Varun Rao

Graduate Student

Rao is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Computer Science and is advised by Professor Andrés Monroy-Hernández. As a social computing researcher, he aims to understand and measure the societal impacts of AI systems in the context of labor. His current research, part of the workers algorithm observatory (WAO), involves understanding the concerns and needs of gig workers in the context of algorithmic rideshare platform decisions, and building tools to investigate black-box algorithmic systems. In the past, his research has defined a new form of discrimination due to the selective use of people in job ad images, revealing through quantitative analysis, how this practice, coupled with ad delivery algorithms, circumvents existing non-discrimination protections on platforms like Facebook. 

Previously, he has worked as an applied scientist and returned as an intern at Amazon. He helped protect customers and build seller trust by developing explainable and retrieval augmented vision-language models. Rao was also a computer vision intern on the Core Recognition team at Apple, helping design OCR (optical character recognition) solutions applied to handwritten text. 

He graduated with a master’s from Carnegie Mellon University where his research involved computer vision and understanding the privacy needs and attitudes of incidental home IoT device users.

Rao can be reached at , 304A Sherrerd Hall.