Panita Pongpaibool: Seeing Success on Optical Networks


March 18, 2004

ECE graduate student Panita "Pinky" Pongpaibool received a scholarship from Thailand's Ministry of Science and Technology to fund her Ph.D. in computer networks, focusing on the integration of IP and optical networks. She recently presented her final public oral exam on the "Survivability of GMPLS-Based IP Over Optical Networks."

Pinky has volunteered on campus as a Graduate Student Liaison for the Women in ECE (WinECE), a peer tutor in ECE, calculus, and math, and a member of CMU's Thai Student Association (SIAM).

Her advisor is Hyong Kim, Perkins Professor of ECE and her thesis committee also includes ECE Professor Ozan Tonguz, Professor of ECE and CS Raj Rajkumar, and ECE Professor Alberto Leon-Garcia of the University of Toronto. Before coming to CMU, she earned her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University and also studied in Kyoto, Japan. Let's find out the secrets of her success:

Where is your hometown?

Bangkok, Thailand.

What are your secrets to being a successful engineering student?

I think it's different between being successful as an engineering undergrad student and being successful as a grad student. For grad studies, my secrets are persistence, perseverance, and patience.

How did you know you wanted to be an engineer?

I began to think that I wanted to be an engineer around junior high school. I have a female cousin who studied Civil Engineering at that time. She was probably the only female in her class. I thought that it was cool to be doing something different. In Thailand, an engineer was not something girls normally want to become, so I wanted to do it to be different. :)

How did you become interested in computer networks?

I was always interested in computers. It was probably during the beginning of the WWW [World Wide Web] and the Internet that I began my interest in computer networking.

Why did you choose to study electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon?

Compared to the EE Department at Stanford where I came from, CMU's ECE Department is smaller. I felt the warmth and the friendliness of people here and the faculty are much more approachable. Most importantly, I felt the match of my research interest with my current advisor.

What was your favorite ECE course?

18-757, Principles of Broadband Networks, with Professor Kim.

What course were you a teaching assistant (TA) for?

18-345, Intro to Telecommunication Networks, for Fall '02 and Fall '03 with Professor Kim.

What is the best part of the ECE degree?

For the Ph.D., there are not many course requirements: just 3 breadth courses. The teaching requirement also allows you to explore/practice your teaching skills. You can call yourself either an EE (electrical engineer) or a CE (computer engineer). :P

Have you had any internships?

I was an intern at AT&T Research Labs in Middletown, NJ, Cisco Systems in San Jose, California, Omron Corporation in Japan, and Shinawatra Computer & Communication Co., Ltd. in Thailand.

Have you presented your research at any conferences?

Some of the significant conferences I went to were the Optical Fiber Communication (OFC) Conference in Los Angeles in March of 2002 and the Workshop on the Design of Reliable Communication Networks (DRCN) in October 2003 in Banff, Alberta, Canada.

What are your favorite things to do in Pittsburgh?

I like to go to Phipps Conservatory. I go there to take pictures of flowers or just to walk around when I'm bored. Pittsburgh also hosts many famous Broadway musicals. I like to watch those, too.

If you were taking guests around the area, what would you want to show them?

I would probably take them on a campus tour. In addition, I would take them to the Cathedral of Learning, Phipps Conservatory, and go up the inclines to Mount Washington. All of these places are accessible even without a car.

What are your future plans?

I plan to graduate this May. I will be going back to Thailand to work at a National Research lab there called the National Electronics and Computer TEchnology Center (NECTEC).

Pinky speaks about WinECE.