Published: Dec. 21, 2016

International graduate student, Snehpal Singh Saini, photographed amongst telecommunications equipment.The complexities of electronic and telecommunications networks have long fascinated Snehpal Singh Saini, a telecommunications engineering graduate student from Jalandhar, India.

“When I was an undergrad studying in India, I wondered about how the Internet works,” Snehpal said. “So, I took telecommunication classes and learned about encoding, decoding, and how networks work. From that experience, I decided to go directly to graduate school. CU Boulder has one of the best telecommunications programs in the United States. It’s the only one that offers telecommunications as a specific area of study, separate from electrical engineering. That caught my eye.”

The program includes rigorous coursework that integrates technology, business, economics, and public policy curriculum, but one course in particular bedevils many students: Telecommunications Systems Lab.

“You have to spend at least 20 hours per week in the lab,” Snehpal explained. “You are given certain objectives you have to fulfill in set periods of time, so it gets very hectic.”

Snehpal decided to enroll in the Telecommunications Systems Lab during Summer Session because he could focus exclusively on the challenging course instead of balancing it with other coursework as in the fall or spring. “The workload was easier because I had nothing else to do. This course is normally done in twelve weeks, but in summer it is ten weeks, so the workload is compressed. However, the advantage to taking this course in summer is you get more time in the lab, so you can learn a lot more than you might during other times of year.”

In spite of long hours running experiments to master the techniques of voice and data switching and the functions of data networking and services, Snehpal believes it was all worth it. The knowledge and skills he gained in the course successfully prepared him for the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) test, a valuable professional certification. Snehpal has received several job offers as a Network Engineer, including at Amazon.

“If I could give advice to other students, I’d say take the toughest course you’ve got to do in your degree—the one you’re avoiding—in summer, because you have a lot of time to focus on it,” Snehpal said. “Fill your summer, especially if you don’t have other plans. It reduces your workload for other semesters and it’ll look good on your resume.”