Even when she was in grade school, Tara Thomas was intensely curious about how computers worked. By high school, she was writing rudimentary software programs. Her undergraduate studies in her native India, a blend of electrical engineering and computer science, gave Thomas a "holistic picture" of the workings of both hardware and software. Now pursuing her master's in Computer Engineering, she has found a discipline that requires the same blend of skills. Thomas, 25, has already put her "foot in the door of a real career" by working on projects for General Electric Co. and Apple, where she has a job waiting after graduation.
Thomas has taken full advantage of the hands-on opportunities offered in ECE. She's currently working within a $10 million collaboration between Purdue and General Electric aimed at devising new ways to boost factory output and lower production costs. Her particular focus: helping devise a system of embedded sensors that communicate wirelessly in real time to identify production bottlenecks and reveal ways to smooth work flow. She also spent last summer interning at Apple, where she devised a prototype for an easier-to-use keyboard. "It was fun to work on an actual product," says Thomas, whose job with the tech giant will involve developing sensor systems.