Saiph Savage
Saiph Savage

WVU professor named under 35 innovator by MIT Technology Review

Saiph Savage, J. Wayne and Kathy Richards Faculty Fellow and assistant professor in the Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at West Virginia University, has been selected MIT Technology Review in Spanish as a 2018 Innovator Under 35 in Latin America.

The award recognizes individuals whose technical work promises to shape the coming decades. Selected by a jury of tech experts, winners are honored for creatively applying technology to solve the world’s biggest problem. The MIT Technology Review expanded its program in 2012 to include young innovators and entrepreneurs transforming Latin America. The award was presented at an event was organized by MIT Tech Review and Opinno, a global consultancy firm that supports innovation around the world.

One of only nine women recognized, Savage was selected in the Pioneers category for her work using social media bots to mobilize people to collaborate in activities of positive impact.

A bot is an algorithm that essentially controls a social media account. It can autonomously perform actions such as tweeting, retweeting, liking, following, unfollowing or direct messaging other accounts. Savage has done extensive research in the area of bots and is widely recognized as an expert in the field.

In an article announcing her award, Savage noted that she “wants to go where people are, not develop an app that nobody is going to download and use” adding that Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn allow “any organization to reach a much larger audience than if they start from scratch.”

One such initiative developed by Savage used bots to recruit Latin American women to contribute biographies of successful Latin American women to Wikipedia. The recruited experts, Savage explained, didn’t need to know how to edit a Wiki entry; a bot was occupied with this task.

One member of the jury, Guillermo de Haro, professor of applied economics at Rey Juan Carlos University in Spain, noted that “Savage’s different investigative facets, projects, solutions and activism are amazing.”

A native of Mexico, Savage directs the Human Computer Interaction Laboratory at WVU, which focuses on creating novel human-centered platforms and systems to better coordinate crowds of volunteers.

In 2015, she collaborated with Microsoft in the development of Botivist, a system that analyzes the activity in social networks to identify users based on their interests and points of view around them. When the system has chosen the most appropriate users for each collective action, the bots send a message encouraging them to participate.

Savage, 33, has been recognized with the Conacyt-UC MEXUS Doctoral Fellowship, Google Anita Borg Scholarship, and is a member of Microsoft’s BizSpark and director of the Anita Borg Community powered by Google. She holds a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from the National Autonomous University of Mexico as well as a master’s and PhD in computer science from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

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