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“Coming to Santa Clara was top-of-the-line issues that has occurred to me.”
Ask Betty Hou ’22 about crucial factor she found throughout her 4 years at Santa Clara, and she or he’ll let you know it was herself—studying to belief her instincts, to maintain an open thoughts, and to embrace change. 
Quite by likelihood, she additionally found a brand new course in life: the world of synthetic intelligence ethics. Specifically, the right way to construct AI techniques that can assist, moderately than hurt, humanity and civilization.
No one was extra excited by that aha second than Hou, who entered SCU in 2018 as a Computer Science and Engineering main and is leaving as a Computer Science PhD candidate, on her technique to New York University this fall to pursue a area that has turn out to be her driving drive.“I’ve discovered one thing that speaks to me, that I may be keen about, and that I can use my abilities and abilities for—I really feel like I’ve hit the jackpot,” says Hou, a 2021-22 Hackworth Fellow at SCU’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.Together with Brian Patrick Green, the middle’s Director of Technology Ethics, Hou has been working since final yr on authentic AI ethics analysis they may current to colleagues on campus in May, after which at a world convention in September. 
Along the best way, the maths and science whiz—whose childhood bed room was adorned with rows of educational awards symbolizing her onerous work and sacrifice—additionally discovered enlightenment at Santa Clara. Non-technical programs, from “Conscientious Capitalism” to “History of Emotions,” gave her the sorts of non-public insights that she hadn’t thought-about earlier than.
Among different issues, Hou realized to not be so onerous on herself.“I realized that I’ve to carry myself to life like requirements and that I can have a good time my accomplishments alongside the best way,” says the Seattle native. “Which does not imply that I’m dropping the requirements for myself.” 
A brand new course
The second of two kids born to engineer dad and mom—her mom is a longtime analysis scientist at Boeing, her father is in pc science—it appeared solely pure that Hou would observe of their STEM footsteps at certainly one of a number of faculties the place she utilized. A household good friend’s advice helped to steer her to Santa Clara as a substitute, together with a scholarship that paid for half of her tuition.
“I needed a smaller faculty, and I believed as an entire this could be a greater match for me. I simply went with my intestine on that,” she says. “And it was simple to go from rain to solar.” 
Hou did nicely in her required tech programs, making use of her abilities to an internship at Amazon the place she labored as a software program growth engineer—each in particular person in the summertime of 2019, and just about through the summer season of 2020 after the pandemic had emptied faculty campuses. It was the start of what she imagined could be a profession within the tech business.

Summer internships at Amazon.

Hou even managed to check overseas within the winter quarter of 2021 on the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. When she returned to SCU that spring to dwell close to campus, her schedule included one thing novel: a core course on ethics in know-how.
For Hou, it was an epiphany.
“We talked in regards to the issues that may come about with AI, as a result of it’s so highly effective and has potential purposes in methods we don’t even know but,” she explains. “It’s already used for well being care, legal justice, transportation, and different important sectors of our each day lives.”
The topic was additionally a pure intersection with the technical courses she already had excelled in, from coding algorithms to constructing machine-studying fashions. The mixture of these pursuits prompted her to use for a Hackworth Fellowship, a choose group of 10 SCU college students assigned to use ethics to “a subject of concrete concern.” 
“I received actually excited, and I feel it got here throughout in my software,” she remembers. “I keep in mind considering: why aren’t extra folks engaged on ethics? And if there’s something I wish to do within the area of AI, it was this.”
Solving a two-half drawback
Hou was not solely accepted to the fellowship, she was teamed with Markkula’s Professor Green to do analysis in AI alignment, the subject of making certain that AI is correctly aligned with human values. Hou says she was drawn to the analysis as a result of it’s “half a technical drawback, and half an ethics drawback.” 
Her paper with Green will present examples about AI mis-alignments involving content material moderation, autonomous automobiles, and well being care gadgets, in addition to presenting a framework for constructing correctly aligned AI. For instance, subtle new AI instruments are being marketed to surgeons to help with figuring out organic constructions as they function on sufferers.
“But what occurs if the surgeon doesn’t agree with the AI? How ought to the surgeon go about, who would maintain the accountability, and the way can we keep away from conditions like this to start with?” says Hou. “These are huge points, particularly if they’re life-threatening.”
Taking on that form of problem is strictly “the place I’m at by way of my goal, and the better imaginative and prescient for my life,” says the current recipient of a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, which can present funding for 3 years of her graduate program at NYU.

Off to an thrilling future.

Hou is the primary Santa Clara scholar since 2014 to win the award as an undergraduate, and earlier within the faculty yr was chosen as a Marshall Scholarship Finalist. It was the primary time in SCU’s historical past {that a} scholar has progressed to the ultimate spherical. 
Meanwhile, she snagged a scholarship from Google DeepMind that can present a stipend for her first graduate faculty educational yr and summer season, on high of a full experience from the NYU Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. “I feel these awards are a testomony to how vital this work is true now,” says Hou. “I’m simply honored to be entrusted because the one who truly will get to do it, and I’ll be giving my all for it.” At NYU, she’ll be working within the Machine Learning for Good lab, the place she’ll use her mixed technical and moral perspective to resolve actual-world AI issues. 
“I discovered a ardour for AI ethics, all because of that core class I took in junior yr,” says Hou, nonetheless amazed by the happenstance that has re-framed her life. “Coming to Santa Clara is likely one of the greatest issues that has occurred to me.”
Engineering, Technology, Social Entrepreneurship, Ethics, Research, Undergraduate, Culture, Fellowships, SOE, Student Spotlight

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