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Cynthia Dwork is a Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, a Radcliffe Alumnae Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and an affiliated faculty member at Harvard Law School. Dwork’s research focuses on applying computer science theory to societal problems. Examples include developing a theory of and algorithmic tools for privacy-preserving data analysis, developing universal techniques for ensuring statistical validity in exploratory data analysis, and defining and ensuring fairness in classification algorithms.
The three problems of privacy-preserving data analysis, resilience to exploratory data analysis, and fairness in classification are deeply related, but placing fairness on a rigorous foundation is exceptionally challenging. This is due, in part, to the existence of many competing—and mutually exclusive—notions and measures of fairness, ensuring that any model of fairness will fail on some reasonable measures. The task is further complicated by a lack of access to “ground truth.”
A member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the American Philosophical Society and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Dwork is a recipient of the Test of Time Award in two fields and the 2017 Gödel Prize for her work on privacy-preserving data analysis. She earned a PhD in computer science from Cornell University.