CS Students Win Google's Borg Scholarship

Two of Columbia Engineering’s computer science students have won Google’s Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship: Nalini Vasudevan Ph.D. ’11 and Samantha Ainsley B.S. ’11.
 
The students are the first Columbia Engineering students in seven years to win these highly competitive scholarships. The scholarships include a $10,000 award for the 2010-11 academic year and a June retreat at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. Vasudevan and Ainsley are two of just 25 winners Google chose nationwide to honor on the strength of each candidate's academic background and demonstrated leadership. Vasudevan's adviser is Stephen Edwards, associate professor.
 
Google’s goal for the award is to encourage women to excel in computing and technology and become active role models and leaders in the field. The company will sponsor the award recipients to the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing to be held in Atlanta in September. According to Google, “Anita Borg devoted her adult life to revolutionizing the way we think about technology and dismantling barriers that keep women and minorities from entering computing and technology fields. Her combination of technical expertise and fearless vision continues to inspire and motivate countless women to become active participants and leaders in creating technology.”
 
Another Columbia Engineering student – Zeinab Abbassi Ph.D. Computer Science – was a finalist for the scholarship. Her adviser is Vishal Misra, associate professor. 

Nalini Vasudevan

Samantha Lauren Ainsley

“The Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship is one of the most prestigious scholarships in engineering. By winning it, I have discovered my inner self, and this is a big stepping stone as I work towards my future research goals and ambitions.”
 
Hometown: Bangalore, India
 
Age: 26
 
Engineering spark:
I wrote my first program using the Logo Programming language at the age of 12. This moment made me realize that I was interested in programming computers and attracted me towards studying engineering.
 
Most memorable course:
The most memorable course was the C programming course that I taught. It was an amazing experience to teach for the first time.
 
What attracted you to Columbia Engineering?
Before making my choice, I worked with the IEOR department on an interesting airline fare simulation project. I also began interacting with Prof. Stephen Edwards (now my adviser) to get an idea of the kind of programming languages research he was doing. These interactions made me realize that Columbia SEAS had outstanding faculty who perform exceptional research.
 
What has proved your decision to be the right one?
I have received great support from my adviser to pursue interesting research topics. I have also been able to interact with extremely smart graduate students and faculty. I have also learned to be independent and to make my own decisions. I have never regretted being a part of Columbia.
 
Best experience studying here?
I got the opportunity to collaborate with extremely competitive companies such as  Microsoft Research, IBM TJ Watson Research Center and Bell Labs through internships during the course of my PhD program. This gave me a chance to work with the best researchers in my area.
 
Career goal?
I would like to do a mix of teaching and independent research. I also like being with young vibrant people. Therefore, I think academia would be an ideal place for me.
“This will just give me more motivation to move forward with the goals I have already set. I see this more as a personal, than a professional, accomplishment. The award is meant to signify not only academic achievement, but also leadership as a woman in the field of computer science. It means that I have the potential to be a role model for undergrads coming into this field.”
 
Hometown: Haiku, Hawaii
 
Age: 20
 
Most memorable course:
I would have to say Professor Grinspun's physics-based Computer Animation course. I remember going into the course thinking, "Animation, I like that. This should be easy and fun." I was half right. Professor Grinspun's class was the most challenging (and rewarding) course I have taken at Columbia. My experience in the class taught me a valuable lesson: you should not form your goals in life based on what comes to you with ease. Often the challenging aspects are the most fascinating.
 
What attracted you to Columbia Engineering?
I visited at least twenty different schools before my senior year of high school. When I walked onto this campus, I just knew. I had the opportunity to attend a few technical schools, but Columbia SEAS was the best place to receive a holistic education.
 
Best experience studying here?
It is a tie between writing my raytracer for Michael Reed's Computer Graphics course, creating my first animated short for Jose Sanchez's Advanced Animation course, and every minute I spent talking to those two Professors about the animation industry.
 
Favorite spot in NYC:
The Clyfford Still Gallery at the Met. Still's abstract paintings inspired me to study art and pursue a creative field. If I ever lose focus, I go there to remind myself that a single person has this incredible power to add beauty to the world.
 
Career goal?
To work as a technical director at an Animation studio, and eventually teach computer graphics at the undergraduate level.
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