Interview with David Huang, creator of Help a Scientist!

Help a Scientist!, created by David Huang, is a web browser extension. Every time you open a new browser tab, you discover real citizen science projects from SciStarter that you can contribute to.

We sat down with David to hear a little bit about what inspired him. David is a 17-year-old incoming freshman at the University of Virginia.

Pictured: David Huang

So, David, when did you first learn about citizen science? I was helping a professor with their research, and we were looking at very large image datasets which we had to annotate manually. I realized that it would be easier if we had multiple people doing this together, and that prompted me to research citizen science.

Tell us a little bit about making Help a Scientist! Making the extension was part of a series of side projects I did this summer. After I graduated, I decided that the most valuable use of my summer would be to make things, and I’ve tried to make one useful thing a week. This project has definitely taken off, especially after it was featured on Product Hunt, which got us thousands of views. After learning about citizen science, I wanted to create this project to make it more accessible. To this end, I googled “citizen science API” and found SciStarter’s project directory, which allowed me to make Help a Scientist!

What other projects have you done this summer? I’ve worked on some machine learning projects, and I also made a website that extracts color palettes from images. All of the projects have been great practice and have made me better at making things.

How did you get started with programming and all these tech-based projects? With programming, I’m mostly self-taught. My process is to decide on what I want to build, find tutorials in the documentation, and adjust those tutorials to fit my goals for the project so that I have a bare minimum working version. If I feel that I need a better understanding of the technology, I just search through Google. I first started programming in third grade, stopped for five years, and then started again in my freshman year of high school.

How would you define a successful project? As long as its useful to someone other me, it’s a successful project.

What do you think is next for the extension? We’re working on making our project recommendations more relevant to our users based on their geographical location

Continue to follow David’s activities! See his twitter account, @notdavidhuang, for updates.

What is next for you? I’m starting college in the fall at the University of Virginia, and I’m going to study computer science. I’m currently exploring how VR can be better used for healthcare.

Thank you, David, for making it even easier to discover and join citizen science projects!

Categories: Citizen Science, Citizen Science News, Computers & Technology

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About the Author

Caroline Nickerson

Caroline Nickerson

Caroline Nickerson is a Master of Public Policy student at American University with a focus on environmental and climate change policy. She is passionate about science communication in the policy space and engaging citizens and voters. Caroline currently serves as secretary on the national board of the Commission on Local Debates (localdebates.org), an emerging nonprofit seeking to leverage technology to make debates for local elections better and more accessible. She also works as a textbook and curriculum development consultant for the University of Florida Psychiatry Department. In her role there, she is a project manager for the Christensen Project, which honors and furthers Dr. Richard C. Christensen's legacy of advocating for homeless and under-served individuals.