Yunyun Wang, a student at Cornell University, is deeply committed to engaging the public in understanding and discussion of the societal impact of technology. The first Cornell student ever to double-major in government and information systems engineering, she uses her academic background to further this commitment. She founded and produces a podcast involving students, academics, and community members in discussion of ethical issues in science and technology. The podcast effort led to a workshop curriculum and student-led mentorship of high school students, as well as collaboration with a New York State program for disadvantaged students. As Yunyun pursues her research interests, including broadband access and the societal impact of facial recognition technology, she will be even better prepared for her public service endeavors. I am confident that she has the skills, motivation, and potential for bringing about long-term positive change.
We live in a new digital age of rapid technological and scientific developments, which drastically reshape our society along with how we view the world around us. In an age of anti-vaxxers and climate change deniers, we must open the conversation and challenge the greater public to think critically about the information they receive in order to identify science disinformation and make informed decisions. I founded a student-driven podcast called State of the Pod (http://www.stateofthepod.com/) in an attempt to encourage greater public engagement with scientific developments while fostering science literacy for a new generation of active citizens through democratizing the podcasting process. My desire to address issues at the intersection of science and policy first brought me to US Ignite, a non-profit smart-city incubator, where I helped implement gigabit applications and broadband infrastructure to address America’s digital divide. The following summer, I received funding from the Meinig Family Cornell National Scholars (https://commitment.cornell.edu/meinig-scholars) program to intern with Center for Democracy and Technology. The experience demonstrated to me the danger that unregulated technology poses for those from marginalized communities, and reaffirmed my desire to lead a life of public service and contribute towards responsible governance of technologies that exacerbate inequalities in America.