Meet Nadia Ciobanu, Rajan Family Undergraduate Entrance Scholarship Winner

October 13, 2015

A top student from Port Moody Secondary School, Nadia Ciobanu is the inaugural recipient of a scholarship established by faculty alumnus Amyn Rajan, CEO of Simba Technologies.

Awarded to the top female student entering SFU’s School of Computing Science, the Rajan Family Undergraduate Entrance Scholarship is valued at $20,000. Ciobanu sat down with us to discuss how the scholarship will enhance her experience at SFU, and how she hopes her studies will prepare her to “take on the world.”

How has your experience at SFU been so far?

My life at SFU has been fantastic; it has definitely surpassed my expectations. I'm so glad to have the opportunity to get to know people who have interests very similar to mine and are passionate about the same things.

One of my favourite things about university so far is the flexibility it gives you to design your life according to your specific interests. Overall, I've found the atmosphere to be conducive to learning and I feel part of a community that will do amazing things in the future.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I was born in Burnaby, and grew up in Coquitlam. I was in French immersion when I was younger, and in grade nine, I transferred over to the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. Students from schools all over the world cooperate and all students take the same courses and exams.

I chose the IB because I wanted an extra challenge, and I wanted to get involved in something international. My parents are from Romania and we travel a lot; this year we went to Barcelona and we go to Romania every summer. I really like the idea of travelling and working abroad in the future.

I also enjoy giving back to the community. I volunteered for Festival du Bois, and was zone captain for the Canadian Cancer Society daffodil campaign, so I organized all the volunteers in my area. I was also involved with a club called Blue Force at high school – we fundraised to build a school in Haiti.

When did you gain an interest in computer science?

It’s mostly my parents’ influence. They’re both computer engineers and they love what they do. They always told me that it’s a great career and you can work from anywhere in the world. Also, it’s a growing field, so you can be quite certain that you’ll get a job once you graduate. I had never studied computer science before, but over the summer my dad started teaching me to program in C++. I also worked at his company as an engineering assistant in the lab during the summer break.

Why did you decide to come to the school computing science at SFU?

There are lots of reasons why I chose SFU! The scholarship opportunities attracted me and the fact that SFU gives credit to IB students. The School of Computing Science has a really good reputation – my parents keep informed about these things, and my mom interviews future workers in her company. She tells me really positive things about SFU computing science students.

I know someone who was a student at SFU and had a co-op work opportunity in Silicon Valley – after graduation he got offered a job, and he’s still working down there.

I also came to the open day and I liked that SFU is a smaller, more tight-knit community. I went to visit other schools, but it didn’t seem like I could call them home. This just felt like a really good fit for me.

What does it mean for you to be awarded this scholarship?

Winning the scholarship allows me to pursue my education and get involved with the community without having to worry about financial aspects. It frees up a lot of time for me so I can study even harder, get involved with clubs like Women in Computing Science, do more co-ops, and hopefully getting involved in international exchange programs. France is my ideal destination!

How did you feel when you heard you had received the scholarship?

When I saw the email, at first I thought it was a joke or a mistake. I read it over and over. I showed my parents. Then it sunk in that it was real! I felt really grateful, and my parents were very proud. It was the day before my commencement so we had a double celebration for my grad and my scholarship.

What do you hope to achieve while you’re at SFU?

I want to feel prepared to enter the workforce. Eventually, I would like to work at a big firm like Google or SAP. I hope “future me” is more mature, independent and ready to take on the world. I want to make a big impact and touch people’s lives with my work.

Why do you think it’s important to get more women and girls involved in STEM fields?

I think they’re scared because they don’t see a lot of women in the field. I grew up with my mom working in computing science. She was an amazing role model and one of the reasons why I love computing science and feel confident in my ability. Any woman can do it – it’s all about working hard. There’s a stereotype that women are more language-focused and men are more logical, but I don’t think that’s true.

It’s very important for me to encourage girls and women to go into computing science. It’s not only a man’s world! Women can bring something new to computing science; they can bring a new eye, and a new atmosphere to the workforce.