Alumna's startup shows how to benefit from CMU

This summer, the "research-based social innovation challenge" UpPrize announced that one recipient of their $200,000 runner-up prize was Marinus Analytics, a startup founded by Carnegie Mellon alumna Emily Kennedy (DC '12).

Marinus uses a software called Traffic Jam to mine information online and find patterns which aid in the detection and prosecution of sex traffickers. Currently more than 75 law enforcement agencies have employed the software, and it has helped to rescue 120 victims of trafficking.

The project began as Kennedy's senior honors thesis. She took her passion for finding a solution to human trafficking to the Auton Lab in the Robotics Institute, which deals primarily with statistical data mining. Researchers there create software to sift through large amounts of data, find patterns, and implement real world solutions. In Kennedy's case, they helped track advertisements for escorts and connected the perpetrators using information in them, such as phone numbers and locations.

This kind of interdisciplinary cooperation is an underutilized benefit of attending an advanced research institution like Carnegie Mellon. The typical Tartan experience tends not to extend beyond college boundaries, except perhaps to satisfy unit requirements. The university has so many resources to offer us in terms of lab space, funding, networking, and extremely talented professors and peers. We only have access to them for four short years. It's important to take advantage of every opportunity Carnegie Mellon can offer, not just within your own major or college.

Not only do these resources give us a once-in-a-lifetime chance to grow as students and individuals, they enable us to make lasting change in the world. Kennedy's project started as a personal passion. Because she reached out and took advantage of the university's potential, it grew into a venture that is saving people's lives . Now with their new funding, Marinus has the potential to expand into counterfeit trafficking and terrorism monitoring. Students should better acquaint themselves with the interdisciplinary resources around them to better achieve their goals.