The Awards Keep Coming for Newly Tenured Professor Desmond Patton

October 11 @ 10:36 pm

The associate professor of social work and director of Columbia’s SAFE Lab has had a string of recent successes, including a PBS interview that will air this coming Monday, October 14.

It has been less than a year since Associate Professor Desmond Patton, Director of Columbia University’s SAFE Lab, received word that he’d been awarded tenure by Columbia University; but no one could accuse him of resting on his laurels. Patton continues to garner awards and other forms of recognition for his innovative research linking data science and social work.

Just before the fall semester began, the news came in that he, along with colleagues at Columbia, Stanford, and the nonprofit AI4All, had been selected as one of the research teams comprising the inaugural cohort of the National Science Foundation’s Convergence Accelerator, which funds projects that use big data to address complex societal problems—in this case, to address the future of work. The Columbia-Stanford-AI4All project is called “Fostering a Diverse AI Workforce.” As the title suggests, it aims to increase diversity within the AI (artificial intelligence) field by identifying key factors that can spark the interest of underrepresented high school students to consider careers in AI.

Then, late last month, Patton and his SAFE Lab took the top prize in the Creative Technology category at the NYC Media Lab 2019 Demo Expo, a showcase of media and technology prototypes created by faculty and students across New York City. SAFE Lab’s project, “Digital Arrest,” which was created in collaboration with the NYU School of Engineering, is a virtual reality experience that explores how social media can be used as a tool for policing in the 21st century. The viewer steps into the identity of Jarrell Daniels, a young Black man whose use of social media has resulted in conspiracy charges and a six-year prison sentence.

Patton will round out his recent successes this coming Monday, October 14, with a star turn on the new Public Broadcasting System (PBS) series Retro Report, which looks at “today’s news stories through the lens of history and context.” The episode’s lead segment, “Digital Bystander,” features an interview with Patton on the way people tend to react to violence on the internet. Be sure to tune in on Monday at 9:00 p.m. ET on channel 13 in New York City; meanwhile, you can catch a glimpse of Patton in the trailer:


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