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Principal's Medal: Daria Savanovich

Wednesday 26 June 2019

I should now like to introduce the Principal’s Medal. This award was inaugurated ten years ago with a gift from three anonymous donors and is supported by Ede and Ravenscroft, believed to be the oldest firm of tailors and robe-makers in the world.

The award of the Principal’s Medal recognises students who display exceptional endeavour and achievement during their time at St Andrews. The awards are open to final-year undergraduates, and to postgraduates in any discipline. The achievements celebrated are academic as well as sporting, musical, or other attainments.

For the academic year 2018-2019, the Principal’s Medal is being presented to three outstanding students. This afternoon we recognise Daria Savanovich, who has just received her Bachelor of Science in Computer Science.

Daria’s nomination references an outstanding work ethic, with her tutor applauding her ‘constant improvement and underlying perseverance to strive to be the best she can be’ – very much in the spirit of our University motto, Ever to Excel. Daria’s academic achievements have been consistently exceptional, and she has been placed on the Dean’s List for every year of her studies. I am delighted to note that she had been awarded a First.

Daria’s remarkable comprehension of machine intelligence has also been recognised externally. Outside of her academic work, Daria has completed two competitive internships with Google within the past two years and has secured a third placement with the company this summer. In her free time, Daria is also a participant in ‘Hackathons’, competitions in which computer programming students compete against each other to challenge their creativity and programming knowledge. It should come as no surprise that Daria’s team has achieved first place in the annual St Andrews hackathon, StacsHack, for the past two years. On the first occasion, Daria and her team designed a functioning programme for Amazon’s Alexa, and in the second instance, they created an app with the function of visualising a user’s personality from a single paragraph of their text.

Alongside these personal successes, Daria has consistently demonstrated what her tutor describes as a ‘commitment to improving the lives of others’. She has volunteered as a mentor for incoming students in the  School of Computer Science for over two years, while also delivering top quality work for the School’s internal data management system, Project NOMAD, where she has been praised as ‘one of the best team members [it] has seen since its inception’.

Daria has supported her female colleagues in particular by teaching with ‘CodeFirst: Girls’, an initiative dedicated to closing the gender skill gap in technology by improving programming literacy amongst women. I quite agree with her tutor when he wrote that ‘computer science is a field in need of female role models like Daria’.

Daria, in recognition of all that you have achieved both academically and personally during your time as an undergraduate, and as you prepare to start a postgraduate degree in computer science at the University of Cambridge, it gives me great pleasure to invite you to join me on stage now to receive your medal.

– Principal Sally Mapstone