End the duopoly

Cornell’s first black female CS Ph.D. blazed her own trail

When Rediet Abebe, M.S. ’18, Ph.D. ’19, came to the United States from her native Ethiopia, she was surprised to find such drastic inequality.

“At least in Ethiopia, we were sort of resource constrained – I could see why it was that way,” she said. “But here, it just didn’t make any sense to me.” Rediet Abebe, M.S. ’18, Ph.D. ’19 Around the same time, she began to discover the powerful impact algorithms could have on people’s lives. At Cornell, her doctoral program in computer science allowed her to merge her math degrees with her interest in inequality and social impact.

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“For the most part, algorithms didn’t create inequity and inequality,” Abebe said. “But the fact that we didn’t have people who were engaging with algorithms’ role was exacerbating this existing inequality. With any sort of social issue, an algorithm can make things a lot worse, or it can help you understand what’s going on better and try to move things in a positive direction.”

Abebe, the first black woman to earn a doctorate at Cornell in computer science, blazed a trail not just for herself, but for others, too. Though she completed her studies in December, before the pandemic she’d planned […]

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