Logo: University of Southern California

Viterbi School Undergraduate Receives Prestigious National Award — and $10,000

May 21, 2009 —

Mary S. David, a senior majoring in computer science, is one of 20 recipients of a Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship, the first USC student ever to receive the honor.

She will receive a $10,000 award for the 2009-2010 academic year and an invitation to attend the Annual Google Scholars’ Retreat in Mountain View, California on June 25-27, 2009.

David Mary
Mary S. David: USC's first-ever Borg Scholarship winner

Unusual for an undergraduate, she is working on potentially publishable research. "Mary studies approximation algorithms for network vaccination problems," said her faculty advisor, David Kempe,  "on how to select a set of people or computers to inoculate to ensure that the network does not suffer from the outbreak of a virus at a random node in the network."

A Trustee Scholar, Mary is active in student government as executive director of the undergraduate program board. She is also a member of the Hellions of Troy ultimate frisbee team, though she did not travel with them this year due to academic commitments. She's also served continually as volunteer in USC outreach activities, in roles ranging from a volleyball coach to Spanish interpreter.

She is also a flutist in the USC concert orchestra.

"This summer I'll be at USC taking summer school and continuing research with Professor Kempe," she says.  "In the upcoming year, I'll be finishing my MS in Computer Science through USC's Progressive Degree Program, and I'll be applying to PhD programs in the fall.  In the future, I would like to teach and research computer theory at a major university."

""Mary has exceptional drive and curiosity about the theory of computer science, and combines it with great leadership qualities and a mature approach to her work," says Kempe. "I anticipate that she will have a great career ahead of herself as a computer science researcher and a leader in the field."

David is the first USC student ever to become either a finalist or a winner of a Borg scholarship in the five-year history of the honor, per the list of awardees at the prize website

Since 2004,  women in their junior year of study of computer science have competed for the awards. This year in addition to the 20 winners, 30 other aspirants won finalist status and grants of $1000.

The Scholars retreat will include workshops, speakers, panelists, breakout sessions and social activities scheduled over a 3-day period. Students will have the opportunity to explore the Googleplex and enjoy San Francisco as they get to know other talented computer science students from across the country.

The scholarship is named for Anita Borg, Ph.D. (1949-2003) who spent a long research career in computer science working for companies such as Nixdorf, Digital/Compaq’s Western Research Lab and Xerox PARC, going on to become co-founder of the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference. In 1997 she founded the Institute for Women and Technology, which now bears her name.