Allen School undergraduate Louis Patsawee Maliyam balances a long-standing love of computing with a passion for the arts. It’s a combination that has served him well at the University of Washington, where he believes his major in computer science and minor in dance has widened his world and prepared him for the future. It has already propelled him to the top of his class, earning him the Sophomore Medalist award from the UW President’s Office for the 2018-2019 academic year in recognition of his academic achievement and rigorous coursework.
Maliyam’s interest in computer science began when he was about 10 years old, helping his parents at the internet cafe they owned in Thailand. He would assemble computer parts, install drivers and programs, and troubleshoot whenever there were issues, using Google as his guide.
“I started learning to piece information together like playing with a jigsaw puzzle and solving the problems as best I could,” Maliyam said. “Sometimes it failed but that didn’t stop me from trying. I think the trait of yearning to solve problems paved my way to pursue a computer science degree.”
From his experience in the family business, Maliyam qualified to attend an Olympiad training camp for computing, which helped him solidify a Royal Thai Scholarship. Awarded to the top students in Thailand, the scholarship sends 50 to 70 to the United States for their college education. He chose to study at the Allen School.
“I know some UW alumni and I’ve heard about the great faculty and resources in the Allen School,” Maliyam said. “And I was so thrilled to come here to continue my passions and connect with so many people. Plus, I was fascinated by the beauty of the campus, the diversity in Washington state, and the CSE program in general.”
With his background and interests, it was natural for Maliyam to pick computer science as his major. But he wanted even more versatility and creativity in his studies, so he added a dance minor.
“It connects me to people and teaches me to be vulnerable and strong,” he said. “The dance community provides me a safe space where I can be exposed and supported in the learning process. Dance is not just dance anymore, since it widens how I see the world and helps me redefine myself.”
Computer science, on the other hand, challenges the way he thinks and evaluates daily situations.
“I would say that the CS program has challenged me to grow and become an impactful teacher and engineer, while the dance program has helped me to become a considerate human being and has taught me how to love myself and others,” he explained.
Although he enjoyed tinkering with computers as a child, Maliyam said he developed a true passion for computer science after enrolling in a C/C++ programming course in high school. That passion has solidified during his time in the Allen School.
“I feel inspired by faculty members in the school and also by the engineers I work with,” he said. “I know that if I keep improving on myself, I will be like them one day.”
Recognizing that early exposure to programming isn’t an opportunity everyone enjoys in high school, Maliyam sees being a teaching assistant as an opportunity to give back by sharing his love of computing with others.
“Being a TA is my favorite part of being in the Allen School. It goes beyond teaching for me because it connects me to people, enabling me to become a part of the community and to build up that community,” he explained. “As a TA, I have the opportunity to create a safe learning space for students, help them on their journeys and support them throughout the course.”
As a TA and a student, Maliyam has said he wants to work to cultivate a culture of caring in the school and in the broader technology industry.
“I feel like we have been greatly trained in our technical skills, however, we still need more training on our interpersonal and ‘soft’ skills,” he said. “As an international student, I value everyone’s voice. I believe people want to be seen and heard and not feel isolated. Caring for people gives them a sense of belonging.”
Maliyam experienced that first-hand during his software development internship last summer at Indeed.com. He found the engineers he worked with there to be caring and kind, and said they gave him a sense of belonging. Maliyam aims to spread that same culture wherever he goes, including in his work as a mentor in the university’s International Student Mentorship Program.
“ISMP is a strong community that I have found uplifting since I began studying at UW, and it’s helped prepare me to be a better leader overall,” he said.
When he is not at his computer or mentoring fellow students, Maliyam enjoys performing under the lights in productions staged by the UW dance department. The rehearsals remind him how lucky he is to be surrounded by wonderfully talented people.
Congratulations on your medal, Louis — and thank you for cultivating a culture of caring in our school and everywhere you go!