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Applied Math PhD selected as 2023 Outstanding Graduate Student for The College

After graduation, Chelsea Krantsevich plans to continue working at Aural Analytics, a speech analytics startup company based in Scottsdale, Arizona, founded by two ASU professors.

April 29, 2023

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2023 graduates.

Chelsea Krantsevich is the spring 2023 Outstanding Graduate Student for The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences – Natural Sciences, graduating with a PhD degree in applied mathematics. She will be honored at Arizona State University’s Graduate Commencement ceremony on May 8 at Desert Financial Arena.

Her other accolades include the 2021 GPSA Outstanding Research Award, 2021 NSF INTERN Fellowship, 2019 Student Leadership Award and 2019 Research Training Group Fellowship.

“Over my five years at ASU, I have seen time and again how smart, creative, kind and resilient ASU’s graduate students are, especially at the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences,” said Krantsevich. “They are a pretty impressive group of people, and I’ve learned so much from my fellow graduate students. So I feel incredibly honored to have been named one of the Outstanding Graduate Students for the spring 2023 graduating class.”

Krantsevich grew up in La Crescenta, California, near Los Angeles. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees of science from Brigham Young University. She was originally recruited to ASU by a professor who was planning to start a faculty position in the school. In a turn of events, just before her first semester he instead chose to work for a startup company and ended up not coming to ASU after all.

“During that first semester, I made the decision to continue at ASU after experiencing the vibrant programs that SoMSS offered (seminars, research fellowships, faculty and peer mentoring, and professional development programs), along with the supportive and friendly atmosphere created by the other graduate students,” she said.

The Research Training Group (RTG) in Data-Oriented Mathematical and Statistical Sciences at the school provided a research fellowship to Krantsevich and hosted a weekly seminar on related topics, which positively impacted her career trajectory.

“The RTG program helped to support my application for the NSF INTERN award, which funded my initial internship at Aural Analytics (later turning into a full-time role) as a collaboration between the university and the company,” said Krantsevich. “Dr. Rodrigo Platte and Dr. Doug Cochran were instrumental in facilitating both RTG and the NSF INTERN award.”

Krantsevich’s research focuses on using machine learning for designing screening tests. Applications of her research include adaptive screenings tests for assessing risk of youth delinquency, and speech-based tests to screen for cognitive impairment and other types of neurodegenerative diseases.

Associate Professor of statistics P. Richard Hahn is her research advisor.

“The best thing about working with Chelsea is how sharp she is — she always spots the key assumptions or issues that go right to the heart of the matter,” Hahn said. “She has an exceptional talent for attention to detail and is a very quick learner and worker. Having her in the room always benefits the discussion because she sees straight to the important stuff, even when everyone else (including me) is distracted by this or that. I've been very impressed that she can produce high-quality scholarly work while holding down a full-time research job — not many folks can do that.

“What's more, her work has tremendous potential for practical applications. Chelsea's dissertation concerns the mathematical and statistical properties that make a screening test (for risk assessment or diagnosis) effective. Specifically, she has laid the groundwork for developing screening tests that are more convenient and/or more informative. Her work has applications in areas as diverse as demographic polling, educational assessment and medical diagnosis.”

Professor Rosemary Renaut runs the Professional Development Seminar at the school, which invites speakers to share their experiences of working in different areas of academia, national research labs and industry – from startups to large companies. At the end of each talk, students are encouraged to ask questions to learn more about the speaker and to build their networks.

“I was able to get an internship my first summer through contact with one of the visiting speakers, which launched my exploration into different career paths” said Krantsevich. “The professional development program was instrumental in my decision to pursue a career in industry after graduation.”

We caught up with Krantsevich to find out more about her experiences at ASU.

Question: What are your plans after graduation?

Answer: I am planning to continue working at Aural Analytics, a speech analytics startup company based in Scottsdale, Arizona, that was founded by two ASU professors, Dr. Julie Liss and Dr. Visar Berisha. The mission of Aural Analytics is to provide objective measures of brain health using speech, and I have been working as a machine learning scientist at Aural Analytics for the past two years while finishing my dissertation. I plan to continue working on some of the challenging problems we are trying to tackle, including early detection, prognosis and longitudinal monitoring of various neurodegenerative diseases.

Q: What is something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: Having a solid group of peers that support each other is the most critical aspect of surviving graduate school. It can be a really tough experience at times, and the people who are going through it with you, or who have recently gone through it, are often the best source of help and advice.

Q: What do you like most about mathematics?

A: My favorite part of mathematics is that we can use mathematical algorithms to learn about the world from data and come up with solutions to challenging problems. Through mathematics, statistics and data science, we have the opportunity to have a real impact on people’s lives.

Q: What do you think is most misunderstood about math by the general public?

A: People sometimes think that math and data can be used to solve any problem, as long as you try hard enough and get smart enough people working on it. But I think there are limitations to what math and data can do; you might just have a problem that’s not possible to solve with the data you are able to feasibly collect. In that case it would be better to put resources towards solving a problem that’s actually achievable and still impactful.

Q: What is the best piece of advice you would give to those still in school?

A: Having been in hiring committees in my current role at Aural Analytics, I learned that if you want to go into industry, it’s better to spend time on your research, publications and especially technical skills rather than on extracurricular activities or teaching. Prospective employers care a lot more about your technical skills, in particular challenging projects you’ve worked on using real data sets, than about other parts of your resume.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: The tables in front of the Crepe Club (adjacent to Charles Wexler Hall).

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time for fun?

A: Watch Formula 1 races, go for long walks, listen to podcasts for learning and practicing the Russian language.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would use the money to try to tackle the epidemic of gun violence in the United States. The most impactful approach would probably be through lobbying efforts and private campaign donations, to try to influence our political leaders to 1) pass laws that have been shown to reduce gun violence in other nations and 2) allocate significantly more funding for the design and implementation of a multi-faceted solution.

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