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Celebrating Our Outgoing Postdoctoral Fellows

As another academic year draws to a close, the McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society celebrates the accomplishments and future journeys of our postdoctoral fellows who have made significant contributions during their time with us. Ting-an Lin, Ann C. Thresher, and Benjamin Xie have each pursued important research about ethics, fostered interdisciplinary collaborations, and engaged deeply with the academic community and broader societal issues. Here, we highlight their research, reflections on their fellowship experience, and exciting new roles.

Ting-an Lin

Ting An Lin

Research Focus: Ting-an Lin’s research centers on structural injustice, analyzing how social structures unfairly impact different groups. During her time as an Interdisciplinary Ethics Fellow in partnership with the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence (HAI), she reconceptualized various contemporary social issues, including:

  1. Algorithmic Bias and Injustice: Ting-an explored how AI affects democratic systems and how it can support democratic social orders.
  2. Sexual Violence and Power Imbalances in Knowledge Production: She investigated the impacts of social structures on these critical issues.
  3. Digital Technologies and Civic Debate: She co-organized a workshop, “Beyond Moderation,” to explore how digital technologies can enhance civic debate and de-escalate political conflict.

Fellowship Highlights: Ting-an enjoyed the interdisciplinary engagements with the Center and HAI as well as the teaching and mentoring opportunities. Her role as a Coordinating Panelist for the Ethics and Society Review (ESR) Panel highlighted the importance of cross-disciplinary dialogues to mitigate potential negative ethical and societal impacts of research. Teaching undergraduate courses on global justice and business ethics, mentoring Honors Program students, and teaching feminist philosophy to residents at Hope House were particularly rewarding experiences.

Future Endeavors: Ting-an will join the University of Connecticut as an assistant professor of Philosophy. Her research will continue to focus on structural injustice, with an emphasis on further developing a sociotechnical framework for AI's future. Another aspect of her research is to diversify the discipline of philosophy by addressing structural barriers and developing Taiwanese philosophy, an area that is still in its embryonic state but has great potential to join forces with other marginalized philosophical traditions.

Ann C. Thresher

Ann Thresher

Research Focus: As an Interdisciplinary Ethics Fellow in partnership with the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability, Ann C. (Anncy) Thresher’s fellowship encompassed three key areas of research:

  1. Synthetic Biology Ethics: Anncy investigated ethical obligations toward invasive species and native ecosystems. She also explored how biotechnology could help us fix the invasive species crisis while minimizing harm to non-native animals.
  2. Eco-Emotions and Political Movements: Delving into the role of anger in motivating political movements, she examined how eco-emotions respond to systematic and distributed harms.
  3. Space Ethics: In collaboration with the Next Generation Event Horizon Telescope, she worked on optimizing the ways to site and build large-scale telescopes and detectors globally.

Fellowship Highlights: For Anncy, the best thing about the fellowship was her colleagues — the other postdocs and the people working at and associated with the Center. She values the diverse group of philosophers and writers, the collaborative opportunities across Stanford, and the significant feedback on her projects. The fellowship’s supportive environment for applied philosophy was a constant source of inspiration.

Future Endeavors: Anncy will join Northeastern University as an assistant professor in the Philosophy Department and the School of Public Policy. She will continue her work on synthetic biology and space ethics. She plans to start a book on high-risk, high-reward technology solutions to the environmental crisis and how we go about deciding when to deploy new technology.

Benjamin Xie

Benjamin Xie

Research Focus: Benjamin (Benji) Xie’s research aims to co-design interactions with data to support equitable educational and environmental outcomes. As an Embedded Ethics Fellow in partnership with the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence (HAI) and the Computer Science Department, his projects included:

  1. Environmental Data Inequities: Benji partnered with East Palo Alto Academy students to enhance data literacy for local environmental advocacy. This research was in collaboration with faculty from the Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE), the Doerr School of Sustainability, East Palo Alto Academy, and several community-based organizations serving East Palo Alto.
  2. Generative AI in Education: He collaborated with Dr. Victor Lee (GSE) to co-design a Generative AI curriculum with cross-disciplinary high school teachers. He also earned a grant from the Stanford Accelerator for Learning, HAI, and Open AI to better understand Generative AI capabilities on computer science assessments. Working with Stanford’s Center for Research on Foundation Models (CRFM), he used their AI evaluation framework and applied psychometric techniques to identify where AI performance differs from expected student performance.
  3. Ethics in Computer Science Courses: He conducted a literature review on teaching ethics in computing courses in higher education and evaluated the Embedded Ethics program.

Fellowship Highlights: Benji appreciated the interdisciplinary learning opportunities and guidance from Anne Newman, Mehran Sahami, Leif Wenar, and Rob Reich. This fellowship stretched his thinking about the ethical and educational implications of AI from the diverse perspectives of the Center, HAI, across the Stanford campus, and beyond.

Future Endeavors: Benji will start as an assistant professor at the University of Denver’s Computer Science department in fall 2025. During the 2024-25 academic year, he will continue his postdoctoral research with the Stanford Graduate School of Education through a grant from the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. He will focus on addressing environmental data inequities with youth and community-based organizations from East Palo Alto. His future research directions include designing pedagogy and tools for AI-assisted programming for humanities and social science majors, as well as capacity building for youth to use AI and data to advocate for environmental justice.