Brittany Nielsen

Detour through Siberia

October 4, 2007

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Brittany Nielsen was supposed to convocate last June, but she would have had a rather long commute. Because while most of her classmates were donning their gowns and mortar boards Nielsen was not only thinking of the world—she was seeing a huge piece of it with a friend, and fulfilling a lifelong dream in the process.

"I’ve been lucky enough to be a scholarship student," says the Burnaby native, who racked up more than $30,000 in financial awards while completing her BSc in computing science.

And combined with the money she saved from two co-op jobs, "I was able to save up enough to go on a trip to China, Mongolia, take the Trans-Siberian railway to Russia and then spend a couple of months in Europe," she says. "It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a little girl."

Nielsen is now back on her academic journey, completing a master of science degree in computing science, specializing in data-mining. She plans to obtain a PhD and eventually become a university professor.

That’s not the track she expected to be on four years ago, however. "I actually started as an intended biology major," says Nielsen, who addresses her peers at SFU’s afternoon convocation ceremony Oct. 4.

But after an eight-month co-op job doing cancer research with a local biotech company, she says, "I realized that I actually don’t like working in a lab environment and that the dynamics of working for a scientific company are just a little too rigid for me."

Nielsen plans to speak about the importance of a university education and the essential value of knowledge. But she won’t have to convince one proud woman in the audience.

"Before my mom got a university degree at age 42, as a single mother, no one else in my family had ever gotten a university degree," she says. "My siblings and I all have degrees now, and we’re all very grateful to mom for making education important in our lives."

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