Elizabeth Latronico

 Five Times a Fellow

November 22, 2004

Receiving a fellowship to study engineering is an honor that many eager graduate students hope to achieve once in their career. But for ECE Ph.D. candidate Beth Latronico, who earned her M.S. here in 2002, the good news has come five times over; this year she won a Selected Professions Fellowship from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and an Amelia Earhart Fellowship from Zonta International. While at Carnegie Mellon, she has also won the Intel Foundation Master's Fellowship, the prestigious National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship, and the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

According to the AAUW, the Selected Professions Fellowship is offered in designated degrees with a strong employment outlook and earnings potential where women traditionally have been underrepresented. Zonta International, a global service organization to advance the status of women worldwide, sponsors the Amelia Earhart Fellowship for women in advanced research programs in aerospace-related science or engineering.

Latronico's advisor, Philip Koopman, Associate Professor of ECE and CS, described the problem that sparked Beth's award-winning research: "Safety-critical distributed embedded systems typically employ formal proofs as part of their safety cases. These proofs guarantee safety, but only when certain assumptions are met. In the real world, these assumptions can be violated frequently," Koopman reported. "Simply arguing that assumptions are 'reasonable' isn't good enough for life-critical systems, such as aviation engine control and automotive steer-by-wire systems."

To aid in solving this issue, Latronico is testing how often the assumptions hold under a range of fault conditions and implementation parameters in her thesis, "Reliability Validation of Group Membership Services for X-by-Wire Protocols."

"New safety-critical network protocols may fail only once per billion hours of operation," Latronico said. "I help make sure they reach this reliability level, focusing in particular on the group membership service."

Koopman pointed out that this investigation will have practical applications in the field: "Beth's dissertation work will tie together proof assumptions and realistic fault models to help both formal proof developers and system engineers make quantitative assessments of safety cases involving proven properties," he explained. Her goal is to provide a methodology for estimating the reliability of formally proven network protocols at design time, using real-world fault data.

Not a stranger to hands-on experience, she spent last summer interning in NASA Langley Research Center's formal methods group, using reliability analysis tools based on Markov models to estimate the reliability of formally proven network protocols. Latronico has also interned for Pittsburgh's Robert Bosch Research and Technology Center and the Andersen Consulting (now known as Accenture) business process management group in Delaware.

On campus, she was a teaching assistant for 18-549, Distributed Embedded Systems, an advanced course instructed by Koopman. As part of the curriculum, students build a simulated elevator implemented as distributed system using a Java-based framework.

For extracurricular activities, Latronico participates in ECE's Engineering Graduate Organization (EGO), Women in ECE (WinECE), and Women in the School of Computer Science (SCS). She enjoys playing ultimate Frisbee and is planning a career in industry after her graduation in May.

Latronico enjoys a cruise while in San Francisco last year for the International Conference on Dependable Systems and Networks (DSN).

Beth Latronico (right) and her advisor, Philip Koopman at Women in ECE’s dinner honoring women graduates.

Pradeep Khosla (left) presents Latronico with a graduation gift for her Master’s degree. Khosla was ECE’s Department Head and is now Dean of the College of Engineering.