ACTNext is very proud to welcome Farnaz Tehranchi, Simon Sun, and Kiana Mousavi Hanjani as the inaugural group of talented researchers selected to fill ACTNext’s pre-doctoral research internships. ACTNext aims to attract the very best talent and these PhD candidates were selected based on their unique research interests and areas of expertise. They each took a moment out of their busy schedules to describe what attracted them to ACTNext, what they hope to contribute and what they hope to take away from the experience.

Kiana Mousavi Hanjani – Iowa State University

I came across the ACTNext internship posting on the Glassdoor website which described it to be for PhD students only and focused on Machine Learning techniques. I was happy to apply because I was looking for internships which were not just about coding and software development. As a PhD student, I wanted an internship with a research focus and interesting projects to which I could contribute as a researcher. I was really attracted to ACTNext after my interview with Kurt and Steve, they explained the projects they were working on and the opportunities I would have to not only work, but also learn a lot during my internship. I was excited that I could actually use all my years of studying and put them to good use as an intern with their team. I also did some research on ACTNext and their projects and the team members’ expertise which only added to my excitement for joining. What I hope to gain from this internship is some experience working in a big company and see how I will fit in. Also, I want to see if I can actually contribute to a project in progress and get results. Learning to work with new platforms and programming languages and getting to know techniques used on real data was also a big plus. I’m looking forward to helping the team by employing the techniques and theories I have learned over the years in areas of Maths, Machine Learning, Big Data and Algorithms and apply them to the projects at hand, hopefully getting results and improvements so that I can make a small contribution to ACTNext. I am working with Sr. Technologist Kurt Peterschmidt.

Simon Sun – Rutgers

I discovered this internship opportunity by checking ACT’s talent strategy hiring page on a daily basis. As one of the world’s leading testing companies, ACT has drawn my attention for years. I was attracted by the innovative work that ACTNext is doing right now. I had a feeling the internet would introduce massive changes in the field of educational assessment, but I have never seen what tests would look like in the next 5 or 10 years until I came to ACTNext. The projects and prototypes that team members have been working on will produce future assessments that will become more informative, more personalized, and more fascinating. My research interests and prior expertise are mainly on cognitive diagnostic modeling that could help add diagnostic features to existing ACT tests. I am currently working with Dr. Pravin Chopade.

Farnaz Tehranchi – Penn State

I heard about this opportunity through Linkedin, a professional contact in my network was an intern at ACT last summer. In our research lab at Penn State, we are working on a cognitive tutor called D2P2 (Declarative to Procedural Knowledge Tutor). I found this position to be a perfect match with my current Ph.D. research project and my research interests, and thought it would provide a mutual benefit for me and ACTNext. While I’m here, I hope to sharpen my skills in understanding and analyzing real data, get involved in team projects, learn from my teammates, build on my communications skills, and gain experience in the US industry environment. I’m looking forward to becoming familiar with new technologies like eye-tracking software and integrate them with my research to propose novel cognitive tools. I also hope to be able to contribute new ideas based on my Ph.D. research experience to elevate current ACTNext projects. I am currently working with Dr. Steve Polyak.