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The DataNinjas: all there is to know

Let me introduce you to The DataNinjas: dr. Yanne Broux and Silke Vanbeselaere

DataNinjas ancient history researchers digital humanities
Silke (l.) & Yanne (r.)


Before the DataNinjas, Yanne started off as the yellow Power Ranger in her youth, but after discovering the wonderful world of Harry Potter she decided that wand waving and potion brewing were more refined and didn’t require such a high level of fitness as those karate chopping moves and operating a saber-toothed Dinozord. More than ten years later, she still can’t produce as much as a whiff of smoke from the tip of her wand, though, and she’s still waiting for that acceptance letter from Hogwarts’ adult education program. Although she’s got nothing against Muggles in general, some hocus pocus would come in handy for the dishes and cleaning, since the female orderliness gene seems to have skipped a generation in her, and the Belgian government is increasing its inspections on illegal Polish housekeepers.

Growing up in the nineties, she’s unbeatable when it comes to remembering the lyrics of teen/dance pop songs. She once dreamed of eloping with, alternately, a Backstreet Boy, Leonardo Dicaprio, a Hanson brother, Johnny Depp, and all four at once, but now she has come to her senses, she has settled for Daniel Craig.

Thanks to her geek streak, she stuck through six years of Greek and Latin in high school, and decided to reward her fascination for imperial serial killers and famous actors in tunics with a BA and MA in Ancient History. As if those groping Greeks and scallywag Romans (it doesn’t always have to be an alliteration) weren’t enough, she threw herself at those bootylicious Babylonians as well, mastering the little known and elusive scribal art that is cuneiform.

In grad school, she was headhunted by one of the seven samurai of papyrology, who convinced her to renounce her Mesopotamian allegiance and defect to Egypt, with not so false promises of a bleak and depressing career in academia. Under the supervision of the mighty Trismegistos overlord, she started working on the all-encompassing Trismegistos database. Thanks to her unsurpassable parsing skillz, Trismegistos People was expanded to include the entire Graeco-Roman period (ca. 330 BC – AD 500), and they are now well on their way to world domination.

She wrote a fascinating study on double names in Roman Egypt, entitled ‘A Bitch Slap to Shakespeare: There’s a Lot in a Name, Especially in the Egyptian-Roman period in Egypt’, which for mysterious and never fully elaborated reasons had to be changed into the utterly un-imaginative ‘Double Names and Elite Strategy in Roman Egypt’. Other awesome scientific discoveries have been published in journals: inspiration for some light bedtime reading can be found in the academic snippets posted on Academia.

When first the KU Leuven, and then the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) started showering her with precious tax money to accomplish her postdoctoral dream, Yanne started experimenting with those noodly structures that prompted you to visit this blog. Many people are quite impressed by our spaghetti monsters, even though lots of them are pretty useless, to the extent that she is now referred to as the faculty’s in-house ‘SNA specialist’. Flattering as this may be, she now lives in fear of being unmasked as a pastalicious fraud, since apart from some centrality measures, she understands nougat balls of the mathematical principles behind all the networky jargon.

She was recently promoted to the position of official TM People deleting specialist. She tried it once, got a mad twinkle in her eyes and a tingling sensation of perverted almightyness, which quickly turned into fear, and since then she is so terrified that she might wipe out half the database, she’s never tried it again.

True to her ninja self, Yanne loves all things Japanese, especially the food. As a kid, she was addicted to Skittles and Double Stuff Oreos. Luckily, they don’t have these exquisite delicacies in Belgium, or she’d be injecting insulin and scheduling a bypass by now. She is of average height and build, deprived of her tonsils, and has anatomically strangely arranged toes.

In her free time, Yanne writes blogposts for the DataNinjas, experiments with pasta and tames tigers.



Silke is a lazy bastard. Her bio will appear in the probably not so near future.

And I am pleased to announce that we can now objectify the definition ‘not so near future’ as March 19 2015. I found the following statement in my Dropbox folder:

baby Silke DataNinjas researcherDisclaimer: the following is not written by Silke herself, I repeat, not written by Her Majesty Herself. This bio is trusted to be entirely objective and honest.

As a baby, Silke was found and suckled by a wolf in the West-Flemish wilderness – close to the remote village of Poelkapelle –, providing her with a love for all things wolf: running through woods (preferably naked), howling at the moon and fantasizing about Narnia.

DataNinjas researchers snaThis has resulted in the embarrassing moment in which Silke found herself (naked) howling in a cupboard on the fourth floor of the KULeuven’s Humanities Department, which she truly believed to be the entrance to her land of dreams.

During puberty (yes, we’re going there), she struggled a bit with herself and decided she felt better under the radar so she started wearing a chicken hat, as one does.

We are happy to announce that Silke and the chicken are still happily together. It (the chicken, not Silke) can often been seen on heads of colleagues at seminars at the Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London or providing the same colleagues with chocolates from its various orifices.

(no permission to put up pics as proof, so you’ll have to come and see for yourself)

DataNinjas Bio AboutWe don’t exactly know how she got there, but at 19 she was spotted at uni in Leuven in a course on papyrology. During exams, no professor was able to understand her because of her weird West-Flemish accent that makes her sound a bit like a toothless old man mumbling about pigs, a tractor John Deere 7430 and a wolf howling – of course.

Scared of being confronted with a court case on discriminating a peasant, they gave her the maximum on every test and then proceeded with offering her a job.

So, that’s how she ended up as one half of the DataNinjas, a PhD student and researcher at KULeuven, Department of Ancient History – if you were wondering at all – no you’re not the only one…

Being commanded by the Trismegistos overlord to write a PhD on social network analysis and Ptolemaic Egypt, she shook in her not-so-little DocMartin boots. Helped by the unequivocal power of late night working and vodka (mostly vodka), she started her adventure in the wondrous world that is Digital Humanities.

Her big lumpy boots got stuck a lot in the treacherous swampy SNA-land, but with the help of her faithful friend Yanne, she always got back up and together, they kept going strong.

—– You may take a little break now to wipe those tears off your cheeks. Stiff upper lip, my chums! ——

Struggling with SNA basics, R and Gephi like a true Laocoon, she got wary of being part of a team of two DataNinjas only (although it was probably the best team forged since Leonardo Da Vinci and Nikkolò Machiavelli met up for some Renaissance pints and stole a f****** river) – oh yes, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

She then decided to move to London and be part of a Digital Humanities team at King’s College London. That is where she could be found, bent over a desk that looks like Voldemort came round, looking for baby Harry in a pile of articles on Ptolemaic history, prosopography and witness contracts from the ancient Near East, getting a bit peeved about the lack of baby Harry, having a little meltdown, being confronted by a friendly colleague trying to feed him chocolate coming from a stuffed chicken’s orifice, followed by a spine shuddering outcry of his Lordship himself and an Avada Kedavra attempt at a piece of bread that has – luckily – been there for so long that it has able to run away from Voldemort’s fury.

Now, she is trying to finish her PhD so is spending most of her time in total isolation (sometimes with restraints) and venting via the DataNinjas twitter account when it’s all getting a bit much.

Bits ‘n bobs about Silky:

Silke DataNinjas researcher DH

  • spends a bit of her time writing comedy sketches
  • spends quite a bit of her time complaining about British food and worrying about cultural appropriation
  • spends a lot of her time chatting to academics who want to be left alone
  • spends most of her time in the pub (27 Museum Street) revering about IPA craft beers



  • vodka
  • sharing embarrassing stories
  • cycling
  • Harry Potter references
  • Vodeaka
  • Getting a result from R after 5 terrifying minutes – in which she experiences all the the next feelings: nervousness, self hate, hunger, anxiety, anger, anger towards computer, anger towards R, anger towards SNA, reboot thoughts, relief, euphory, hunger
  • Giggles with the other half of the DataNinjas
  • vooodkmala
  • human anatomy



  • seriousness
  • non-Belgian chips
  • getting up before 10am
  • being quiet
  • morning after vodka