Mila Gorecki, a student of the International Master’s Program in Machine Learning at the University of Tübingen, has won first prize at the 2020 Women’s STEM Award. She received the award for her outstanding bachelor’s thesis, which explores sources of unfairness in algorithmic decisions and ways of mitigating their effects. Gorecki was reviewed by Philipp Hennig, Professor for the Methods of Machine Learning at the University of Tübingen, and supervised by Alexandra Gessner, a PhD student in Hennig’s department. Hennig is a member of the “Machine Learning: New Perspectives for Science” Cluster of Excellence and Deputy Spokesperson of the Cyber Valley Executive Board.
“To address her very challenging research question, Mila had to fundamentally question current assumptions that are used to build and optimize machine learning systems and process the necessary data. She had to re-examine and re-evaluate these assumptions from the perspective of fairness,” said Jan Hofmann, Vice- President Top Program Lead AI at Deutsche Telekom, in his laudatory speech at the virtual award ceremony. “Not only is Mila Gorecki making a special contribution to the field of artificial intelligence, she is also making a broader contribution that is very socially relevant.”
“Understanding your data is super important,” said Gorecki, in summarizing the main message of her work. “Where does the data come from? How has it been generated? To identify sources of unfairness, answering these questions is decisive.” The social significance of the topic was one of the reasons Gorecki chose to work on it. “Algorithmic decisions have a profound effect on people’s lives.” At present, algorithms are used to make decisions in a broad range of areas, from online advertising to determining credit scores and criminal prosecution. “There is a risk that certain groups could be disadvantaged by algorithmic decisions,” says Gorecki. This is an issue that will become even more widespread with the increased use of algorithms in everyday life.
The Women’s STEM Award is awarded jointly by Deutsche Telekom, the audimax Medien student magazine, and the “MINT Zukunft schaffen” initiative. It honours female students who have submitted a thesis in the fields of Artificial Intelligence, Cloud, Cyber Security, Internet of Things or Networks of the Future. The first prize is endowed with 3,000 euros.
“This prize is an incentive for me to continue my research in this direction,” Gorecki says. She also hopes to become a role model. “I would like to encourage young women to study STEM subjects because I strongly believe that technology will help shape society in the long term. Join in and help shape technology!”