During some free time at her freshman orientation, Frances Tso stumbled upon the Scotland Yard game room. She immediately gravitated toward the billiard tables.
“I was always interested in billiards and played it online, so I began playing a lot at the start of my freshman year … a few weeks into the semester, a member of the Carnegie Mellon Pool Club approached me and asked if I would be interested in playing competitively,” Tso said. “Accepting this invitation turned out to be one of the best decisions that I have ever made.”
Tso began her competitive billiard career in the spring of 2014 at the Association of College Unions International (ACUI) Regional Competition in Akron, Ohio. She earned third place marks. In February of 2015, after a year of dedication and practice, Tso returned to the ACUI Regionals. This time, she took home the first place spot, qualifying for the National Competition in June 2015.
Tso is also part of a league based out of Pittsburgh’s Breakers Pool Hall. Among this group, Tso had the second highest win average in the women’s division and won the perfect score prize. Last November, she had the opportunity to compete in the University of Michigan Intercollegiate Pool Tournament. The team placed sixth out of 16 schools to compete.
Tso, a double major in economics and computer science, has to manage her schedule carefully in order to balance her academic obligations with her time as a pool champion.
“I try to make time to play for at least one hour a day,” she explained. “If I have a break between classes, I’ll use that time to practice in the pool room. Likewise, if I know that I will be travelling to a competition over the weekend, I’ll be sure to prioritize study-time during the week prior so that I can be focused on my game.”
Along with completing two majors and playing competitively, Tso is very involved with extracurricular activities, including in the Undergraduate Marketing Organization, Computer Club, the Solar Racing Organization, Scotty Labs and the Carnegie Mellon Student Pugwash, a student organization that is interested in current issues to do with science, technology and ethics.
“Pugwash was particularly appealing to me because it educated me on ethical and social issues in the world of technology and science,” she said.
Under the advice of Jenna Date, associate teaching professor in the Carnegie Mellon Human Computer Interaction Institute, Tso is also is currently working on a mobile and web app for the Center for Victims in Pittsburgh. The project aims to decrease the time it takes to notify the crime victims of their offender’s court status, ensuring their safety in the event that the offender is released on bail.
This summer, Tso has accepted an internship at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California where she will work as a researcher and developer.