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University of Michigan School of Information


Jiaxin Pei on building a more equitable world by putting people at the heart of technology

Jiaxin Pei wearing a blue suit and tie, standing outside and smiling at the camera.

In 2013, University of Michigan School of Information doctoral student Jiaxin Pei was watching the world change one app at a time. Airbnb was transforming how we explore new destinations, Uber was redefining the transportation sector and everyone was suddenly glued to their smartphones. 

Pei, a high school student, wanted to better understand how technology was revolutionizing the world. 

“Society was entering the digital age, gaining better access to information,” he says. “I was interested in how the technology was being deployed in various social settings, and I saw this as an opportunity to pursue the field and build better applications.” 

Soon after, Pei graduated from high school and obtained a degree in computer science from Wuhan University. By 2018, he found himself living in Boston, working as a research intern at Northeastern University. 

“It was an exciting transition to the U.S,” he says. “It was smooth, and I was used to living in a big city, so Boston was fun.” 

At UMSI, Pei is currently obtaining a PhD in Information. His thesis advisor is UMSI associate professor David Jurgens

Pei’s research explores natural language processing and computational social science. Pei’s goal is to understand social patterns, how technology drives human behavior and how to build better technology for people. 

“For me, it’s about both: the technology as well as the human being,” he says. “My research ambition is to create fair and socially responsible technology.” 

Since starting at UMSI, Pei has published numerous research papers and data sets that help to build fair and socially responsible technologies , including POTATO: The Portable Text Annotation Tool and PopQuorn, the Potato-Prolific dataset for Question Answering, Offensiveness, text Rewriting and politeness rating with demographic Nuance.

These tools help offer social media companies and AI companies an opportunity to explore a model that accounts for intersectional perspectives and beliefs, decreasing instances of unintended bias. 

Pei is expected to graduate from UMSI in 2024. His favorite thing about UMSI? The people. 

“At UMSI, it feels like everyone has something interesting to share,” he says. “There’s so much to learn and the school has a great mixture of people working across different disciplines.” 

Pei’s advice to incoming PhD students is to “explore as much as possible.” 

“A PhD takes years, so explore your different interests, both in your research and your life.” 


Read more about Jiaxin Pei by checking out his UMSI profile and connecting with him on LinkedIn

Learn more about UMSI’s PhD in Information program and apply today