USC Computer Science Student Makes Strides in Queer in AI Movement

Photo of Nathan Dennler
Nathan Dennler is one of 50 international co-authors from Queer in AI were awarded best paper at the ACM Conference on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency (ACM FACCT) (Photo Levi Zheng).

As a member of the award-winning, international group, Nathan Dennler is empowering LGBTQ+ voices in AI research.

Nathan Dennler is many things: a Viterbi PhD student studying human-robot interaction, a proud Massachusettsan, a figure skater and a textile artist. He is also a member of Queer in AI, a global, volunteer-run grassroots organization that aims to create an inclusive and equitable space for queer people working in artificial intelligence (AI).  

Launched in 2017, Queer in AI seeks to promote diversity and inclusivity within AI research and ensure LGBTQ+ perspectives experiences and needs are included in AI research and systems. Members include not only undergraduate and PhD students, but also professors and people in research and industry. With around 870 members across 47 countries, much of this coordination happens online over Slack. 

Co-advised by Professor Maja Matarić and Assistant Professor Stefanos Nikolaidis, Dennler first discovered Queer in AI in 2019 at the Conference on Neural Information Processing (NeurIPS) where he was demonstrating a hair-combing robot developed in Nikolaidis’ lab to help people with disabilities.  

Soon, he was volunteering with the group, hosting a workshop exploring potential harms from AI systems that specifically affect queer people, the results of which will be presented at the Conference on Artificial Intelligence, Ethics and Society in August. Affinity workshops have become a critical pillar of Queer in AI’s initiatives to help people feel more at ease and discuss relevant queer-specific issues in AI. 

Read more about Nathan’s story