About me

Bio

Benjamin “Benji” Xie (pronounced ‘she’ + ‘eh’) is a PhD candidate at the University of Washington Information School, advised by Prof. Amy J. Ko. He designs and evaluates ways to use data to support equity and justice in educational contexts. His doctoral research explores interpretations and uses of data for equity in computing education. He publishes his work to computing education and human-computer interaction communities. He is a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellow and was previously an MIT EECS-Google Research and Innovation Scholar during his time at MIT researching with Prof. Hal Abelson and MIT App Inventor. He received Master’s and undergraduate degrees in computer science from MIT.

Research Timeline

Updated July 2021. A few life events included to provide context.

  • 2021: I deployed and evaluated Student Amp, a tool collects contextualized student feedback so teaching teams can understand inequities in large remote computing courses. I was named among the 2021 Husky 100 by UW. I also proposed my dissertation in the spring.

  • 2020: The COVID-19 pandemic began, requiring me to take more time away from research to adapt to the new situation. I secured NSF INTERN funding to intern with non-profit Code.org to use statistical and human-centric techniques to identify and address bias in the most used middle school curriculum in the world. See paper. I also secured a Google Cloud Research Grant to development of Student Amp.

  • 2019: I completed work with collaborators from the UW College of Education, Information School, and School of Computer Science to begin work on Codeitz, an online learning experience that afforded computing students the agency to guide their own learning. I also led a workshop at CHI 2019 on Learning, Education, and HCI (see paper and follow-up report).

  • 2018: I worked with Dr. Min Li (UW College of Education), my advisor, and other UW collaborators to develop and evaluate a theory of instruction for introductory programming skills. I also worked with an undergraduate researcher to understand experiences of CS transfer students.

  • 2017: I worked with labmate Greg Nelson to evaluate a system he created that teaches code reading skills. I spent part of the summer at Carnegie Mellon University as part of their LearnLab Summer School. I also adopted a rescue dog!

  • 2016: I completed by Master’s at MIT and had a fantastic summer of adventure. In the fall, I moved to Seattle and began my Ph.D. at the University of Washington Information School as a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellow working with Amy J. Ko. I also served as head of the educational co-op for Seattle Data for Good, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting community organizations with their data and technology needs.

  • 2015: After completing my bachelor’s, I spent the summer working as a software engineering and research intern at EdTech start-up NovoEd, working under the guidance of Farnaz Ronaghi. During that summer, I also partnered with three others to create the app “Dave Sent Me” for the Outside Lands music festival. In the fall, I started my Master’s (MEng) in compter science at MIT with Hal Abelson and MIT App Inventor. I used machine learning and statistical techniques to analyze apps people created to understand how they used App Inventor to learn computing concepts. See paper, thesis.

  • 2011-15: As an undergraduate at MIT, I studied computer science with a humanities concentration in education. I researched with Hal Abelson and MIT App Inventor as an MIT EECS-Google Research and Innovation Scholar. I also conducted research with the MIT Scheller Teacher Education Program to help build TaleBlazer. I spent summers working as a software engineering intern at AppNexus in 2014 and eBay in 2013. I also volunteered with Boston-based non-profits as part of MIT Code for Good.

Running is my meditation

Besides being a student and researcher, I also ran competitively in college. Since the age of 10, running has been my way of keeping my body busy so my mind could focus.

In my PhD, I ran marathons as part of Club Northwest. I placed second at the 2020 Disney World Marathon and also completed two Boston Marathons (2018, 19). I was in Boston running for the MIT Track team when the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings and subsequent murder of MIT police office Sean Collier occurred, so completing the Boston Marathon was a momentous occassion for me.

In my Master’s, I was a volunteer assistant coach for MIT cross country in the fall. I competed as part of the MIT track team in the spring.

In my undergraduate years, I competed in NCAA Division III with the MIT Cross Country, Indoor & Outdoor Track Teams. I served as a cross country captain for the later two years, during which the MIT Cross Country team won conference, placed top 3 in regionals, and qualified for national championships both years. My individual accolades included breaking a school record (indoor 5,000m: 14:30.08) as well as earning Academic All-Region, All-Region, Academic All-Conference, All-Conference, and Most Improved.