Rediet Abebe Makes History as First Black Woman to Earn Ph.D. in Computer Science at Cornell University

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Rediet Abebe, a 28-year-old black woman hailing from Addis Ababa, has made history as the first-ever black woman to earn a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Cornell University in New York. Rediet, currently a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows, has positioned herself as a trailblazer in the field, focusing her research on algorithms and artificial intelligence for equity and social good.

Rediet’s groundbreaking accomplishment was highlighted by Atlanta Black Star, shedding light on her pioneering work. Her research revolves around the design and analysis of algorithmic, discrete optimizations, network-based, and computational techniques aimed at improving access to opportunities for historically disadvantaged communities.

During her studies, Rediet presented her final thesis, titled “Designing Algorithms for Social Good,” addressing societal welfare issues. Her work included innovative solutions to challenges like income shocks faced by economically disadvantaged families due to layoffs or income gaps.

Notably, Rediet is a member of the NIH Advisory Committee to the Director working group on artificial intelligence. She is also the co-founder of Black in AI, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving diversity in the artificial intelligence field. Additionally, she co-founded Mechanism Design for Social Good (MD4SG), an interdisciplinary research initiative with participants from over 100 institutions in 20 countries.

Drawing inspiration from her home country, Ethiopia, Rediet expressed how witnessing income inequality shaped her identity and fueled her commitment to addressing societal challenges. She recalled the stark contrast of “big mansions” alongside “plastic homes” on the same streets, a disparity that motivated her to make a meaningful impact through her work.

Rediet’s academic journey includes earning her bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Harvard College, followed by a master’s in Mathematics from the University of Cambridge. She further expanded her academic prowess with another master’s degree in Applied Mathematics from Harvard University.

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