By KATE REARDON
EDMONDS — Emma Brunskill outshines most people.
She started college at the University of Washington when she was only 15. She graduated in June with a degree in computer engineering, a field that is nationally dominated by men. And the 21-year-old Edmonds woman recently began graduate studies at MIT in Boston.
On Saturday night, she became one of 32 Americans to be chosen as Rhodes Scholars from 950 applicants.
"Emma is one of the brightest young people in the nation," said Ed Lazowska, chairman of the department of computer science and computer engineering at the University of Washington. "Emma has more promise than any other student I have encountered in my 23 years at the University of Washington. She is utterly first class in absolutely every respect, literally the best I have known."
Rhodes Scholarships were created in 1902 by the will of British philanthropist Cecil Rhodes. High academic achievement, personal integrity, leadership potential and physical vigor are considered in the selection of winners. The scholarships provide two or three years of study at Oxford University in England.
Among the winners was Nicholas O. Melin of Fox Point, Wis., The civil engineering graduate was the valedictorian of the West Point Class of 2000.
Yale University had three students named as Rhodes Scholars, the most of any institution. Harvard University, which has had nearly 300 winners over the years, had no recipients this year.
Brunskill said she will continue studies at MIT until June, and then she will attend Oxford University in England for two years. She said she intends to return to MIT to complete her Ph.D.
"I’m thrilled," she said Sunday night of the announcement "I’m also quite tired. It’s been a stressful process."
Brunskill has been a researcher on six projects in the UW departments of computer science, physics, geophysics and chemistry. She has worked as a summer research student at the European Center for Particle Physics.
Her accomplishments are many.
As an undergraduate at the UW, she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, selected as a Goldwater Scholar, twice honored as a UW undergraduate scholar, an Anderson Scholar for top student in physics and a Mary Gates Scholar.
During her senior year, she was selected as the national runner-up in the computing research Association’s Outstanding Undergraduate competition and graduated MAGNA CUM LAUDE in physics and in computer engineering. She was also named a presidential scholar by MIT.
Brunskill is a perfect example of how young women can succeed in the field of computer science, UW’s Lazowska said. Nationally, the number of women in computer engineering is below 20 percent, he said.
During a course project at UW on how to build complex hardware and software systems, Brunskill and two teammates built a computer system that recognizes American Sign Language, Lazowska said. A person can sign into a video camera and produce letters on the computer screen.
Lazowska said Brunskill graduated from a UW program that has graduates landing jobs at high-tech firms such as Microsoft, Intel and BSQUARE. In addition, faculty members and students have even started 10 companies in the past four years, he said.
"It’s tremendous that Emma has received this extraordinary recognition and validation, but there are 159 other computer science and computer engineering graduates who are pretty incredible themselves," Lazowska said.
Brunskill’s parents, Andrew and Clare Brunskill, live in Edmonds.
"We’re delighted for her," Andrew Brunskill said. "She worked very hard for it."
Andrew Brunskill said he and Clare were wowed by the news.
"She’s very hard working, and she’s had terrific support from the university," Andrew Brunskill said.
After exams at MIT this week, Emma Brunskill will return to Edmonds later this month to spend the holidays with her family, her father said.
Emma Brunskill’s sister, 18-year-old Amelia Brunskill, is studying psychology and art at the University of Washington. Amelia Brunskill also entered the university at an early age. She was only 14.
Andrew Brunskill said he really has no parenting secrets.
"The daughters do it themselves," he said. "We try to support them and keep out of the way."
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