Why Penn Engineering?

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BIANCA PHAM
Networked & Social Systems Engineering (NETS)

Minor:Consumer Psychology
Hometown:San Diego, California
Activities:Board member, Advancing Women in Engineering (AWE); director of publicity and webmaster for the Society of Asian Scientists & Engineers; Sigma Kappa; Web manager for the Engineers in Medicine Club
Interests:Tennis, lacrosse, travel, British film and TV, social media startups
Goal:To create my own social network

Why Penn Engineering?

When I came to visit the campus for the first time, I remember stepping onto Locust Walk and seeing the red and blue bricks. I knew instantly I wanted to be here.

I started out in Bioengineering, combining my interests in the brain and my desire to create technology products. As my interests evolved, I developed a fascination with the psychological workings of the mind intertwined with modern technology. I transferred to NETS as my major because I’m interested in combining mathematical theories, technology, and sociology to solve problems that others don’t realize even exist.

As the digital age evolves, it’s more important than ever to leverage technology, social media, and big data to engage consumers. I find many mobile applications and designs lack the female perspective, and I believe this is the space where I can make a great contribution.

What most high school students struggle with is choosing a college where they will feel they belong and fit into the culture. I would ask them: “Can you see yourself on this campus, actively contributing, being in that play or on that football field. Don’t be pressured based on what others think; you’re the one who will be spending your time there.”

How did you develop your passion for entrepreneurship?

My dad is an engineer and innovator. He helped to create the software for Bluetooth, using wireless technology to connect to cell phones. I watched him tinker with things as I was growing up. He told me he wanted to be an engineer not for the money, but to help make people’s lives easier. I’d like to follow in his footsteps.

When I was applying to schools, I was attracted to Penn Engineering not only for its strong engineering department, but because it was more entrepreneurial than other engineering programs. When I found NETS, it provided a foundation to look at technology, social media, and psychology in new ways. I could see how networks are connected to human behavior and find the tools to build digital solutions that engage people and solve their problems.

One side project I’m working on continues the learning from NETS and consumer psychology. I’m still thinking through the idea, but it involves a social network for moms based on word-of-mouth recommendations from people whose opinions are important to them.

One of my first projects related to NETS was as part of the Penn Apps Hackathon. Some friends and I created an app that redesigns the way people look at school events, with less text and more visuals. It was a big success and we were a top 40 team. That was just a baby step of innovation, but it inspired me to keep innovating and thinking of ideas.

What are some of your extracurricular activities?

I am heavily involved in two clubs on campus. I’m a board member of AWE, which is about getting girls interested in science and engineering. The other club is the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers, which my friends and I started in order to talk about stereotypes we face in the working world and obstacles we must overcome to achieve more opportunities.

Outside Penn, I do some social media consulting, where I advise local business about ways to spread awareness of their brand. I also have created a charity organization with my two younger sisters to benefit orphanages in Vietnam. My parents escaped from there during the Vietnam War. Now we raise money for school supplies for the children there, to help with their education. We travel there every other year as a family, and we hope to one day raise enough money to fund English classes in the orphanages.