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Riya Tyagi

Phillips Exeter Academy
Exeter, NH

Using Computer Vision To Disentangle Features Enabling AI To Learn Self-Reported Race and Ethnicity From Medical Images

Riya Tyagi used computer vision to find out how A.I. models have learned how to determine patients’ race and ethnicity from anonymous medical images. She found the model made its determination through specific imaging features. She hopes her work may help combat algorithmic bias in healthcare software.

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Riya Tyagi, 16, of Exeter, sought to understand how convolutional neural networks have learned how to determine patients’ self-reported race and ethnicity for her Regeneron Science Talent Search computer science project. It currently remains unclear how machine learning, when analyzing medical image data, can determine a patient’s race and ethnicity. Understanding this is key to minimizing bias when A.I. tools are used for medical purposes. By training hundreds of convolutional neural networks, a specific neural network that quickly and precisely analyzes images, Riya investigated what kinds of information the networks were using to determine patients’ race and ethnicity.

After the system reviewed 11,000 images of the human retina, Riya determined which key features were responsible. By analyzing these features, she discovered a potential cause of bias: the U-Net segmentation model widely used for medical image processing. She hopes her work will allow development of ethical A.I.-powered healthcare software to minimize racial bias in the future.

2024 Science Talent Search finalist Riya Tyagi

The daughter of Urvashi and Shishir Tyagi, Riya attends Phillips Exeter Academy, is in Science Olympiad, and co-led her varsity robotics team to a second-place win out of 6,400 teams at a World Championship. She also founded one of the first all-girl Boy Scouts troops and was inducted into the Order of the Arrow.

2024 Science Talent Search finalist Riya Tyagi

Beyond the Project

Riya founded the nonprofit HerComputing to empower underrepresented students in tech. She designed, developed, and launched a STEM board game, securing $10,000 in funding.

FUN FACTS: Riya says origami is her self-expression. She has “folded her dreams,” from second-grade ninja stars because she wanted to be a ninja, to origami wildlife today because she wants to work with nature.

Illustration of 2024 STS finalist Riya Tyagi by Amy Wike