Mandi L. Cai

Hello! I am a PhD student in Northwestern University's Technology and Social Behavior program, which is a joint program in computer science and communication. My interests include the communication of realā€time election results and election forecasts to the public, literacy/attitudes/opinions around data and AI, and digital tools that open up venues for participation in our governance. I am advised by Matthew Kay, as a member of the MU Collective, and my research is supported by the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.

Before this, I was a designer and developer on the data visuals team at The Texas Tribune, reporting on issues affecting Texans through data analysis and visualizatons. Before that, I created dashboards for scientists at BioBright. Before that, I studied cognitive neuroscience and worked at a lab investigating human navigation and movement through virtual reality.

Feel free to reach out. Here's my CV if you're curious.


May 2024: Going to CHI 2024 to present my accepted paper Watching the Election Sausage Get Made: How Data Journalists Visualize the Vote Counting Process in U.S. Elections and participate in a visualization literacy workshop co-organized by my lovely labmates. Would love to chat about all things uncertainty vis, data and statistical literacy, and elections :)
April 2024: Some of my wonderful colleagues and I attended CRA-WP's Grad Cohort for Women and Grad Cohort for IDEALS in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Also, found out that I received the NSF GRFP ...
October 2023: Was at SRCCON 2023 hosting a workshop w/ Tyler Fisher to explore alternative ways of presenting live election results, and the Journalism & Women Symposium CAMP 2023 discussing AI literacy for journalists on a panel w/ Sachita Nishal.
August 2023: Participated in the 2023-24 NU Design Cluster, a fellowship that brings together an interdisciplinary group of students and faculty to pursue design research.
April 2023: Sachita Nishal and I co-authored a workshop paper motivations, goals, and pathways for AI Literacy for journalists presented at the AI Literacy workshop at CHI 2023 in Hamburg, Germany :)


Watching the Election Sausage Get Made: How Data Journalists Visualize the Vote Counting Process in U.S. Elections

Mandi Cai and Matthew Kay

In proceedings of the 2024 ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI)

Swaying the Public? Impacts of Election Forecast Visualizations on Emotion, Trust, and Intention in the 2022 U.S. Midterms

Fumeng Yang, Mandi Cai, Chloe Mortenson, Hoda Fakhari, Ayse Deniz Lokmanoglu, Jessica Hullman, Steven Franconeri, Nicholas Diakopoulos, Erik Nisbet, Matthew Kay

VIS 2023: IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, Best Paper Award

Motivations, Goals, and Pathways for AI Literacy for Journalism

Mandi Cai*, Sachita Nishal*

In proceedings of the AI Literacy workshop at the 2023 ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI)

*Authors contributed equal work


From 2019 to 2022, I worked as a data journalist at The Texas Tribune, covering COVID-19's impact in Texas, tracking immigration numbers across the Texas-Mexico border, rebuilding a data explorer of government workers' salaries, among other topics. You can see a full list of my bylines here.

artwork & creative projects

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