Graduating senior Isabella Grasso of Portland, ME., received the Frederica Clarkson Award during Clarkson University’s spring 2021 commencement ceremony. She was selected for the $1,000 award by a vote of the full University faculty based on her scholarship and promise of outstanding achievement.
The award was established in 1921 as a bequest in the will of Frederica Clarkson, sister of Thomas S. Clarkson, for whom the University is named. This award and the Levinus Clarkson Award are traditionally given to the two top students in the graduating class.
Grasso earned a bachelor of science degree in data science. She was a presidential scholar for all of her semesters at Clarkson and graduated with a 3.93 GPA.
Grasso transferred to Clarkson University as a sophomore from Southern Maine Community College in the fall of 2018. During an NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) with Dr. Nick Record at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in Maine, Izzi was introduced to algorithmic bias and the wider societal impacts of automation. Izzi has been conducting research with Dr. Jeanna Mathews auditing criminal justice software, quantifying gender bias using machine learning, and exploring algorithmic accountability. This work was published in the proceedings of the ACM Artificial Intelligence, Ethics, and Society Conference.
She has worked with Dr. Joseph Skufca to develop a collection system in response to the new Conscience Rule, which expands the religious freedoms of workers in health care. They worked in collaboration with Dr. Chad Topaz, co-founder of the Quantitative Study of Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Institute to provide the grassroots organization with the quantitative firepower needed to support people disproportionately impacted by this new rule: the transgender community, women, and femme embodied people.
Grasso has also worked with Dr. Mathews on quantifying gender bias in different languages using natural language processing. More recently, she has worked with Dr. Golshan Madraki, Dr. Yu Liu, and Dr. Mathews studying misinformation related to COVID on social media as well as the behavior of members of congress on Twitter and on Parler before and through the attempted insurrection at the Capitol, leading to two accepted manuscripts for publication.
Grasso has received the Goldwater Scholarship and was recently awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship. She has presented her research at the Naval Academy Conference on Science, Engineering, and Mathematics and at the annual International Ocean Sciences meeting. In addition to her previously mentioned publications, she has a first-author publication in the ACM/IMS Foundations of Data Science Conference 2020, and a first-author publication in the ecology journal, Ecosphere, and has two more co-authored manuscripts submitted for publication.
After graduation, Grasso plans to complete graduate work toward a Ph.D. in Information Science at the University of Washington where she will be working at the Center for an Informed Public, whose mission is to combat strategic misinformation and promote democratic discourse. She is broadly interested in studying how people talk about sexual violence in online communities and is interested in combatting rape culture. With her Clarkson education and her upcoming research at the University of Washington Grasso plans to use her computational skills to dismantle systems of oppression.