting, make sure you are eligible by checking your voter status or registering to vote in Massachusetts. The early polling locations closest to the Tufts Boston Campus are:

Date & Time Location
Monday, October 24
2 -8 PM
Metropolitan Condominiums
38 Oak St
Chinatown, MA 02111
(enter from 38 Oak St)
* Across the street from Posner Hall

Walking from M&V Building:
0.2 mile (~5 minutes)

Monday, October 24 –
Friday, November 4
M/W/F: 9 AM – 8 PM, except 11/4
Tu/Th: 9 AM – 5 PM, and 11/4
Boston City Hall
1 City Hall Plaza
Boston, MA 02201

Walking from M&V Building:
0.8 mile (~20 minutes)

Saturday, October 29
12 -6 PM
Boston Public Library, Copley Square
700 Boylston St
Back Bay, MA 02120

Walking from M&V Building:
1.1 miles (~25 minutes)

Monday, October 31
2 -8 PM
Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology
41 Berkeley St
Bay Village, MA 02111

Walking from M&V Building:
0.7 mile (~15 minutes)

The City of Boston has a page on their website to look up early voting locations by date or by neighborhood.

More information about early voting in Massachusetts and early voting locations is available on the website of the Massachusetts Secretary of State.

2016 Voter Registration Deadlines Are Approaching

The 2016 General Election will be held Tuesday, November 8, but in order to participate, you must be registered to vote by the registration deadline.

The voter registration deadlines vary by state, so it is important to check these dates and also to make sure you’re registered. A free, online service that can help is TurboVote, a project by the non-partisan nonprofit Democracy Works that aims to make voting easier. TurboVote will direct you to the appropriate Secretary of State’s website to check your registration or register to vote. Many states, including Massachusetts, offer online voter registration if you are a legal resident and have a state driver’s license or identification card. You can also sign up to have TurboVote send you election day reminders by text or e-mail.

In Massachusetts, the voter registration deadline for this year’s election is Wednesday, October 19. Election-related information is available on the website of the Massachusetts Secretary of State ( Many resources are available, including to check your registration status, find your polling location, request an absentee ballot, find information on candidates and ballot questions, and register to vote if you are eligible.

Disclosure: Neither I nor the InSight were asked to publicize TurboVote and Democracy Now, and we are not receiving compensation for doing so.

Event Recap: Computer Technology and the Future of Medicine

April Entrepreneurship Seminar co-hosted by the Tufts Biomedical Business Club and the TUSM MD-MBA Program

by Townsend Bernard, MBMN-Nutrition

Dr. Bill Greenberg leveraged his undergraduate education in computer engineering at Tufts to become a pioneer in the proliferation of technology into clinical practice, contributing to the NIH’s Computers in Medicine initiative, co-founding Physicians Online (now known as WebMD) and advising a number of high-profile start-ups. His insights into the history of technological advancements highlighted just how rapidly the clinical landscape is changing – the cloud, automation and increased computational power are fundamentally altering the roles and capacities of physicians and the healthcare industry. The biotechnology sector is further driving this change with advances in personalized medicine (Human Longevity Incorporated), diagnostic efficiency (DermaCompare) and pharmaceutical sales (SmartRx).image00 image02

Resources for learning how to code

Last month, I put together a small script that made the calendar from the Sackler website accessible to calendar software such as Google Calendar, Apple Calendar, Outlook, and others, that a majority of people now use. This little simple bit of code solved a problem of the Sackler website that has existed for years and requires no further intervention on my part. I’ve put the source code online on GitHub for anyone who is interested in seeing how it works ( For anyone who is interested in learning how to code or, like me, would like to develop their skills beyond the introductory undergraduate level, I’ve compiled a list of resources that may be useful.

Getting started

This is in many ways the most difficult part about learning how to code. Many resources exist, but it’s difficult to know which is the most approrpiate for your current skill level. You may already be somewhat familiar with some specific coding techniques or languagees, but significant gaps may still remain in your knowledgebase. Such gaps could include understanding how to set up a coding environment on your computer, which language is most suitable for your work, or how to interface with a database instead of just reading data from a file generated by your plate reader. As biomedical scientists, our familiarity with computers and code is limited compared to more computationally-intensive fields, but not compeltely absent, and our field is rapidly becoming more computational.

practicalcomputingFortunately, there is a book specifically intended for biologists who are interested in developing their computing skill set: Practical Computing for Biologists, by Steven Haddock and Casey Dunn. The book introduces basic concepts of coding while also providing a thorough walkthrough of how to set up a suitable environment on your computer before moving on to practical applications of coding and tools for data analysis, including working with databases and best practices for working with graphics and generating figures for publication. The companion website for the book makes much of the example code freely available, along with some other extras, including the reference tables, which are extremely useful while you’re still learning the commands:

lynda_logo1k-d_72x72Tufts Technology Services (Tufts IT) also has some resources available for free to the Tufts community, including access to, which hosts self-paced online tutorials for a number of different topics, including coding as well as software-specific training (Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, etc.). Additional details can be found on the Tufts IT website:

Integrating coding into your work

It can be difficult to learn how to code if it’s siloed away as a separate skill you’re trying to learn, so one effective technique is to integrate it into your normal workflow. One example would be to use R ( in place of Excel or Prism to perform your statistical analysis. A good book for learning how to get started is Introductory Statistics with R, by Peter Dalgaard. A PDF version of this book is available for free through the Tufts library or heavily discounted for purchase:

Sackler website calendar now available in iCal format

The Sackler calendar is a great resource for the community, but its current form does not follow Internet calendar format standards, which limits its utility.  A majority of Tufts community members utilize digital calendar packages like Google Calendar, Apple Calendar, Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird, and others, to keep track of their schedules and subscribe to shared calendars, but the Sackler calendar cannot be used with these programs because it is served as an RSS feed and not an iCal one. The RSS standard was designed for syndication of articles and other news-like data, while iCal is the standard for Internet calendars. Fixing this mismatch will require structural changes to the Sackler website, but the timeline for such changes is not known.

To solve this problem, I have written a script that automatically retrieves the publicly available event information from the Sackler calendar and presents it in a format that calendar programs can utilize. I’ve also made some improvements to the presentation of events, so seminar title will now appear in the event name if it is available. Additionally, the room number will appear alongside the building address in the location field of the event, and has been formatted in a way that allows mapping programs to ignore the room and focus on the address if directions are needed. This code will work until the Sackler calendar URL or the event information formats change, but my hope is that the script will no longer be necessary once that happens. The iCal feed is available at, and can be imported as a calendar subscription in most calendar software packages. This feed is set to automatically update every morning at 4 AM, but the refresh frequency of common calendar programs varies. Instructions for some of the most popular applications are included below. This calendar is not compatible with either Outlook 2011 for Mac or the Outlook Web App (2010) available from Tufts at for reasons that are beyond my control, but should work with Outlook 2007 and newer versions for Windows.

The Sackler calendar is only as useful as the information that is provided to it, so individuals responsible for planning and scheduling events should continue to submit their event information to it by using the website form:


Google Calendar (

Adding an iCal feed to Google Calendar To add the Sackler calendar to your list of calendars, open Google Calendar. Click the downward-pointing triangle to the right of “Other Calendars” that appears along the left side of the page, and select “Add by URL” from the menu. Enter the URL in the text box and click “Add Calendar”.  The new calendar should appear in the list, and the events will populate your calendar in a few seconds. Google Calendar will refresh this feed every few hours. The iCal feed can only be added to Google Calendar from a computer, and not the Android mobile phone application.


Apple Calendar (Apple OS X)

Adding an iCal feed to Apple CalendarTo add the Sackler calendar to your list of calendars, open Apple Calendar, and select “New Calendar Subscription…” from the “File” menu. Enter as the Calendar URL in the text box and click “Subscribe”. The new calendar should appear in the list, and the events will populate your calendar in a few seconds. By default, Apple Calendar only updates calendar subscriptions once per week. To change the update frequency, right-click (Control+click) the “Sackler Website Calendar” entry in the list of calendars and select “Get Info”. The update frequency can be changed by selecting a different interval from the “Auto-refresh” option list.


Microsoft Outlook 2013

Adding an iCal feed to Microsoft OutlookTo add the Sackler calendar to your list of calendars, open Outlook and go to the Calendar pane. Select “Open Calendar” and “From Internet…”  from the middle of the “Home” ribbon across the top of the screen. Enter as the Calendar location in the text box and click “OK”. The “Advanced…” button will open a menu allowing you to change the name of the Calendar and the description I have provided. Click “Yes” to subscribe to the calendar. The new calendar should appear in the list, and the events will populate your calendar in a few seconds, after Outlook finishes processing the feed.

Mozilla Thunderbird (

To add the Sackler calendar to your list of calendars, open Thunderbird and go to the Calendar view. Select “New…” then “Calendar…” from the “File” menu. Select “On the Network” as the location for the calendar, and then click “Continue”. Select “iCalendar (ICS)” as the format, and enter as the location in the text box and click “Continue”. Thunderbird doesn’t read the given calendar name, “Sackler Website Calendar”, from the iCal feed, so give the calendar a name of your choice and click “Continue” to complete the process.

Notable papers of the week: January 4, 2016

Have you recently read a paper that you found interesting and would suggest to others? Post a link to it in the comments of this post! Please also include the title and first author of the paper.

We’ll generate a new post for this each week.

Jumbo T, et al. “Amazing scientific discoveries abound.”


The “Day in the Life” Program

The “Day in the Life” Program Flyer Shadow a Sackler Alum at work through the “Day in the Life” Program More info: Apply by January 15th:
The “Day in the Life” Program Flyer
Shadow a Sackler Alum at work through the
“Day in the Life” Program
More info:
Apply by January 15th:

The Sackler Deans’ Office and The Graduate Student Council Present:

What do you want to do after grad school?!

Are you ready?

We want to help!

Shadow a Sackler Alum at work through the

“Day in the Life” Program

More info:

Apply by January 15th:

Day in the Life Flyer_v2

Advent of Code: holiday-themed puzzles

Coding isn’t scary — Have fun learning or practicing your skills.

Being able to write computer code is an increasingly valuable skill that isn’t commonly taught in primary education, or a part of the curriculum for many undergraduate majors. Similarly, coding/computer programming is nearly absent from the curriculum here at Sackler. There seem to be three dominant reasons for this: coding isn’t always seen as being applicable, code itself can be intimidating, and there isn’t someone qualified to teach the subject. However, being ignorant of coding puts us, individually and as an institution, at a competitive disadvantage, and unnecessarily so. Learning how to code isn’t scary or even particularly difficult. Sure, code can be complex, but no one starts learning how to code by diving into the most difficult examples. The principles of coding are no more complex than basic lab protocols that we here at Sackler are at least comfortable with, if not masters at executing.

This is the introduction to a series of short articles about the basics of coding that Sackler students should understand, which will begin with the next issue of the InSight. For now, I want to highlight a series of holiday-themed coding puzzles to keep everyone occupied over the holidays.

Christmas tree rendered with text
Advent of Code, day 6.

A software engineer named Eric Wastl has put together a series of coding challenges called Advent of Code at One two-part puzzle is revealed each day just after midnight. The puzzle takes the form of a word problem, and provides you with input to feed into the code you write to solve the problem. The answer to the puzzle, the output of your code, can be submitted to the site, which tells you if you’re right, too high, or too low. If you’re right, you earn as star for that part of that part of the puzzle, which lights up one level of a Christmas tree rendered in text. Earning the first star of each day changes the corresponding level of the tree from gray to green, while earning the second lights up the “ornaments”. You can use any programming language you like, including Python, R, and PHP, which some students may already be familiar with.

Interested? The first day’s puzzle is below; visit to create your account and get your own input:

Santa is trying to deliver presents in a large apartment building, but he can’t find the right floor - the directions he got are a little confusing. He starts on the ground floor (floor 0) and then follows the instructions one character at a time.

An opening parenthesis, (, means he should go up one floor, and a closing parenthesis, ), means he should go down one floor.

The apartment building is very tall, and the basement is very deep; he will never find the top or bottom floors.

For example:

(()) and ()() both result in floor 0.

((( and (()(()( both result in floor 3.

))((((( also results in floor 3.

()) and ))( both result in floor -1 (the first basement level).

))) and )())()) both result in floor -3.

To what floor do the instructions take Santa?