Ashia Wilson will join the MIT faculty as an assistant professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) in 2021. She received her BA from Harvard University with a concentration in applied mathematics and a minor in philosophy, as well as a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley in statistics. Ashia held a postdoctoral position in the machine learning group at Microsoft Research, New England. Her journey comes full circle as her mother, Carol Espy-Wilson became the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from MIT in 1987.
“When I was growing up, my mom was one of very few examples that helped conceptualize that it was possible to be in these spaces. However, she was such an ever-present example that it really helped me along the way,” reflects Ashia. As a new professor, diversifying the STEM field is at the forefront of her mind.
“I’m hoping that as we start penetrating these spaces that it (diversity) will change. I think a large part of retention is seeing yourself in these spaces. Diversifying at the faculty level is in part the reason why I decided to go into academia rather than industry because it will allow me to mentor students of color with whom I can relate to being a person of color in STEM.”
Ashia’s research focuses on the methodological foundations and theory of various topics in machine learning. She’s interested in developing frameworks for algorithmic assessment and providing rigorous guarantees for algorithmic performance.
“I’ve now pivoted a little bit from classical optimization into thinking through issues in quantifying uncertainty. I’ve done some work that looks at cross-validation, which is a very fundamental statistical tool.
I’ve also started thinking through issues of fairness which is growing as a field in machine learning. This includes thinking through the decision-making pipeline in machine learning, including how problems are formulated, data is collected, and analyzed and how errors are treated, all with issues of power and justice in mind.”
Ashia grew up on the MIT campus with her parents serving as assistant head-of-house in a dormitory there for several years.
“I always had this idea as a child that maybe one day I could be a part of the MIT community in a meaningful way. I’m definitely excited to begin my career there.”
~ Lauren Pitcher