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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, an affiliated faculty member at Harvard Law School, and a distinguished scientist at Microsoft Research. 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.
Risk assessment tools are increasingly deployed in high-stakes settings, and computer scoring functions output numbers typically viewed as “probabilities.” For example: What is the probability that the tumor will metastasize? What is the probability that the student will graduate within four years? But what is the probability of a non-repeatable event? What is the mathematical meaning of “individual risk,” and what should we require of a risk-assessment algorithm? Statistics has studied this question for decades, but progress has been slow. An approach drawing on concepts used in the theory of pseudo-randomness promises a different and tantalizing perspective.
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.