On Friday, June 11, 2021, Caltech held its 127th Commencement in an occasion that was held nearly due to the COVID-19 pandemic however featured a small on-campus livestream occasion for vaccinated graduates that allowed graduating college students to observe the digital Commencement collectively. The Institute honored graduates with 476 levels: 227 bachelor’s levels, 104 grasp’s levels, 145 doctoral levels; and celebrated 50 further graduates whose superior levels (12 grasp’s and 38 doctoral) had been awarded by the Board of Trustees in October 2020.
Caltech president Thomas F. Rosenbaum opened the ceremony, noting that the graduating class had endured greater than a 12 months of studying underneath pandemic circumstances. “You bore disruption and grief with resilience and grace. With your faculty mentors and fellow scholars, you have managed to stay connected and to open new connections, forging new pathways to learning,” he mentioned.
David Lee (PhD ’74), chair of the Caltech Board of Trustees, supplied his congratulations. Lee famous the highlights of an eventful 12 months, together with the touchdown of the Mars 2020 mission and the opening of the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Neuroscience Research Building on campus. He additionally famous that the Institute’s reflection on its previous has led to the choice to rename some campus buildings. “This is an important step toward realizing Caltech’s aspiration to become a community in which talented individuals from all backgrounds may strive to their full potential and contribute to the Institute’s mission of research and education,” he mentioned.
The keynote speaker was Norman R. Augustine, a longtime chief within the aerospace trade and former head of Lockheed Martin. Speaking to the category of 2021 on the theme of “resilience,” Augustine acknowledged the odd circumstances of this ceremony. “You will always receive special attention as a member of the class of 2021 that earned its degrees under the extraordinarily trying circumstances that surround a pandemic,” he mentioned. “Few classes before you have been called upon to summon the endurance, resilience, and grit that you have exhibited.”
Augustine additional praised the potential for science and know-how to confront the nice challenges of the twenty first century. “It is the strength of America’s economy that will fund our efforts to confront climate change; deteriorating infrastructure; diseases; and the chasms that exist in opportunity among peoples. You will be at the leading edge of such conquests,” he mentioned.
A bunch of alumni audio system adopted with their ideas on resilience for the graduating class. Tara Gomez-Hampton (PhD ’11), affiliate director of medical affairs at Biosense Webster, Inc., suggested the category that “the problems you learned to solve here will transfer. There will be skills that you’ve gained right here at Caltech; when you apply them to these new situations, you will come out on top.”
Morgan L. Cable (PhD ’10), Astrobiology and Ocean Worlds Group supervisor on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which Caltech manages for NASA, suggested graduates that their Caltech training has supplied a toolkit with which to make constructive change on the planet. “This year has been an incredible one. The biggest thing that I have taken from this is that the world is capable of change—dramatic change—and that we all can be a part of that,” she mentioned.
Christopher Blaszczak-Boxe (MS ’01, ’02, PhD ’05), affiliate analysis professor, Department of Geosciences; affiliate, Earth & Environmental Science Institute + Institute for Computational & Data Sciences; and co-director of PSU EnvironMentors at Penn State University echoed that concept. “Although the future for some of you has some degree of uncertainty, … one thing is guaranteed: your professional training will reap high returns on your investment,” he mentioned.
Maryam Ali (BS ’05), a medical author at Medtronic Neurovascular, mirrored on the lack to know every part. She was dissatisfied along with her makes an attempt to study differential equations throughout her time at Caltech, so, after commencement, she carried her textbooks all over the world for years in an effort to study the equations “properly.” After greater than a decade, she lastly knew she needed to allow them to go. “I hope you come to that realization sooner than I did,” she suggested.
Finally, Mason Smith (BS ’09), software program developer at TGS Management Company and member of the Caltech Board of Trustees, suggested college students of the significance of studying from failures and setbacks, not simply successes. “I hope you don’t just remember the satisfaction of getting the right answer at the end,” he mentioned, then added: “Knowing that not every problem can be knocked down easily is what will really set you apart.”
During the conferral of levels, every taking part graduate had a slide displayed on display screen whereas their title was referred to as.
Afterward, Rosenbaum offered 4 prizes to members of the graduating class:
The Mabel Beckman Prize, awarded yearly to feminine juniors or seniors, acknowledges educational and private excellence, contributions to the Institute group, and excellent character and management. It was awarded to Arushi Gupta and Isabella Camplisson. “[Gupta] served as a liaison to faculty members and created a peer advising program in which first- and second-year students were matched with mentors in their options,” Rosenbaum mentioned. “Isabella Camplisson’s commitment to advocacy and service has helped engender a more welcoming, inclusive, and responsive campus environment.”
The Frederic W. Hinrichs, Jr., Memorial Award acknowledges the senior who, within the opinion of the undergraduate deans, made the best contribution to the coed physique throughout their undergraduate years. The award was given to Varun Shanker. “Vision, empathy, and resolve suffuse Varun’s leadership and service,” Rosenbaum mentioned.
The George W. Housner Prize for Academic Excellence and Original Research is given to seniors who’ve demonstrated excellence in scholarship and the preparation of an impressive piece of authentic scientific analysis. This 12 months’s Housner Prize was offered to Michael Yao and Alexander Zlokapa. “Demonstrating remarkable intellectual agility and ambition, Alex has brought his knowledge and technical ability to some of the most pressing challenges of the day,” Rosenbaum mentioned, together with campus COVID-19 forecasting and racial inequality. Yao has labored within the lab of Mikhail Shapiro, professor of chemical engineering, on a brand new mission targeted on engineering probiotic micro organism that may be managed remotely utilizing ultrasound within the service of microbial therapies like these now being developed to deal with sure cancers. “Embodying the ideals of a citizen scientist, Michael has applied his interest in diagnostic and therapeutic technologies to work with Atria Connect, a medical nonprofit he co-founded to bring training in handheld ultrasound tools to physicians in rural Haiti.”
The recipients of the ultimate award, the Milton and Francis Clauser Doctoral Prize, had been first introduced on the graduation ceremony, as is the custom with this prize. Rosenbaum mentioned the Clauser Prize is awarded to college students whose PhD theses replicate extraordinary requirements of high quality, revolutionary analysis, and the potential of opening new avenues of human thought and endeavor. This 12 months, for the third time within the Institute’s historical past, two awards got due to a tie vote.
David J. Anderson, Seymour Benzer Professor of Biology, Director of the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute for Neuroscience, and educational adviser to this 12 months’s first recipient, Hui (Vivian) Chu. Chu was given the prize for her thesis, “Neural Control of Male and Female Aggression in Drosophila.” Anderson defined that fruit fly men and women battle in a different way; males lunge whereas females headbutt. “Despite these sex differences in attack behavior,” he mentioned, “Vivian discovered a unique neuronal cell type that controls aggressiveness in both sexes, the first of its kind to be described in any animal.”
Mansi Kasliwal, assistant professor of astronomy, was the adviser for the second Clauser Prize winner, Kishalay De, who gained for his thesis, “The Whisper and the Bang: Cosmic Fireworks in the Lives of Compact Binaries.” In presenting the award, Kasliwal mentioned, “Kishalay has built the very first infrared wide-field surveyor, and it is now deployed at Palomar Observatory. This surveyor has opened an entirely new window into our universe.”
In closing the occasion, Rosenbaum referenced the well-known quote by Nobel Laureate Dennis Gabor, who mentioned, “The future cannot be predicted, but futures can be invented,” telling graduates: “You are the consummate inventors. You have the skills and the initiative and the confidence to make a difference.” Lastly, the Perseverance rover despatched its congratulations from the floor of Mars, charging Caltech graduates to “dare mighty things.”
Following the graduation ceremony, 302 folks joined a digital champagne toast over Zoom that additionally included the practically 200 graduates who gathered on campus. Parents and buddies congratulated the graduates, whereas the brand new alumni shared their favourite recollections of the Institute. Rosenbaum quoted a couple of traces from the poet Mark Strand earlier than telling the graduating class, “You will move through life shaped by Caltech. I wish you wholeness and magic on your journey forward.”