Presented by Kamen Kozarev, GRS’13 (Astronomy, PhD)
Metcalf Hall, Boston University
Friday, May 17, 2013

Dear deans, faculty, candidates, families and friends,

On behalf of the graduating Ph.D. class, I can say we made it to the end of a long journey. Few dare to begin it, and not all who start it make it to the end. For me, the past several years have been like a long hike through the mountains. The peaks and troughs of a graduate student career resemble mountain crests and valleys. There are rainy and sunny days. Sometimes you see your destination clearly, sometimes it is shrouded in thick, impenetrable fog.

I came into graduate school young and green. I studied Astronomy. Along the way I learned a lot about the Universe. I also learned how little we really know about it. I learned to value different viewpoints, and to appreciate criticism – from my fellow graduate students, from my advisor, from my professors. What started as a group of students working on a problem set together in our first years, grew later into serious discussions, on the most current research topics. And through with these discussions, we grew – from students to scholars. We gained confidence in our knowledge, and the resolve to defend our discoveries.

Our professors taught us this. They treated us as colleagues, not students, always demanding from us the same professional behavior and responsibility as they do from one another. Our advisors and mentors were our guides along the winding trail, who led us, but never carried us. They warned us of stray paths, traps and pitfalls. Little by little, we learned the right way forward. We grew strong and confident, and here we are now, able to lead others on this long and inspiring journey of discovery.

At times, the load and strain of our graduate careers must have seemed too much to handle, the path to the finish line – never ending – like the Universe itself. But we also discovered that, like the Universe, knowledge has no boundaries – and that inspired us to continue. After a long slump, the excitement of a new finding, a successful experiment, or a theoretical breakthrough, lifted us up, and gave us renewed strength and confidence to continue our quest along the rugged path.

For the past several years, our departments were our homes, our professors and fellow graduate students – our families. I will remember forever the long days and nights doing homework or observing on the CAS roof, Friday pizza and beer, the Astronomy Unplugged concert, our soccer and volleyball teams.

I made many great friends for life in the Astronomy department. Some of these people have become my colleagues as well. We share a deep connection on a personal, as well as a professional level, and that is really the most long lasting reward I will take from grad school.

But the real journey is only just beginning. It is now up to us to apply our ideas, our skills, our brains. To go out in the world and become leaders of science and technology, of arts, of society. It is now up to us to justify the trust and diplomas we receive today from Boston University, and to work for a better tomorrow for humanity. It is no small challenge, but I am confident we are up to the task.

So on behalf of all of us graduating today, I would like to thank Boston University and our department administrators for their support; our advisors, professors, and mentors, for their dedication; and our families and friends, for their encouragement and love. And to my fellow Ph. D. recipients I would like to say: keep working hard, but also, don’t forget to play hard. Thank you!