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FOJBI Friday: Meet Jesse Dunietz, Computer Scientist

FOJBI Jesse Dunietz
Dina Betser
Courtesy of Jesse Dunietz
FOJBI Jesse Dunietz

The "Friends of Joe's Big Idea" is a vibrant community of talented people we think you should meet. FOJBI Friday gives us a chance to introduce some of these cool communicators of science, in their own words. This week: Jesse Dunietz.


I'm a doctoral student in computer science at Carnegie Mellon University. I work on getting computers to figure out what we mean when we write about cause and effect, which is a key element in understanding human language.

Passion for science communication

Citizens are constantly called upon to make judgments about issues like environmental hazards, health care options, or the trade-offs of new technologies. These judgments take a solid understanding of scientific information and reasoning. Yet all too often, there are social and psychological barriers in the way: The science seems boring; the way it's been framed clashes with people's values; or their in-group rejects its implications. Better communication can mitigate all of these.

Current projects

I co-founded the Public Communication for Researchers program at CMU, which trains graduate students to communicate outside the ivory tower. We run workshops and seminars on many topics in science communication, from the basics of constructing a metaphor to interacting with the media in framing hot-button issues. We also run a group blog,, where we put those skills into practice.

Beyond PCR, I've served on the organizing committee of the national ComSciCon workshop. I also do some freelance writing. I like to focus on the elegance of computational thinking and how it opens up new ways of seeing the world.

Future projects

I'm still figuring out what I want to be when I grow up, but I'd ideally like to balance my three favorite activities: teaching computer science; supporting research in the physical sciences as an embedded computer scientist; and working with scientists on engaging nonscientists. I also think computer science represents a huge gap in the current science communication landscape, so I'm planning to keep up my own efforts to fill that gap.

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