Emily Potloka, Bachelor of Education (Secondary) and Bachelor of Arts
Over the course of semester one, I was one of twenty participants in the Macquarie Undergraduate Research Internship (MURI) program run by the Widening Participation Unit (WPU) & I’m writing to share my amazing experience! The first step of this 10-week program was being allocated to an academic supervisor & their project – mine was “Using AI to Create a New Code of Journalism Ethics.” When I was initially allocated this topic, I was quite apprehensive as this was way out of my field of knowledge and it was not remotely related to my degree, but I persisted nonetheless, and I could not be more thankful for this decision. Luckily, my supervisor was super flexible with my approach to the project, and he allowed me the freedom to use my prior knowledge & skills to tackle this project from a historical perspective.
While I could talk about my project all day (because I love it & I’ve spent over 50 hours researching it), I’ll just hit you with a brief summary: I used a historical lens to foreground the connections between gender, technology, and journalism to form a contextual understanding of the impact of gendered practices on the development of technology. I began by using a social history approach in researching the foundational role women had in the prehistory of computing, and their groundbreaking work that essentially created technology as we know it today. Yet, these women are often left out of historical narratives regarding computing and are rarely ever credited for their pioneering work. Today we recognise computing and other STEM fields as being dramatically male-dominated, and this has dire consequences – men are unknowingly programming their individual biases into AI algorithms. As a result, there is significant evidence of AI technology producing sexist, gender-biased outcomes including an example from Amazon, whose AI system to filter through job applications began automatically excluding female candidates before considering any other factor. Therefore, the exclusion of women in technology means we cannot yet entrust AI technology with ethical decision-making responsibilities as they are continually being programmed to adopt one dominant perspective that does not account for the considerable diversity around the world.
As part of this experience, not only are we working as research interns to an academic supervisor, but we also participated in three engaging workshops run by academics from across Macquarie University. These workshops provided invaluable insight into research pathways, research careers, and the abundant opportunities available when pursuing a research profession, many of which can take you overseas! But let’s not forget about the most exciting & memorable experience of the whole MURI program – the Research Poster Presentation Event! Our posters were our final products, carefully created to display a ‘snapshot’ of our MURI experience, detailing our research and the many skills we gained from participating in the internship. It was such an empowering experience to proudly stand beside your work and discuss it with several academics from across Macquarie University! It was also fantastic to see the stunning work of the other interns, as well as get the chance to chat about our individual experiences & research projects from the program.
Prior to this experience, I had briefly considered undertaking a Master of Research (which is why I applied for MURI in the first place), but after successfully completing this internship, I am certain that I would love a career in research! Being a part of this opportunity has been an immensely valuable learning experience that has ignited my passion and drive for a career in research even further. I loved every second of it & I would participate in it again in a heartbeat! Not only was the academic side of MURI fantastic, but I was also able to make many wonderful friendships with the other interns and create amazing connections with academics from across the university.
I would like to extend my gratitude to the WUP team, and all the academic supervisors for this opportunity & their immense contribution to the program. It was such an enriching, beneficial experience and I am beyond thankful to all those who made this program possible. I would highly encourage anyone considering a postgraduate research degree to apply for MURI as it is the perfect taster for a future in academic research!