Sarah H. Cen

Massachusetts Institute of Technology · Cambridge, MA · shcen at mit dot edu

I am a final-year Ph.D. student (MIT EECS) advised by Prof. Aleksander Mądry and Prof. Devavrat Shah, and I am on the job market this Fall 2023. My research lies at the intersection of machine learning theory and AI accountability. Specifically, I am interested in the design and governance of data-driven algorithms. By "design," I mean how we can better devise algorithms that work well when interfacing with humans. I enjoy tackling this line of work using tools from statistics, causal inference, and game theory. By "governance," I mean how human-facing algorithms are regulated, how algorithmic governance should inform algorithm design, and how we can develop tools for governance (e.g., auditing).

Recently, I have written on the regulation and auditing of social media algorithms; the emergence of AI supply chains; the estimation of counterfactual potential outcomes under spillover effects; how competing for resources under uncertainty affects long-term outcomes; and individual-level rights of data-driven decision subjects. Previously, I worked in intelligent transportation, communication networks, reinforcement learning, and robotics. During my master's, I performed research on autonomous vehicles (a.k.a. self-driving cars) with Prof. Paul Newman at the Unversity of Oxford. As an undergraduate, I studied control & decision systems with Prof. Naomi Leonard at Princeton University.

Please find my C.V. here.

Recent updates:

  • Working on auditing! Feel free to reach out if AI auditing, compliance assessments, or diligence testing interests you.
  • Publishing blogs on AI policy here:
  • Speaking at INFORMS and CODE.


To see my research experiences, click here.

Publications and Pre-prints

*First-author contribution.

  1. S. H. Cen* and R. Alur*. "AI Auditing and the Access Question: Exploring Black-box Auditing and its Connection to Hypothesis Testing." Draft (please email for updated draft). 2024.
  2. A. K. Hopkins*, S. H. Cen*, A. Ilyas, I. Struckman, L. Videgaray, and A. Mądry. "AI Supply Chains and Their Implications." Please email for draft. 2024.
  3. A. Agarwal, S. H. Cen*, D. Shah, and C. L. Yu. "Network Synthetic Interventions: A Causal Framework for Panel Data with Network Interference." Submitted to Operations Research, 2023.
  4. S. H. Cen*, A. Ilyas*, J. Allen, H. Li, D. G. Rand, and A. Mądry. "Measuring Strategization in Recommendation: Users Adapt Their Behavior to Shape Future Content." In preparation for submission to Management Science, 2023.
  5. S. H. Cen*, A. Ilyas*, and A. Mądry. "User Strategization and Trustworthy Algorithms." In preparation for submission to Operations Research, 2023.
  6. S. H. Cen*, J. Siderius*, and A. Ozdaglar. "Why Social Media Platforms Shape What Users Think." In preparation for submission to Operations Research, 2023.
  7. S. H. Cen*, A. Mądry, and D. Shah. "A User-Driven Framework for Regulating and Auditing Social Media." Pre-print, 2023.
  8. C. Zhang*, S. H. Cen*, and D. Shah. "Matrix Estimation for Individual Fairness." International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML), 2023.
  9. S. H. Cen*, A. Ilyas*, and A. Mądry. "A Game-Theoretic Perspective on Trust in Recommendation." Responsible Decision Making in Dynamic Environments Workshop at International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML), 2022, Oral.
  10. S. H. Cen* and M. Raghavan. "The Right to be an Exception to a Data-Driven Rule." Pre-print, 2022.
  11. J. Perolat*, B. De Vylder*, D. Hennes*, [...], S. H. Cen, et al. "Mastering the game of Stratego with model-free multiagent reinforcement learning." Science, 2022.
  12. S. H. Cen* and D. Shah. "Regret, stability, and fairness in matching markets with bandit learners." International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics (AISTATS), 2022.
  13. S. H. Cen* and D. Shah. "Regulating algorithmic filtering on social media." Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS), 2021, Spotlight.
  14. S. H. Cen* and P. Newman. "Radar-only ego-motion estimation in difficult settings via graph matching." IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2019.
  15. R. Weston*, S. H. Cen, P. Newman, and I. Posner. "Probably Unknown: Deep Inverse Sensor Modelling in Radar." IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2019.
  16. S. H. Cen* and P. Newman. "Precise Ego-Motion Estimation with Millimeter-Wave Radar under Diverse and Challenging Conditions." IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2018.
  17. S. H. Cen*, V. Srivastava, and N. E. Leonard. "On robustness and leadership in Markov switching consensus networks." IEEE Conference on Decision and Control (CDC), 2017.

Selected Recent Talks

Blogs & Media


Media and Videos


Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Advised by Aleksander Mądry and Devavrat Shah

Expected 2024

University of Oxford

M.Sc. by Research in Engineering Science
Thesis: "Radar-only ego-motion estimation and localization"

Advised by Paul Newman


Princeton University

B.S.E. in Mechanical Engineering
Certificates in (1) Computer Science and (2) Robotic & Intelligent Systems
Thesis: "Optimal leader selection for dynamic networks modeled as Markov jump linear systems"

Advised by Naomi Leonard


Selected Coursework
  • Inference & Information  |
  • Probability Theory  |
  • Algorithms for Inference  |
  • Linear Optimization  |
  • Mathematical Statistics  |
  • Discrete Probability & Stochastic Processes  |
  • Individual Risk  |
  • Artificial Intelligence  |
  • Microeconomic Theory  |
  • Game Theory  |
  • Automatic Control Systems  |
  • Big Data  |
  • Ethics & Fairness in Data-Driven Decision-Making  |
  • Law & Ethics of AI  |
  • Urban Sociology  |
  • Race & Ethnicity  |
  • History of Poverty  |
  • Political Theory  |
  • Human Rights


Researcher (Ph.D.) in MIT EECS


Advised by Prof. Aleksander Mądry and Prof. Devavrat Shah. Designing algorithms to better account for nuanced effects that occur when interfacing with humans (e.g., the accurate estimation of potential outcomes under spillover due to social influence). Particularly interested in individual-level performance in order to ensure that individuals do not fall through the cracks. Concurrently, devising ways to better regulate and monitor human-facing algorithms (e.g., developing audits for social media algorithms). Our work uses tools from statistics, causal inference, economics, law, and sociology.

2018 - Present

Research Intern

Deep Mind

Advised by Prof. Karl Tuyls. Devised new techniques to build an AI agent for imperfect information games, such as Stratego. Developed methods to analyze the game play and interpret the actions of the AI agent.

2016 - 2018

Researcher (M.Sc.) at the University of Oxford

Oxford Robotics Institute

Advised by Prof. Paul Newman. Developed state-of-the-art algorithms for radar-only odometry using graph matching. Successfully tested on autonomous vehicles under adverse and diverse conditions. Designed neural network that operates under weak supervision and noisy data.

2016 - 2018

Researcher (B.S.E.) at Princeton University

Dynamical Control Systems Lab

Advised by Prof. Naomi Leonard. Derived novel metrics quantifying the robustness of consensus and the reference tracking accuracy of dynamic leader-follower networks modeled as Markov switching graphs. With Ph.D. student, bounded regret of optimal fully-informed multi-armed bandit.

2014 - 2016

Research Intern at MIT Lincoln Laboratory

Space Systems and Technology Division

Supervised by Dr. Yaron Rachlin. Applied tools from signal processing, computer vision, and statistical inference in order to reconstruct high-quality satellite images from noisy, low-quality ones.


Research Intern at UPenn GRASP Lab

Multi-Robot Systems Lab

Advised by Prof. Vijay Kumar. Implemented the autonomous tracking and landing of a quadrotor on a moving ground vehicle. Programmed and tested flight controller, motion tracker, and extended Kalman filter.


Software Development Intern at Wattvision

Real-time energy monitoring systems

Supervised by Savraj Singh. Designed and implemented new user interfaces (UIs) for both the mobile and web sites. Repaired bugs, maintained website backend, and integrated external hardware.



MIT EECS Thriving Star | Speaker at “The Thriving Stars of AI” Research Summit
Best Student Talk | LIDS Student Conference
Hugh Hampton Young Fellowship | MIT award for academic achievement & character
Chyn Duog Shiah Fellowship | Awarded to one MIT engineering student
Ida M. Green Fellowship | Awarded to eight MIT graduate women
Edwin S. Webster Fellowship | MIT EECS award
Sachs Oxford Scholarship | Funds one Princeton student to study at Univ. of Oxford
Top Thesis | Princeton University School of Engineering & Applied Sciences
Top Thesis | Princeton University Department of Mechanical Engineering
Top Academic Performance | Princeton University Department of Mechanical Engineering
Graduate with Highest Honors | Princeton University
Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi, and Tau Beta Pi | Honor Societies
Palantir Scholarship for Women in Engineering | Finalist
Best Presentation Award | University of Pennsylvania GRASP REU
Grace Hopper Celebration Poster Scholarhsip
Top 3 Percent of Class | Princeton University Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence

More information

Leadership positions

MIT AI Ethics Reading Group | Co-organizer for institute-wide group
2020 - 2021
Science Policy Initiative | Bootcamp Director & Executive Board member
2020 - 2021
IDSS Student Council | Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer
2020 - 2021
Graduate Women in MIT EECS | Co-President
MIT Global Startup Workshop | Team Lead for conference on entrepreneurship
2018 - 2019
Oxford Females in Engineering, Science & Technology | VP, Conference Team
Associate Editor and Special Session Leader | Intl. Transportation Systems Conference
Oxford University Women's Tennis | Varsity Player
2016 - 2018
Princeton Robotics Club | Project Leader
2013 - 2016
Princeton Club Tennis | Captain and President
2012 - 2016
The Daily Princetonian | Web Editor and News Reporter
2012 - 2014


Science & Technology Policy Bootcamp | Teaching assistant | Bill Bonvillian

"The Science Policy Bootcamp is a 5-day short course, offered during MIT's Independent Activities Period in January, designed to introduce participants to the 'nuts and bolts' of science policy making. The course provides an opportunity for young scientists and engineers interested in science policy issues to increase their understanding about and practical involvement with science policy. The bootcamp serves to both expose participants to the fundamental structure and dynamics of science policy and inform them of routes into a policy experience or career."

Inference and Information | Teaching assistant | Gregory Wornell and Lizhong Zheng

"Introduction to principles of Bayesian and non-Bayesian statistical inference. Hypothesis testing and parameter estimation, sufficient statistics; exponential families. EM agorithm. Log-loss inference criterion, entropy and model capacity. Kullback-Leibler distance and information geometry. Asymptotic analysis and large deviations theory. Model order estimation; nonparametric statistics. Computational issues and approximation techniques; Monte Carlo methods. Selected topics such as universal inference and learning, and universal features and neural networks."

Programming Languages

  • C  |
  • C++  |
  • Python  |
  • MATLAB  |
  • Java  |
  • HTML  |
  • JS  |
  • UNIX