Meet Bella White, a graduate of Highline’s Raisbeck Aviation High School and outstanding member of Cal Poly’s Class of 2024, representing a graduating class of more than 6,500, the school announced.

Tested by tragedy or inspired by travels, some pursuing lifelong interests and others finding their passions on campus, these Great Grads will leave as new alumni after June 15-16 commencement festivities at Alex G. Spanos Stadium, ready to embrace futures as vast as the cosmos or as concrete as teaching younger generations — and all now prepared to make a difference in the world.

Bella White has high hopes for big data — and she hopes to make a difference through research and data-based projects that can also make the world safer.

“I’m particularly passionate about using technology to combat human trafficking and promoting responsible and safe AI practices,” said the computer sciences graduate student. “I’d like to continue my work disrupting trafficking networks with data analysis and AI, creating tools to prevent and detect malicious use of Generative AI.”

The Tukwila resident worked with three statistics students in Cal Poly’s Cross-Disciplinary Studies Minor in Data Science program for over six months to build a powerful new network to uncover connections between co-conspirators and identified Colorado massage businesses engaged in a modern form of slavery. The group also worked with the Global Emancipation Network, or GEN, a nonprofit dedicated to disrupting human trafficking.

Through the data science program’s existing partnership with GEN, “I got the chance to apply what I learned in the CDSM Data Science minor to disrupt human trafficking networks behind illicit massage businesses that provide illegal sexual services, usually through sex trafficking,” she said.

“We created a network of connected businesses using publicly available business license data to uncover potential criminal organizations involved in Colorado’s illicit massage industry. The network currently supports law enforcement investigations into organized criminal activities involving individuals and businesses in the United Kingdom, Colorado and California. I am incredibly proud of my team’s work, and I was so lucky to work with them on a project like this.”

The work is also the linchpin of her graduate studies.

“My (master’s) thesis aims to support ethical AI initiatives by detecting the use of generative AI in cybercrime,” she said. “I strongly believe that it is my responsibility as a data scientist to use my skills to make the world a better, safer place, even if it is uncomfortable to do so. I’ve had amazing opportunities to work with and learn from nonprofit groups, industry researchers and members of the global policing community to support initiatives combating the use of AI in cybercrime.

As a freshman in fall 2019, White was excited to be part of a research team that involved academic and industry partners — connections she said she still works with five years later.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, she struggled when the campus shifted to virtual lessons. As it wore on, she feared her chances for a rewarding college experience were gone. Juggling classes with internships, personal projects, research and maintaining a social life left her feeling overwhelmed and anxious. The key, she realized, was to prioritize mental health and to always ask for help early and often.

“I’m now on the eve of my graduation with exciting contributions on multiple research projects, one of which has been accepted to a conference, a thesis I’m extremely proud of, and surrounded by friends and close colleagues,” White said. “Outside of academics, I found my love for the outdoors after many rock-climbing, surfing and SCUBA diving adventures.

“Choosing Cal Poly turned out to be the best decision I ever made,” she said. “I’ve really thrived in the Cal Poly learning environment, and I believe I wouldn’t have gotten this experience anywhere else.

“Getting to this point was definitely hard, but I am proud of my time at Cal Poly and who I’ve become,” White added.