A photo of Alyx Burns. A white man with glasses and a short beard wearing a white shirt and grey sweatshirt smiles at the camera in front of a patterned mural.

Alyx Burns (he/him/his)

PhD Student in Computer Science
University of Massachusetts Amherst

I am currently a PhD student in the HCI-VIS Lab working with Dr. Narges Mahyar. I currently study communicative data visualization techniques and research methodologies. In other words, I study what makes data visualizations like charts and graphs "good" for communicating information and ways that scientists can measure that goodness. Outside of my research, I am a committed teacher and mentor focused on ways that Computer Science education and research can be more accessible for people who have been historically excluded.

You can find my CV here.


Instructor of Record:

Creative Coding and Data Visualization

University of Massachusetts Amherst, Pre-College, Online

Summer 2021

Introduction to Programming

University of Massachusetts Amherst, Pre-College, Online

Summer 2020

Introduction to Computational Problem Solving: "Big Data"

Mount Holyoke College

Spring 2020

Circuits, Robotics, and Arduino

University of Massachusetts Amherst, Pre-College

Summer 2019

Teaching Assistant:

Advanced Methods in Human-Computer Interaction

Spring 2021

Introduction to Social & Cultural Analytics

Spring 2021

Introduction to Human-Computer Interaction

Fall 2020

Inside the Box: How Computers Work

Fall 2017 - 2019

Introduction to Programming with Python

Spring 2019

Make: Physical Computing

Spring 2018


How to evaluate data visualizations across different levels of understanding

Alyxander Burns, Cindy Xiong, Steven Franconeri, Alberto Cairo, and Narges Mahyar. In 2020 IEEE Workshop on Evaluation and Beyond-Methodological Approaches to Visualization (BELIV), pp. 19-28. IEEE, 2020.
Paper | Recorded Talk

Looking to the Past to Visualize the Present: Revisiting W.E.B. Du Bois' Abolitionist Visualizations

Andrew Cunningham, Alyxander Burns, and Narges Mahyar, Posters of the IEEE Conference on Visualization, 2 pages. IEEE, 2020.
Paper | Video

Redundant Persistent Acylic Formations for Vision-based Control of Distributed Multi-Agent Formations

Alyxander Burns, Peter Klemperer, Jaemarie Solyst, Audrey St. John. Proceedings of the 31st Canadian Conference on Computational Geometry (CCCG 2019), pp. 29-37. 2019.

Persistent Multi-Robot Formations with Redundancy

Alyxander Burns, Bernd Schulze, and Audrey St John. Distributed Autonomous Robotic Systems, pp. 133-146. Springer, Cham, 2018.


Bloom’s Taxonomy for Evaluation

In this project, we described and demonstrated a method of evaluating the effectiveness of a data visualization based on what kind of information was learned by readers. The systematic method generates 6 comprehension based on the 6 levels of Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning Objectives.
Paper | Recorded Talk

7 small charts, each depicting a different set of statistics about Black and white people in the United States.

Revisiting W.E.B. Du Bois’ Abolitionist Visualizations

In this project, we recreated 7 data visualizations originally created by W.E.B. Du Bois in 1900 using modern data. By comparing these charts to their historical equivalents, we can glimpse where America has made progress toward racial justice and where there is still work to be done.
Paper | Video

A person with long hair and manicured nails presses a button on a conical touch screen.

Multi-Human Robot Interaction

In this project, I created a conical, projection-based touch-screen to enable multiple individuals to interact with a single assitive robot simultaneously. This work was my Masters' project, advised by Joydeep Biswas and Heather Pon-Barry.

A graph is shown which is redundant and persistent.

Persistent, Distributed Multi-Robot Formations

In this project, we demonstrated how to create multi-robot groups which keep their shape as they move through space, without the need for a centralized intelligence. Additionally, we showed how these formations could be constructed to be resistant to mechanical failures.
CCCG Paper | DARS Paper


EMBER Research Mentor

CICS, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Stonewall Center Mentor

University of Massachusetts Amherst

2020 - Present

PhD Applicant Support Program Mentor

CICS, University of Massachusetts Amherst


New Graduate Student Mentor

CICS, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Eureka! Creative Computing Workshop Mentor

Girls Inc. of Holyoke

2017 - 2019

MaGE Mentor

Mount Holyoke College, Google Computer Science Capacity Award

2016 - 2017


Committee Against Racism and for Equality, Faculty Teaching

University of Massachusetts Amherst

2020 - Present

Reviewer - IEEE VIS

2020, 2021

Reviewer - ACM Creativity & Cognition


Student Volunteer - IEEE VIS


Panelist - “The Graduate School Option”

Mount Holyoke College

2017 - 2019