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

by Joseph Omoniyi
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28-year-old Rediet Abebe has etched her name in history as the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Cornell University in New York. Currently a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows, Abebe’s remarkable accomplishment highlights her dedication to advancing opportunities for historically disadvantaged communities.

Abebe’s pioneering research centers on algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) with a commitment to equity and social good. Her work, detailed in her thesis titled “Designing Algorithms for Social Good,” addresses pressing societal issues, including the challenges faced by economically disadvantaged families dealing with income shocks.

Hailing from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Abebe draws inspiration from her homeland, where she witnessed widespread income inequality. Her experiences have fueled her commitment to leveraging computer science and applied mathematics for meaningful societal impact.

Abebe is not only a member of the NIH Advisory Committee to the Director working group on AI but also the co-founder of Black in AI, a non-profit organization striving to enhance diversity in the field of artificial intelligence.

She co-founded Mechanism Design for Social Good (MD4SG), an interdisciplinary research initiative and workshop series involving participants from over 100 institutions in 20 countries. This initiative reflects her broader commitment to collaborative efforts aimed at solving complex societal challenges.

Abebe, who earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Harvard College, continued her academic journey at the University of Cambridge, obtaining a master’s in Mathematics. She further pursued a second master’s in Applied Mathematics from Harvard University.

In a statement, Abebe emphasized her hope to continue diversifying the technology landscape through her work and organizational initiatives. She believes that computer science and applied mathematics offer not only intriguing mathematical challenges but also the opportunity to address immediate societal problems through data-driven approaches.

Through her dedication to diversifying the technology landscape, she is paving the way for future generations of black women to excel in STEM fields.

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