Career Path: Avijit Ghosh, PhD
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Where did you go to college? What did you study and what were some of your initial jobs out of school?
I went to undergrad at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur, where I majored in Chemical Engineering and Minored in Computer Science.
Right out of my undergrad, I moved to Boston to pursue my PhD in Computer Science at Northeastern University, where I studied Algorithmic Fairness under Professor Christo Wilson. I finished my PhD in a record 4 years, which I am really proud of.
I actually have never worked full time until AdeptID, but have had the good fortune of doing several cool internships. I was a Google Summer of Code (GSoC) student in 2016 for OpenMRS, interned at the Xerox Research Center India (now Conduent Labs), Fiddler AI, and most recently interned twice with the Twitter Machine Learning Ethics Transparency and Accountability (META) team.
What has attributed to your success thus far and has helped propel you to the position you have now?
My journey has been driven by my personal experiences growing up as a gay man in India, where I witnessed unequal civil rights for the queer community firsthand. This led me to pursue a PhD focused on algorithmic fairness, merging my passion for technology with a deep commitment to social justice.
Today, in my role as a Research Data Scientist at AdeptID, I apply my specialized expertise to ensure that the models we develop are fair and unbiased. The convergence of my personal drive, academic pursuits, and empathy for marginalized communities has been instrumental in propelling me forward. Collaborating across disciplines, staying current in the ever-evolving field, and advocating for fairness through talks and publications have further shaped my journey. Overcoming challenges with resilience and nurturing a vision for a more equitable future continue to fuel my path.
Can you share the high-level responsibilities of your current position as a Research Data Scientist at AdeptID?
At AdeptID, my job is to ensure that the models we develop are actually fair, unbiased, and living up to the promise of helping more people get better jobs faster. At a technical level, this translates to making sure that our models pass various regulations in the algorithmic hiring space, which means that I have to work with policy folks to check various metrics of our production model(s) and measure their accuracy and bias metrics to fall within regulatory guidelines. Additionally, as someone with a more academic background, my job is also to perform original research in the field of ML powered job recommendations to inform our business product and publish our findings in academic and business publications.
What have you found unique about AdeptID?
AdeptID is a small company with a lot of soul! Everyone seems genuinely happy to do what they are doing, and we try our best to support each other, even though we have completely different expertises. I often find myself chatting with folks in growth and taking those ideas back to the data science team because we are all very open that way. This open nature and lack of bureaucracy also spills over to the Friday all hands meetings, where we go around the whole company ascribing certain core company values to different teammates who have shown excellence, integrity, delight, or other values that week. It’s honestly refreshing.
Any tips for someone considering a career in your field?
If you’re considering a career in algorithmic fairness and machine learning, here are my top tips:
- Stay current by reading research papers regularly; this keeps you informed about the latest advancements.
- Dive into coding projects that involve implementing paper concepts to solidify your understanding and enhance your technical skills.
- Network at conferences and workshops to connect with like-minded professionals, opening doors to collaborations and new opportunities.
- Embrace adaptability and a thirst for learning, as this field evolves rapidly.
With dedication to positive impact and a commitment to equality, persistence and curiosity will drive your journey forward, and eventually help you make a difference in society.
Coffee, tea, or nothing?
Coffee! Although fun fact, I am caffeine resistant, which in my understanding is a genetic condition some people have. I could drink coffee and go straight to bed, no problem.
What are three things that motivate you in your role?
- 1. The desire to help people around me, especially underprivileged people.
- 2. My love for building things, which for me manifests as building projects.
- 3. My knack of collaborating with people across disciplines. I work with CS folks, but also with policy and legal experts, philosophers, social workers, marketing leads and such.
Do you log back in at night or do you shut it down completely?
I don’t actively code after work hours, but I might be engaging on Twitter or Linkedin with people in my field and bring fresh perspectives to work the next day.
What are the 3 apps that you can’t live without?
Slack, Twitter/X, and Signal.
What professional accomplishment are you proudest of?
At FAccT 2023 I co-organized a India specific Responsible AI workshop, which was a major success. Algorithmic Fairness/Responsible AI research work is almost always Western values-centric, and does not translate nicely to Indian contexts. This workshop was an eye opener, with around 120 attendees and a diverse panel of speakers who contributed a lot of knowledge about missing pieces to deploy AI in India responsibly. I am immensely proud to have organized this and I hope it impacts the AI landscape in India in a meaningful way.
Who do you admire or call upon for professional advice?
Two people come to mind:
My former manager when I was an intern at Twitter, Dr. Rumman Chowdhury. As one of the pioneers in practical AI Ethics, she’s just incredible and very, very good at what she does.
My PhD advisor, Christo. We have great advisor-advisee chemistry and he’s gone above and beyond what is expected of a typical advisor to put me on the map and to hand hold me through difficult times.