Tola Niratpattanasai

That computer does more than play video games, you know!Tola Niratpattanasai

What I do on Mars

I get to work with one of the most powerful computers on Provenance. It’s used to analyze mountains of data collected from all over the planet. Back in 2012, the Curiosity rover discovered organic compounds on the surface of Mars. Since then, scientists like myself have been using computers to catalogue and analyze the chemical data. If anyone’s going to discover life on Mars it’s likely to be someone in the Bioinformatics field.

Character Q&A

My mom was on the research team that first mapped the human genome. They used powerful computers to determine the thousands of genes that make up a person’s DNA. My mom decided to map my dad’s genome and found that he was at a higher risk for developing heart problems.

We were so thankful to learn about the condition before it became serious. My dad started taking heart pills and has been completely fine! After that happened, I understood the importance of bioinformatic research and pledged to one day discover new ways that biological data can help others.

The best part of my job is getting to work alongside brilliant scientists that push me to improve. A big part of my job is talking with these scientists and helping them understand how computers can make their work more efficient. I’m thankful that I can take part in so many of the clever experiments being performed every day on the Base.
I love that “Aha!” moment when you finally understand something and everything clicks. That happened last month when our team was analyzing phosphorus samples. We needed to figure out a way for our computer to quickly scan Mars rocks but our current method of taking pictures and analyzing the image was taking too long. That’s when I realized that we could examine the rocks quicker if they were powdered. I rewrote the computer program to search for phosphorus percentages instead of phosphorus crystals and set the computer to work. Because of my idea we got done in half the time!
Writing computer programs is a lot like writing a story. Inside the story is a computer that performs a certain action when a something else happens. That’s why I’d say that building models helped prepare me for my job. Models made me understand how different pieces function together, just like a computer program. And, in case you couldn’t guess, my favorite models to build are rockets!
If you have access to a computer, try building something with it! A blog, comic, or short film are just some examples of the kinds of things you can create online. You’ll get loads of experience working with computers and it’s a lot of fun too!

My Role Model

Berta Alfonso

Berta Alfonso



Title Bioinformatic Developer
What I DoDevelop software to organize and analyze biological data
EducationPh.D in Computational Biology
SkillsComputer programming
Molecular engineering
Genetic testing

Debugging computers
Math puzzles

Aptitude / Personality Profile