Bad Puns & Good Times: Big Dijkstra Energy

collage of cartoons of 4 girls

“You were red and you liked me cuz I was blue

But you touched me and suddenly I was a lilac sky”

~ Colors by Halsey

I (Audrey) found this line from Colors to be oddly beautiful. I think it’s about Halsey contorting herself into what her lover wants of her, losing herself in an in-between state of lilac. But this in-between-ness also describes my feelings towards this past fall semester. I felt disconnected from my high school life and self, but I didn’t feel like I’m exactly in college either. Not red nor blue but rather drifting through a liminal lilac daze that is the cycle of zoom lectures, psets, more zoom, and more psets. 

However, there was one constant sparkle in the midst of the lilac fog that I looked forward to every day — MIT Confessions on Facebook. Some were heartwarming, some heart-wrenching, and others downright blasphemous. Tagging my friends in painfully relatable confessions (or sending them screenshots of confessions too unholy to be tagged in) made me feel a little less alone. 

a facebook page

My friends Gloria L. ‘21, Penny B. ‘24, and I loved this one. I didn’t submit this particular work of wit and genius, but I’ve submitted a couple of computer science-inspired pickup lines to Confessions myself, most of which are too sacrilegious to be written here. I’d personally never use my compsci pickup lines on anyone unironically, but coming up with them was cathartic in a way. Graph theory on my 6.006 psets would be the absolute bane of my existence, but making it into an awful pickup line transformed it into something to laugh about. 

Gloria and Penny were also really into bad puns, computer science-induced pain, and webcomics. So we had the brilliant idea to combine them and made a WEBCOMIC of BAD PUNS about COMPUTER SCIENCE!! We initially wanted to call our webcomic Big Data Energy, but @big_data_energy and and @bigdataenergy were all taken on Instagram. We ended up going with Big Dijkstra Energy instead, paying homage to the great Dijkstra’s algorithm which finds weighted shortest paths (and raises my blood pressure everytime it shows up on a 6.006 pset/quiz). And so Big Dijkstra Energy (aka BDE) was born last December. 

Our blurb on our webtoon page

who says that compsci majors don't have game?? we certainly do!!! this webtoon has the most cOmpRehENSive arsenal of pickup lines to woo that queue-tie in your life and find your bipartite match <3

Our first posts :’)

a cartoon of a computer science student

Especially in the beginning, it was hilarious when my other friends sent me a screenshot of BDE’s page asking “is this you???!!!!” Gloria, Penny, and I considered staying anonymous so that our reputations would not be tarnished by BDE’s clownery. But soon enough, we gave up and exposed our clown selves through admin reveal posts.

collage of cartoons of four girls

Our wonderful friend Margaret Z. ‘23 joined BDE here to spice things up with math pickup lines and made her debut through the admin reveal post above, completing the current quartet that is Big Dijkstra Energy. 

picture of 4 girls in a zoom call

We were joking that BDE challenges the stereotype that computer science majors have zero social skills… and then we realized that our esoterically nerdy and charming-to-a-questionable-degree pickup lines probably reinforce that stereotype instead. But then a highschool student DM’ed us saying that our page makes them excited about there being “a community  of nerds who find this stuff entertaining” at MIT, which honestly made my heart so happy. Regardless of what kind of social reputation (or lack thereof) our webcomic bestows upon math and computer science majors, I believe that we’re at least humanizing computer science/math and the people who study it to our audience. Especially considering that we’re four women in traditionally male-dominated STEM fields, I hope that BDE can become something that gets people excited about math and computer science. 

Drawing for BDE and hanging out (virtually) with Gloria, Penny, and Margaret quickly became the highlight of my days — my foggy lilac sky gave way to electric violets and fiery reds and bright blues and every color of the rainbow as we cackled over awful puns and found ourselves taking on/juggling an ever increasing number of projects. 

In addition to regularly posting our usual illustrations of math/CS pickup lines, BDE has been involved in several special projects and collaborations: 

  • We ran a Pickup Line Tournament for Bad Ideas Weekend, complete with custom BDE merch as prizes, that saw 116 pickup line submissions (of varying degrees of holiness). Our live Zoom premiere of aforementioned pickup lines attracted over 69, er I mean 75,  attendees and the Zoom chat was—for lack of a better word—poppin'.


picture of an event on zoom

picture of an event on zoom

  • BDE also coordinated with MindHandHeart to design, print, and distribute nerdy Valentine's Day cards to every undergrad moving in to campus. Knowing that 2025 early adMITs get Valentine’s Day cards from MIT, we thought it’d only be fair for MIT students to get them too! As for students who will not return to campus this semester, we plan on hosting a special electronic BDE card delivery that is accessible to the entire MIT undergraduate community. Between 3000 cards and 6 different designs covering a variety of STEM topics, we hope that those wholesome Valentine’s Day surprises could be a fun addition to the special welcome to our undergraduate student body as everyone starts the semester in Q-week!
collage of postcards
  • Last but not the least - BDE infiltrated @mitadmissions official Instagram account from 2/8 - 2/15 to spread the BDE love leading up to Valentine's Day. We’re quite flattered that the admissions office deems our clownery worthy of shaping MIT’s public image, for better or for worse. We’re definitely not helping with MIT’s reputation for being a hive of nerds, but at least we’re nerds with some sense of humor :’).

collage of cartoons

To conclude, here are some thoughts from other BDE members on what the project has meant to them. 

Gloria: Big Dijkstra Energy combines all of my favorite things-- art, MIT Confessions, and CS (in some sense, haha)-- and I'm eternally grateful to have amazing, talented, like-minded friends who are also excited to do a project like BDE. It's like we really share the same wavelength (or brain cell, or circus), and our group calls have really helped me get through these last few months of remote learning <3. I've also been surprised at the amount of interest that the comic has garnered, in and outside of the MIT community. Perhaps there's some truth to the lonely CS nerd stereotype (oops!), but in these weird and isolating times, we need all the love we can get, and I can't think of a project I've worked on in my last 2.5 years at MIT that embodies the camaraderie, spontaneity, and quirkiness of the 'tvte as much as BDE.

Penny: I love using Big Dijkstra Energy to share wholesomeness and positivity with others that are much more needed during zoom university. I think BDE has formed more connections between people in the MIT community who share a sense of humor similar to ours, find our pick up lines funny, or have struggled through the classes that inspire our comics (notably, 6.006 - Introduction to Algorithms, which Audrey and I took this past fall!). In a microscopic sense, BDE is a series of cute comics that’s mainly catered to lonely quarantined CS & math majors (oops). But in a macroscopic sense, I started thinking of these comics as polaroid snapshots of our MIT journey, each comic reflecting on our humor, sentiments, how we learn, and internal feelings at that moment in time, which are echoed by many more in the MIT community. I think in these uncertain times, sometimes just knowing there are people out there like you who laugh at similar jokes is a very comforting and validating thought. And so, I’m really glad BDE is doing our small part in telling the story of MIT students, presenting our unique culture to others, and making zoom university slightly better and more wholesome for everyone.

I’m so grateful to be a part of this amazing project and working with Audrey, Gloria, and Margaret, who are some of the smartest, most talented, and creative people I’ve met. BDE created an environment where I feel comfortable pitching any bad ideas that come to mind (ranging from the 2 am thought of making friend matches between people who voted similarly in our pick up line tournament to making a sticker printing service for MIT clubs after spending way too much money on BDE stickers, etc.). Maybe 90% of these ideas have not been carried through, similar to the more questionable puns sitting in the corner of my procreate folder. Still, I’m eternally grateful for the snapshots of happy memories we’ve managed to make so far--the laughter during our pickup lines tournament, every time someone smiles from our new post, and the many memories I have made with Audrey, Gloria, and Margaret--will always be some of my most treasured memories.

^^Penny’s tl;dr: you should follow @big_dijkstra_energy, oh and also ily Audrey Gloria Margaret <3


When I joined @big_dijkstra_energy on December 25th, 2020, I knew I signed up for more math, more art, and a chance to (re)learn Dijkstra’s algorithm along many other cool CS terms from three big-brained MIT friends who also love doodling – which, I love math, I love doodling, so yay, I think it’d be fun! 

What I didn’t know – and possibly couldn’t have ever imagined – was that BDE flipped my wandering, confused quaranteen self inside-out in a matter of a few days. For the first time in what must have felt like forever, I started waking up every single morning ready for the day ahead to be filled with colorful comics, chuckles, charms, and creativity, and put myself to sleep every night brainstorming new comics, new projects, and even more ways to put smiles on my friends, the MIT community, and lots of people whose path wouldn’t have crossed ours had it not been for BDE.  

Tldr, BDE = best Christmas gift I could ask for. 

Being a part of BDE has been an absolute joy all around. In the past two months, we’ve shared countless bad puns and good jokes (u know, they are bad good), made each other laugh when someone’s down, and made each other laugh even more on a daily basis (especially at the unexpectedly large quantity of turnouts and attention that none of us saw coming, lol – perhaps it’s a sign for us to populate the long-depleted pool of original STEM pick-up lines!) But what I especially love about BDE is how different yet similar we are. On one hand, our disjoint involvements and specific academic interests are diverse enough that all four of us bring so many different ideas to the table - at the end of each meeting we’ve almost always ended up doubling the number of potential projects we plan to work on XD. On the other hand, our shared passion in spreading love and wholesomeness with STEM knowledge is what brings us so close to each other – and perhaps, we hope, is what would eventually bring the members of the STEM community a little bit closer to each other, and to numerous other communities in the world.

Just like this reflection that does not want to conclude any time soon, I could go on about BDE for days (which is what I have been doing so far, as it is often among the first three things I bring up in any conversation those days). But just to echo the feelings we all share and have expressed towards each other, I am beyond fortunate to have known Gloria, Audrey and Penny, who are amongst not only the most intelligent, but also the most inspirational and kind people I’ve ever known, and I can’t think of a more (statistically) significant group of friends which whom I could partake on a journey exploring new ways to spread love to communities beyond our imagination. <3