R&D Hub

Published on Friday, May 24, 2024

Interview With NAEP Doctoral Internship Program Alum: Mingqin Zhang

Interview With NAEP Doctoral Internship Program Alum: Mingqin Zhang

This week, the NAEP R&D program had the opportunity to interview former NAEP doctoral intern Mingqin Zhang. Zhang presented at the National Council on Measurement in Education (NCME) annual meeting as part of a training session titled “Examining MIRT Models From a Graphical Perspective Using RShiny and Mathematica.” Zhang, now a research scientist at Amazon Web Services, joined the 2018 cohort of NAEP Doctoral Internship Program interns from the University of Iowa, College of Education’s Educational Measurement & Statistics program. We were glad to catch up with her after the conference and ask her some questions about her career and her NAEP Doctoral Internship program experience as the program gets ready to welcome the newest cohort of interns.  

  1. Can you share some highlights from your experience as an intern with us? 

“My internship at AIR was a truly enriching experience. The AIR researchers and fellow interns were not only friendly and supportive, but also highly professional. I really enjoyed learning, discussing, and researching together on advanced educational measurement and psychometric topics in NAEP. I also cherished our group activities after work during the beautiful summer season in Georgetown. This internship has not only provided me with invaluable practice but also lifelong mentors and friends.” 

  1. What specific skills or knowledge did you gain during your internship that you find most valuable? 

“One of the most valuable aspects of my internship was gaining the ability to work with national-level educational data like NAEP. This experience equipped me with essential skills and knowledge to conduct research on both assessment data and process data in NAEP and guided me to develop advanced skills, such as data mining and natural language processing. Additionally, the internship provided a crucial opportunity to enhance my presentation and communication skills. Presenting research to diverse stakeholders sharpened my ability to articulate research findings clearly and confidently.” 

  1. Can you share any advice or tips for current or prospective interns? 

“My advice is to fully recognize the value of this opportunity and commit yourself to the tasks at hand. Whenever you encounter challenges or uncertainties, don’t hesitate to reach out for guidance or assistance from your supervisors or fellow interns. Remember, proactive engagement is key to maximizing your experience and personal growth during this internship. Additionally, I suggest exploring all facets of the internship, whether it’s forging new connections or embarking on adventures in the surrounding area. Embracing these additional dimensions can wonderfully enrich your overall experience.” 

  1. Can you share your journey from earning your Ph.D. to becoming a psychometrician at Amazon Web Services (AWS)? What key distinctions have you noticed between academia and being a professional psychometrician? 

“During my Ph.D. studies, I developed a strong interest in computational psychometrics. Alongside my training in psychometrics, I delved deeply into data science and machine learning methodologies and ultimately earned my M.S. degree in information science from the University of Iowa. After graduation, I started my career as a psychometrician to practice what I’d learned in school and to continue growing my knowledge and skills in psychometric advancements. One of the biggest challenges in transitioning from being a student to being a professional psychometrician is how to transfer theoretical psychometric knowledge into practical solutions that meet the needs of real-world testing programs. Psychometricians need to continually exercise balancing psychometric rigor with pragmatic decision-making for valid, reliable, and fair assessments.” 

  1. Do you have any career advice for new Ph.D. holders who are aiming for a job in the industry (as opposed to one in academia)? 

“I highly recommend new Ph.D. holders who aspire to an industry position to actively pursue an internship opportunity. Internships offer important practical experience and facilitate personal growth in various aspects. And more importantly, an internship experience provides a firsthand look into how things work in industry jobs, helping to acquire clarity on career preferences and refine professional aspirations. Through internships, new Ph.D. holders can obtain valuable insights that contribute to a clearer goal and enhance their readiness for the industry job market.” 

  1. Can you share your long-term career goals with us? 

“My goal is to continuously grow my expertise in assessment and measurement methodologies and achieve proficiency in leveraging emerging technologies, like artificial intelligence, to enhance the quality and efficiency of assessment. By learning from experienced professionals and staying up to date with new techniques, I aim to make meaningful contributions that improve assessment practices over time.” 

We’re thankful Mingqin was able to answer our questions, and we look forward to hearing more about her continued growth in her new career at Amazon. The NAEP Doctoral Internship Program offers opportunities to explore various paths while working with NCES researchers and participating in methodological developments and secondary analyses using NAEP data. If this kind of opportunity interests you, follow the link to learn more about the program. You can be the first to apply for our next internship cohort by checking in on the NAEP R&D Hub and signing up for our mailing list

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