Macalester’s Department of Mathematics and Computer Science is host to the MSCS and Society Speaker Series, the purpose of which is to enhance classroom learning in mathematics or computer science through lectures by people prominent in these fields.

These talks are free and open to the public. Neighbors of the college, students at local colleges, and high school students are especially encouraged to attend.

The series was established in January 2001 and is made possible through the generous financial support of Macalester alumnus Kurt Winkelmann ’78.

MSCS and Society Lecture, 2018-19

Brent Hecht ‘05
Northwestern University
Thursday, October 18, 4:40pm-5:40pm
John B. Davis Lecture Hall
Ruth Stricker Dayton Campus Center

Title: The Origins, Present, and Future of Algorithmic Bias 


“Algorithmic bias” in intelligent technologies that reflects and reinforces societal biases has become one of the most prominent issues in computer science. This talk will discuss research that helped to establish the existence of algorithmic bias and examine this bias along an important but under-explored dimension: the urban-rural spectrum. Throughout the talk, Dr. Hecht will reflect on how his liberal arts education in the Macalester MSCS and Geography departments was essential to his research trajectory.


Dr. Hecht’s research interests lie at the intersection of human–computer interaction, social computing, and spatial computing. At Northwestern, he directs the People, Space, and Algorithms research group. Dr. Hecht received a Ph.D. in computer science from Northwestern, a Master’s in geography from UC Santa Barbara, and a Bachelor’s in computer science and geography from Macalester College. He is the recipient of a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation and his work has been featured in news outlets such as The New York Times, NPR, and CNN.

past speakers

Year Speaker Affiliation Title
2017-18 Tim Chartier Davidson College Putting a Spring in Yoda’s Step
2016-17 Kristin Lauter Microsoft Research How to Keep Your Genome Secret
2015-16 George Hart Stony Brook University From Mathematics to Sculpture
2014-15 Peko Hosoi MIT From Razor Clams to Robots: The Mathematics Behind Biologically Inspired Design
2013-14 Louis J Gross University of Tennessee “Best” in a Biological Context: Optimization Across the Biological Hierarchy
2012-13 Bill Cook Georgia Tech The Traveling Salesman Problem: A Blueprint for Optimization
2011-12 David Kung St. Mary’s College of Maryland How Math Made Modern Music Mad Irrational
2010-11 Edward Belbruno NASA Research Associate &
Professor at Princeton University
Low Energy Pathways in Space, Chaos, and Origin of the Moon
2009-10 Jeff Weeks Geometry Games The Shape of Space
2008-09 Ann Watkins California State University,
Fallacies in Elementary Statistics
2007-08 Bart de Smit Leiden University
The Netherlands
M.C. Escher and the Droste Effect
2006-07 Peter Hamburger Western Kentucky University The Art of Venn Diagrams
2005-06 Doris Schattschneider Moravian College  
2004-05 Helmer Aslaksen National University of Singapore The Mathematics of the Chinese, Indian, Islamic and Gregorian Calendars
2003-04 Herb Wilf University of Pennsylvania  
2002-03 Gil Strang MIT
2001-02 Tom Banchoff Brown University  
2000-01 George Andrews Penn State