Meet Emiliia Dyrenkova

Emiliia Dyrenkova’s story is defined by a little luck and a lot of hard work. Born in Ukraine, Emiliia immigrated to the United States when she was seventeen after her mother applied for—and won—a Diversity Visa. The Diversity Visa program allows 50,000 randomly selected people from across the world to obtain permanent residency in the United States.

After her mother was selected for the Visa, Dyrenkova started dreaming big. She knew the opportunity to live in America opened the door for her to achieve almost anything she put her mind to. “At the time, I had been studying computer programming and I thought I wanted to be a software engineer for NASA.”

Dyrenkova immediately started researching schools online and ran across MiraCosta College. “I remember the moment clearly. I was sitting there at our kitchen table in Ukraine, and MiraCosta popped up on the screen. Honestly, I really liked the look of the website!”

A few months later, Dyrenkova and her mother landed in California. The next day, the father of the host family they were staying with drove Emiliia and her mother straight to MiraCosta College. “I was excited and nervous when we got on campus. But I was basically clueless,” she says.

“Later Lise Flocken, the Transfer Center Director, helped me develop a plan to get into my dream school, the University of California at Berkeley. She warned me that it was a long shot, but not impossible. She was amazing,” Dyrenkova adds.

While strong academic support was an important factor in Dyrenkova’s journey, participating in extracurricular activities at MiraCosta and taking on roles that allowed her to help other students had a great impact on her. “I joined the Student Government and took on a leadership position, even though I was entirely new to the school and to the United States. I was able to go to Sacramento to advocate for our students. I learned a lot from this experience,” remembers Dyrenkova.

Dyrenkova also led the computer science club. “One of the club’s major goals was to make computer science more accessible to a diverse body of students, which was part of the department’s mission. The faculty was extremely supportive of everything the computer science club tried to accomplish.”

Her time in class and serving in activities helped her build strong relationships with her professors, who in turn wrote her strong recommendations that helped her obtain admission to summer research programs not usually available to community college students.

Now, with her Associate degree in Computer Programming Fundamentals from MiraCosta, Dyrenkova is at Berkeley and focusing on quantum computing. “Quantum computing has the potential to provide a much faster computation to many problems in different scientific areas,” she says. “I’m working on a research project with UC, Santa Cruz right now to make a global atmospheric model faster to study the effects of carbon dioxide on a wide range of climates.”

Dyrenkova plans to pursue her Ph.D. and hopes to eventually create quantum algorithms for researchers in different scientific areas. “My experience at MiraCosta helped me get on the way to achieving the big dreams I had for myself in Ukraine. Even though I no longer want to be a software engineer, like I did when I was younger,” she laughs. “You know, I’m flexible.”