Innovative Investment Tool Qualifies Students for International Hackathon

Three Illinois Tech students, Narges Hosseinzadeh (M.S. Applied Mathematics 2023), Kan Zhang (Ph.D. Applied Mathematics 2023), and Thi Truong (Applied Mathematics 2023), worked together with Olivia Martin, a data science student from Northwestern, as well as Vasilios Farmak, a software and data engineer from Greece. The team was guided by Sou-Cheng Terrya Choi, Research Associate Professor of applied mathematics at Illinois Tech.


Competing in the SAS hackathon and representing Illinois Institute of Technology, they decided on the team name of StaSASticans which shows their focus on statistical analysis and how the SAS platform was an essential part of their work. Their tool aimed to assist insurance advisers and others in creating investment portfolios that not only considered traditional risk factors but also environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) factors.


The team encountered several different challenges during the SAS Hackathon and the development of their investment optimization tool. They grappled with the intricate task of collecting and structuring scattered and unstandardized environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) data, which posed difficulties in accurately assessing companies’ contributions to ESG criteria.  Additionally, the team faced time constraints, having only one month to familiarize themselves with the SAS Viya platform, understand ESG investing principles, develop their product, make presentation materials. The complexity of interpreting subjective ESG factors and the challenge of effective interdisciplinary collaboration also added to their hurdles. 


The team secured the top spot in the Insurance Division of the 2023 SAS Hackathon. This divisional win recognized their outstanding work and innovative approach to solving challenges related to the insurance industry using data analytics and programming. In addition to their success in the Insurance Division, the team also earned second place in the Student and Young Talent awards category. This award highlighted their skills, potential, and ability to excel among other young talents participating in the hackathon. The team’s top spot in the Insurance Division qualified them for the top international prize, which will be announced in September 2023.
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