by Panos Charitos. Published: 14 September 2014

Tiranee Achalakul, from King Mongkut’s University of Technology in Thonburi travelled to CERN to discuss further opportunities for collaboration with the O2 project. King Mongkut’s university was established in 1960 as a science and technology college and has been designated as one of Thailand’s National Research Universities.

Tiranee spent one week at CERN following an invitation by Luciano Musa and Pierre Vande Vyvre to discuss plans for King Mongkut’s University joining ALICE as an associate member and research opportunities in the  O2 project.

Tiranee is a computer scientist and her research focuses on high-performance computing. She and her team will participate in the architectural design of a cluster, as well as performance benchmarking testing parallel algorithms on GPU/CPU.

As she explains: “My work is doing computing for scientists to help them tackle the complexities arising in most areas of modern science. We are also members of the e-science consortium in Thailand that aims to develop resources and computing techniques for scientific calculations.”

Tiranee decided to work in engineering and from very early in her career she was fascinated by computing engineering. Following her studies in Thailand, she moved to the U.S. where she obtained her M.Sc. and PhD from Syracuse University.

After working for some years in Johnson & Johnson, she decided to move back to Thailand. She had to face the dilemma of staying abroad and continuing her career or moving back home and she decided that teaching and motivating young people about sciences matters most to her. “Of course a job in industry pays a lot but still it wasn’t giving me the satisfaction that I get by working in academia and particularly by mentoring young students. This is the part of my job as a professor that I enjoy the most.” Teaching and, more importantly, opening new opportunities to young people is what Tiranee finds rewarding in her job and why she always keeps looking for new opportunities.

This seems to be the case with CERN since it is known in Thailand as one of the most popular places around the world for doing research. Tiranee started building her collaboration with Pierre in the O2 project. She says: “It seemed like an exciting thing for me but also for my students. I wanted them to have this unique experience.”

Currently, two of Tiranee’s students are based at CERN working for different aspects of this project. “One of my students works on benchmarking of Graphic Process Units. The other one works on task scheduling and how to optimize your cluster when you receive a lot of scientific requests.”

It is the first time that Tiranee is tackling a problem in particle physics and certainly all these new concepts sound quite impressive and complicated at the same time. However, a computer scientist designs new algorithms and therefore she doesn’t have to understand all the physics behind the problem.  “We have to ask the physicists about the equations that they use and how the processes should be like and then design the algorithm. Before HEP, I worked in medical imaging and I must say that it was easier to follow some theories with which they are working. Overall however, the type of the problems is similar and one doesn’t need to be a biologist or a particle physicist to work on the computational side of things”. 

Finally, she talks about her future plans: “We discussed with Pierre Vande Vyvre and Paolo Giubellino the possibility of applying for an associate membership to the ALICE Collaboration and of course the next steps of this collaboration. The plan is to have three topics spinning off. One of them is the configuration and monitoring of the cluster, which interests Pierre. Another is the creation of mobile volunteer cloud computing for ALICE that enables users to donate the resources of their mobile devices. Through e-science we now want to submit a proposal for support from the Synchrotron Light Facility, while there are also some other funding sources that I am now exploring.”