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.
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.