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Student named finalist for Google Scholarship

GOOGLE FINALIST: Co-op computer science student Thuy Vu was one of 13 Canadian finalists for the Google Scholarship. (Photo by Catherine Vu.)

by Aurora Herrera

Google is offering an opportunity to women who want to expand their horizons in technology.

Thuy Vu, an international student in the computer science program at U of T Scarborough, was named a finalist for a Google Anita Borg Scholarship, competing with graduates and undergraduates from across Canada.

The popular internet search engine company gives this series of awards annually to women who excel in the field of computer science. The four Canadian winners and 13 finalists all received cash prizes and an invitation to attend a three-day conference at Google’s New York headquarters.

“I got e-mails from so many people -- even the chair of computer science,” said Vu. “My professors congratulated me and said I deserved the congratulations just for taking the challenge and applying.”

Vu was one of only three undergraduates to be honoured by Google in this series of awards. Two other University of Toronto students, PhD student April Khademi of electrical engineering and PhD student Jocelyn Simmonds of computer science, were also named finalists. The four winners came from Simon Fraser University, the University of Victoria, the University of Waterloo, and Queen’s University.

The awards are named after Anita Borg, an American computer scientist who devoted her adult life to revolutionizing the way people think about technology and dismantling barriers that keep women and minorities from entering computing and technology fields. Borg’s combination of technical expertise and fearless vision is said to inspire and motivate countless women to become active participants and leaders in creating technology.

“The Google Scholarship honours the contribution of Dr. Anita Borg in encouraging women who choose a career path in computer science,” said Vu, 20. “I hope that this scholarship opportunity has an impact on the number of women in computer science.”

Graduate and undergraduate students in North America can apply for the Google Scholarships. The four Canadian winners each received $5,000 awards, while the13 finalists each received $1,000 scholarships.

“The money is not the most important part,” said Vu. “The best part is that I got a phone call from Google and they offered me an internship opportunity next summer.”

The Vietnamese-born Vu came to Canada in 2006 and has recently completed her second year. As a finalist, Vu went to New York in early May to participate in a three-day conference and tour of the Google offices.

To qualify for the scholarship, candidates must be university students in computer science or computer engineering, or have their major in a related technical field. They must also have achieved a cumulative Grade Point Average of at least 3.5 (out of a possible 4.0).

Vu was required to write four essay questions to prove her interest in computer science and to submit transcripts along with two recommendations from her professors.

Vu is a student in the co-op program at U of T Scarborough and has secured an eight-month work term with a finance software company in Mississauga. She said that she was glad she chose the co-op program because the staff helped her a great deal in preparing her resume and developing interview skills.

Vu said that her experiences at U of T Scarborough have really encouraged her to strive for personal and academic improvement. She said that in the beginning she thought that computer science was not for girls. However, her parents suggested that she take some computer courses just for experience. She said that she had a hard time at first, but her professors helped her to pull through.

“I didn’t have any knowledge about computer science before U of T Scarborough,” said Vu. “It was hard to get the base concept but the professors were willing to spend so much time with me and they made it easier.”

“Thuy is a bright, hard-working, motivated student,” said Dr. Richard Pancer, supervisor of studies in the specialist computer science program. “She shows original work in her assignments and uses innovative approaches when solving difficult mathematical problems. Thuy has one of the best GPAs in our co-op computer science program. Her marks have won her a U of T scholarship and earned her a place on the Dean's first-year honors list. Without a doubt she strives for excellence, and she is succeeding.”

For more information on the Anita Borg Scholarship please visit:

Aurora Herrera is a fourth-year student in the joint journalism program offered by U of T Scarborough and Centennial College. She is currently working as an intern in the office of marketing and communications.

© University of Toronto Scarborough