Rachel Thomas is co-founder of fast.ai and a deep learning researcher at USF Data Institute. She has a PhD in math from Duke and has previously worked as a quant in energy trading, a data scientist at Uber, and a software instructor at Hackbright (an all-women coding school). She writes about diversity on medium @racheltho and has an ask-a-data-scientist advice column at fast.ai. Her writing has received half a million views, made the front page of Hacker News 4x, and been translated into Chinese, Spanish, and Portuguese.


Rachel started fast.ai to make deep learning accessible to everyone, including those with few resources, tackling meaningful problems, outside of elite institutions, and far from mainstream AI research. The work of fast.ai students to reduce farmer suicides in India, study Bangladeshi media coverage of violence against women, and increase resources for Pakistani languages is covered in this Forbes article. Rachel’s unlikely personal journey from growing up in a poor city in Texas, earning a math PhD, selling everything to move to San Francisco, almost quitting the tech industry, and founding fast.ai is covered in the 2nd half of this article.

Founder & Deep Learning Researcher