Z. Rowan Copley

research software, visualization, data journalism, software for the whole planet

Get in touch at rowan.copley@gmail.com


Thespie is for curating and discovering theatre productions. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we pivoted to collecting theatre-related streaming content. I lead the back end development, as well as spearheading using machine learning to offer better recommendations to users.


Tests on the human metabolome create enormous amounts of data, and if you want to be able to intuitively understand and explore that data you need to make visualizations with it. Rheos Rx approached me to design and build a version of ReconMap, which they could use to visualize information from tests they were performing.
The metabolome was represented as a massive, static graph layout with ~20k nodes and ~20k edges. I did a number of tests to see how to best display this information quickly at many zoom levels and came to the conclusion that the best way was to use the Google Maps Javascript API. Everything I built for the project centered around that: a pipeline in Python to color nodes and edges based on a dataset of experimental results, rasterize the vector image, and slice it into tiles. A Javascript frontend to use the Google Maps API to serve the images, plus search for specific reactions or metabolites.

Nanocrafter, University of Washington

Following on the game Foldit, whose players successfully predicted the shape of proteins, the Center for Game Science began work on another project called Nanocrafter. The game, funded by DARPA and the NSF, challenged players to build machines from the ground up using RNA.
We had a different problem to Foldit: algorithmic scoring of a player's creation wasn't a feasable solution. Instead, we created a method of social scoring, where players ranked each other on a few scales. I was involved in pretty much every aspect of creating the game, from developing the underlying simulation, updating the game to use a better physics engine, running user tests on our tutorial level design, and tracking analytics. I also helped run a booth at the Pentagon to present the work at DARPA Demo Days.

Nuscope, Numedii

Testing drugs for treating diseases is expensive and time consuming. Any given drug may have many effects on the body, so the potential exists for existing drugs that have already undergone some testing to be repurposed for treating another disease. NuMedii is a startup that applies AI to drug enrichment to discover these potential new drugs.
I was brought on as a software developer of Nuscope, a Javascript- and Express-based app that relies heavily on D3. I designed and built new features integrating different datasets and massively improved the graph visualization's scalability.

Data journalism

I was a contributing researcher to an article that appeared in FiveThirtyEight on COVID's effects on naturalized citizen voting. I published the data I collected as part of that work as a GitHub repository.