Tomas Llano-Rios

Doctoral Student
Computer Science, J.B. Speed School of Engineering

There’s a lot brewing in the creative mind and busy life of Tomas Llano-Rios.

The UofL computer science doctoral student is winding up his second Cardinal degree, having been attracted here from his native Colombia by an interest in American higher education and a connection through an academic adviser in South America and one in Louisville.

The engineer hopes to use his experience and research interests to work in industry after graduation this year, and he points to UofL Speed School of Engineering’s deep connections and reputation with the corporate world as a strong base.

Already he is applying his skills as a graduate assistant working on the engineering school’s high-performance computing cluster, tapping into the problem-solving power of multiple computers to help scientists in different fields do their simulations more quickly. The nature of that information technology work is a change of pace from his doctoral research, and it illustrates how he is taking advantage of a variety of academic interests.

“The work here in Speed IT – I really enjoy it,” Llano-Rios said. “They give me the freedom to try new things.”

His wide range of interests should serve him well here and beyond. “I like to keep moving, jumping from one topic to another. I have topics I like to learn about – it keeps my mind fresh,” he said.

Llano-Rios also plans to return to a passion project that takes him back to his roots. He and two buddies from his undergraduate days in Colombia developed an app to help coffee growers there – a collaboration that began shortly before he departed to the United States for graduate studies that led to his UofL master’s degree in 2020.

The trio intends to aid farmers in building a market abroad and developing a bit of agritourism – tours of coffee farms – locally. Their goal is to add many features into an all-in-one platform.

North Americans may be attuned to the marketing of some Colombian coffee. A coffee buff himself, Llano-Rios says that surprisingly is not the norm where he was born, so there are more opportunities to educate people about the nuances of the beverage and growing of the crops. Their plan has been percolating and progressing for a while but the full-scale operation and marketing will wait until after Llano-Rios winds up his doctorate this fall, he said.

Meanwhile, Llano-Rios is merging his own educational ventures, balancing the work with high performance computing with his academic interests in document databases and query optimization. “I research a way to make the optimization in such systems more robust by collecting megadata,” he said.

Llano-Rios credits much of his success to the guidance of his mentors at Speed’s IT lab and in his academic program, particularly Antonio Badia, the professor who first chose him as a graduate assistant and who remains his adviser. “I have nothing but gratefulness to him,” he said.

Reflecting on his engineering journey, the doctoral student recommends that fellow students remain open to the chances that the UofL education affords, laying a foundation that highly qualifies them for success in industry or further academic life.

“I like the diversity I have,” Llano-Rios said. “With the people at Speed IT, I’ve been able to harness more of my abilities for working on a problem. With my research I’ve been able to harness my knowledge of programming in a more performative way.”

“UofL has great opportunities for students to take,” he said.