Say Hi to Rebecca!

Image of Rebecca Peake, the new junior developer at Datawrapper.

With Rose, Margaux, and Marten, we added three great new members to the Datawrapper team in the past few months. Now we’re excited to introduce the fourth and probably last hire this year: Rebecca Peake is joining us as a junior software developer, supporting our growing team of developers.

We asked Rebecca a few questions to get to know her better:

Hi Becca! Can you please introduce yourself?

Hey, my name is Rebecca, although everyone calls me Becca. I have a mixed background in both the visual arts and science. I love problem-solving and am excited for the challenges my job as a developer at Datawrapper will bring. In addition to web development, I would like to use my time at Datawrapper to explore more data visualization software and techniques.

Outside work I have many ways of passing my time, from knitting awful scarfs to building bicycles. Having moved to Berlin only a few weeks ago, I’m spending most of my weekends in IKEA or going cold-water swimming in the lakes around the city.

What did you do before working at Datawrapper?

I have recently finished a master’s in theoretical physics in the U.K. In my final years of university, I specialized more in the quantum side of things, specifically in quantum computing. I have often looked for patterns and opportunities for creative exploration within my subject. Recently, I used IBM’s open-source quantum computer, Qiskit, to create a piece of digital art:

Becca’s quantum artwork. Each group of concentric circles represents a combination of several particles. Each particle exists in a binary state, indicated by the absence or presence of a circle. The program is run to produce 100 of these combined states; their variation demonstrates the pure randomness of quantum behavior.

Prior to my physics degree, I completed an art foundation at the University of the Arts London in film and animation. This is really where I realized that a person couldn’t rely on the ideas in their head being automatically understood by others, and that one of the quickest and most intuitive ways of communicating was through visual means.

Why did you want to join Datawrapper?

I think it’s so important to have freely accessible software like Datawrapper provides. Not everyone can (or should) dedicate their time to learning how to code their own visualizations.

After finishing my degree, I was looking for a job where I would be able to combine my creative and scientific sides. I struggled to find such a job, until I discovered the world of data vis — a perfect balance!

I have worked with data throughout my degree, collecting, manipulating, and visualizing it. By far the most exciting data-based project I worked on used data collected from the LHCb detector in CERN. The data was used to create Dalitz plots to investigate the unequal production of a subatomic particle and its antiparticle equivalent. This pointed towards the matter-antimatter asymmetry problem, one of the biggest questions in modern physics.

Left: A Dalitz plot from Wikipedia, similar to the (yet unpublished) one that Becca created with CERN data.
Right: Collisions recorded by the CMS detector on 17 April 2018, by CERN.

Unfortunately, physicists’ data visualizations are mostly created for other physicists, not for the general public. These visualizations have a very specific task, and there is little room for creative design.

Two visualizations from Becca’s thesis on quantum computation. The plots show the distribution of particles in a 2D lattice at differing energy levels. The left image shows the particles to be scattered randomly throughout the lattice at higher energies, whereas in the right image the particles localize more along the edges at lower energies.

A few Christmases ago, my dad bought me a very good book by Edward Tufte on visualising information. This is where I really started to see the importance of good design in data visualization. And how data, when treated well, could really be something beautiful.

Welcome, Rebecca! It’s great to have you with us. To see more of Rebecca’s art, visit her on Instagram as @phart_1998.