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She’s Set To Become The 1st Black Woman To Earn A Ph.D. In Computer Science From Cornell

She’s Set To Become The 1st Black Woman To Earn A Ph.D. In Computer Science From Cornell

Black women just keep racking up the wins!

28-year-old Rediet Abebe is about to make history as the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. in computer science from Cornell University, Atlanta Black Star reports.

The doctoral candidate has centered her research thus far on algorithms and artificial intelligence for equity and social good. In her bio, Abebe says she works to “design and analyze algorithmic, discrete optimizations, network-based, [and] computational techniques to improve access to opportunity for historically disadvantaged communities.”

Abebe is a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows, a member of the NIH Advisory Committee to the Director working group on artificial intelligence, co-founder of Black in AI, a non-profit that works to improve diversity in the field of artificial intelligence and co-founder of Mechanism Design for Social Good (MD4SG), “an interdisciplinary, multi-institutional research initiative and workshop series with participants from over 100 institutions in 20 countries.”

Last month, Abebe presented her fnal thesis, “Designing Algorithms for Social Good,” which focused on solutions to improve societal welfare, including research addressing issues such as income shocks faced by economically disadvantaged families who are laid off or have gaps in income. 

An Addis Ababa, Ethiopia native, the young computer scientist says a lot of inspiration for her work comes from her home country. She said back home in Ethiopia, income inequality was ubiquitous and quite often, she would see “big mansions” on the same street as “plastic homes.” 

“It’s something that’s really shaped my identity as a person, as a researcher. I realized that actually, if you do computer science or applied mathematics and ultimately other fields, you can work on really interesting challenging mathematical questions, you can do a lot of data-driven work, you can play with data. But, you can also think about problems that affect society immediately,” Abebe said. 

In 2015, Abebe graduated from Harvard University with a masters in applied mathematics. She also has a Masters in mathematics from the University of Cambridge and a Bachelor's degree in mathematics from Harvard College. Abebe hopes that through her work and organizations, she can continue to diversify the tech landscape, something she feels is extremely pertinent. 

“I think the reality is that a lot of institutions just don’t prioritize diversity as much as they should. They prioritize it a lot, but not enough,” she said. 

Abebe is set to graduate from Cornell University on December 21st. 

Congratulations Dr. Rediet Abebe!