Information School Assistant Professor Mike Teodorescu recently returned to his native Romania to collect a prestigious honor, the Romanian Academy 2023 Mihai Drăgănescu Award for Contributions to the Sciences and Information Technology.
The award recognized Teodorescu’s research on machine learning fairness, including several influential papers from the past two years. He said the announcement of the award came as a surprise.
“I knew about the awards as a high school kid, and I never expected to receive it,” said Teodorescu, who went to Bucharest in December for the awards ceremony. “I was born in Romania and I’m an immigrant here, so it was very significant to have this recognition from the Romanian Academy.”
Founded in 1866, the Romanian Academy’s objectives include cultivation of national language and literature, study of national history, research into major scientific domains, and promotion of democratic and ethical principles of free communication of ideas. Teodorescu’s award is named in memory of Professor Mihai Drăgănescu, a former president of the Romanian Academy and IEEE fellow who contributed extensively to information technology and electronics research. Recipients are limited to one award lifetime.
Teodorescu’s machine learning research focuses on whether algorithms used to process things such as automated hiring interviews or loan applications treat people fairly. For example, data can show whether an algorithm that assesses such applications is favorable to people based on protected statuses such as gender, age or ethnicity. His work further investigates how people perceive their treatment by those algorithms — whether they think they’re getting a fair shake.
“Given the democratization of these tools, pretty much every company will be implementing machine learning in whatever processes they’re trying to solve or they’ll be left behind. It’s useful to measure how stakeholders actually perceive these tools,” he said.