Postdoctoral Research Associate - AI Learning Technologies
The Learning Sciences group at the University of Southern California, Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) is seeking a Postdoctoral Scholar - Research Associate to join our team.
The ICT Learning Sciences team researches AI and Machine Learning (ML) for education, with an emphasis on bringing AI for education out of the lab to learners who need it most. Our work is dedicated to establishing new genres of AI tools that can empower educators, underserved groups, and public/government organizations to make the greatest impact on education and training. ICT has a history of over 20 years producing impactful, award-winning, use-directed research in AI, computer graphics, AR/VR, and the learning sciences.
This is a one year fixed-term appointment and renewable on the recommendation of the faculty mentor.
Research Effort: You will be joining a new multi-year USC research effort between ICT, the Rossier School of Education, and the Information Sciences Institute (ISI). Depending on your skills and research goals, you will join and help lead one or more tracks of this large-scale effort:
1) AI Upskilling (AI-UP) : Developing, sharing, and evaluating the benefits of adaptive learning and intelligent tutoring systems that use AI to train AI. This research includes adaptive learning recommendations, conversational intelligent tutoring systems, and tutoring built into Python notebooks.
2) Intelligent Self-Regulated Learning: Analyzing and revising an intelligent learning coach agent designed to train self-regulated learning skills while presenting other educational materials.
3) Automated Content Revision : Research on ML pipelines to detect where changes in core curricula text imply that parts of other learning materials must be updated (e.g., quiz items, text in a slide deck). This track involves close collaboration with ISI researchers.
4) Automated Writing Enhancement : Developing and studying the impact of AI tools to train skills for domain-specific writing projects (i.e., not just the standard college essay). This track engages with initiatives from the USC Generative AI Center.
You will also have opportunities to build familiarity with other ICT research projects, such as collaborations with the Mixed Reality group (augmented reality projects), the Natural Language group (reinforcement learning and dialog systems), and Cognitive Architectures group (generative AI for training simulations).
Ideal Candidate: Our ideal postdoctoral candidate aims to someday lead their own research lab as a PI for advanced, interdisciplinary AI projects. We intend to mentor both technical skills and research leadership skills needed to create, evaluate, and publish results for AI education technologies. Researchers will engage in the following activities:
- AI Systems Design: Lead software development for AI in web-based and/or mobile applications.
- Outreach & Evaluation: Supporting human subjects studies on how AI tools impact real learners
- Data Analytics: Engage in educational data mining, interpretation, and presentation of results.
- Publications: Write and publish research results to competitive, peer-reviewed venues.
- Leadership: Provide leadership and mentoring to students and junior personnel on projects.
- Emerging Topics: Contribute to proposals for funding and suggest novel aspects for research.
Competitive candidates will have strong expertise in multiple areas, and will be motivated to master areas where they do not yet have substantial experience. This position will also involve participating in leadership planning for new research directions and candidate technologies (e.g., generative AI for intelligent tutoring systems, semi-supervised ML, novel reinforcement learning techniques, ensemble models). We will encourage developing proposal concepts with established researchers that can lead to new research directions and applications.
o Highly Motivated: Shows a strong focus on building skills and research that improves people's lives.
o User-Focus: Committed to high quality results that meet learners' goals and needs.
o Experienced with AI/machine learning, learning sciences, and related areas.
o Technical Excellence: Familiarity with high-quality software design and problem-solving, across multiple programming languages and new frameworks. Able to collaborate with professional developers and mentor students / junior developers.
o Impact: Track record of designing and/or evaluating AI systems used with hundreds of users or more.
o Research Studies: Experience with human subjects research protocols and CITI training.
Preferred Technical Skills:
o Experience engaging with educational stakeholders and institutions who will use a research system
o High expertise in one or more programming languages for the project (Python, JS/TypeScript)
o Significant experience applying AI and ML for systems that were tested with real users
o Familiarity with cross-platform applications (i.e., React.js and React Native for iOS and Android)
o Knowledgeable about cloud services and frameworks (e.g., AWS, Azure, GCP)
o Open source project experience as both a maintainer and a contributor
Frequently Used Technical Skills
o Machine Learning: HuggingFace, PyTorch, TensorFlow, SpaCy, scikit-learn, pandas
o Mobile (iOS and Android): React Native, Unity, React/Gatsby
o Frontend Web: React/Gatsby
o Backend: Node.js, GraphQL, MongoDB, Flask
o Infrastructure: Terraform, AWS (S3, EB, EFS, Cloudfront), Docker, CircleCI, Github Actions
o Testing: Cypress, Mocha
o Statistical Analysis: R, Python (scikit-learn)
o Augmented Reality: Unity, ARKit, Vuforia
ICT Learning Sciences Project Examples
To get a feel for the research we conduct here, you can view introductions to a few projects below:
CareerFair.ai - A Virtual Career Fair of Self-Authored Conversational Agents
Tar AR - Bringing the Past to Life with Augmented Reality:
Personal Assistant for Life-Long Learning (Overview):
Preferred Background: This position is appropriate for Ph.D.-level researchers whose passion is to transition research from a lab into the world. Highly-qualified candidates from adjacent research areas who are seeking to specialize more in AI for education are also encouraged to apply (e.g., AI research, but not AI for education; educational technology).
Minimum Education: Ph.D. in Computer Science, Learning Sciences, AI/ML, or related fields. All-but-dissertation (ABD) doctoral students will be considered if their graduation date is firm.
Compensation: The annual base salary range for this position is $80,000 - $97,000. When extending an offer of employment, the University of Southern California considers factors such as (but not limited to) the scope and responsibilities of the position, the candidate’s work experience, education/training, key skills, internal peer equity, federal, state, and local laws, contractual stipulations, grant funding, as well as external market and organizational considerations.
Candidates are expected to move to the greater Los Angeles area, with reimbursement for moving expenses available.
Supplemental Materials: When applying, please provide the following in your cover letter or resume:
1. Publications, code samples, open-source projects, websites, and/or demos that you feel represent you.
2. These may be provided as a page of links with descriptions or supplemental materials that you upload with your resume/cover letter during the application process.
Please title with your LAST NAME, FIRST NAME – SAMPLE – Postdoctoral Scholar Research Associate
Questions: If you have any questions about your application, please contact the Director of Learning Sciences at ICT, Dr. Benjamin Nye (firstname.lastname@example.org ).
About USC Institute for Creative Technologies: The University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies is where academia, entertainment, and the military meet. Located in the heart of Silicon Beach/Playa Vista, no other institute offers a more diverse collaborative environment where basic and applied research work hand in hand to develop cutting edge technologies. We find ICT to be an exciting place to work and expect you will too.
We are world leaders in virtual human research, artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, computer training simulations, computer graphics, and immersive experiences that improve human decision making, cultural awareness, leadership, and health. ICT employees are encouraged to develop themselves both professionally and personally, through workshops, invited guest talks, movie nights, social events, various sports teams, a private gym and a personal trainer. The atmosphere at ICT is informal and flexible, while also encouraging initiative, personal responsibility, and a strong work ethic
Minimum Education: Ph.D. or equivalent doctorate within previous three years. Minimum Experience: 0-1 year. Minimum Field of Expertise: Directly related education in research specialization with advanced knowledge of equipment, procedures, and analysis methods.
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