Edmonds woman, 21, named Rhodes Scholar


Herald Writer

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."

Talk to us

More in Local News

FILE - A sign hangs at a Taco Bell on May 23, 2014, in Mount Lebanon, Pa. Declaring a mission to liberate "Taco Tuesday" for all, Taco Bell asked U.S. regulators Tuesday, May 16, 2023, to force Wyoming-based Taco John's to abandon its longstanding claim to the trademark. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
Hepatitis A confirmed in Taco Bell worker in Everett, Lake Stevens

The health department sent out a public alert for diners at two Taco Bells on May 22 or 23.

VOLLI’s Director of Food & Beverage Kevin Aiello outside of the business on Friday, May 19, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Coming soon to Marysville: indoor pickleball, games, drinks

“We’re very confident this will be not just a hit, but a smash hit,” says co-owner Allan Jones, who is in the fun industry.

Detectives: Unresponsive baby was exposed to fentanyl at Everett hotel

An 11-month-old boy lost consciousness Tuesday afternoon. Later, the infant and a twin sibling both tested positive for fentanyl.

Cassie Franklin (left) and Nick Harper (right)
Report: No wrongdoing in Everett mayor’s romance with deputy mayor

An attorney hired by the city found no misuse of public funds. Texts between the two last year, however, were not saved on their personal phones.

Firearm discovered by TSA officers at Paine Field Thursday morning, May 11, 2023, during routine X-ray screening at the security checkpoint. (Transportation Security Administration)
3 guns caught by TSA at Paine Field this month — all loaded

Simple travel advice: Unpack before you pack to make sure there’s not a gun in your carry-on.

Heavy traffic northbound on 1-5 in Everett, Washington on August 31, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
To beat the rush this Memorial Day weekend, go early or late

AAA projects busy airports, ferries and roads over the holiday weekend this year, though still below pre-pandemic counts.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Snohomish in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Troopers: DUI crash leaves 1 in critical condition in Maltby

A drunken driver, 34, was arrested after her pickup rear-ended another truck late Tuesday, injuring a Snohomish man, 28.

Housing Hope CEO Donna Moulton raises her hand in celebration of the groundbreaking of the Housing Hope Madrona Highlands on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
$30M affordable housing project to start construction soon in Edmonds

Once built, dozens of families who are either homeless or in poverty will move in and receive social and work services.

Smoke comes out of the roof of ReMyx'd, a restaurant on Smokey Point Drive, on Sunday, May 28, 2023, in Arlington, WA. (IAFF Local 3438)
Fire damages Arlington bar that received death threats

Arlington Police say initial indications are that fire at ReMyx’d does not appear to be intentionally set.

Most Read