Reflections on years of hard work, aspirations to better the world, and a vibrant community spirit predominated at the College of Engineering’s 59th annual Commencement. Held on May 20 at the Track & Tennis Center, the event celebrated the accomplishments of 39 master of engineering, 177 master of science and 289 bachelor of science candidates.
In his opening remarks, Dean Kenneth R. Lutchen congratulated graduating seniors for completing “unquestionably the most difficult undergraduate degree program at Boston University” and urged them to continue taking on hard challenges to positively transform society. Quoting Tom Hanks’ character in A League of Their Own, he said “’It’s supposed to be hard. The hard is what makes it great. If it wasn’t hard, anyone could do it,’” and then added, “Anyone can’t do it; you can.”
Lutchen invoked a moment of silence to remember three outstanding BU students, Austin Brashears (ME’13), Roch Jauberty (CAS’14) and Daniela Lekhno (SMG’13), who died a week earlier when a van they were traveling in overturned on its way to a popular New Zealand tourist destination.
“The university lost some spectacular individuals; the College of Engineering lost one of the most incredible students that this College has ever had,” said Lutchen. “He was totally devoted to enhancing the College of Engineering experience for all the other students and to a life of impacting society with his engineering background.”
In a talk centered on service to fellow students and the world at large, undergraduate student speaker Yasmin M. Atefi (ME) stressed how the College’s strong sense of community enabled her and her fellow graduates to meet the many academic and other challenges they faced over the past four years.
“You’ve gone through the hard work. You’re about to receive your engineering degree and that puts you in a unique position to make the world we live in a better place,” said Atefi, adding, “Remember, you will not change the world alone; rely on your support networks to pull you through, just as you did in your senior projects.”
Recounting the rigors and rewards of the College of Engineering program in between bites of vegetables and dip during a lively reception for students and their guests preceding the Commencement ceremony, graduating seniors frequently described their past four years and future plans in “we” language indicative of a strong identification with the Engineering Class of 2012 community.
“It’s really nice to see all the hard work we put in come to fruition,” said Benjamin Duong (CE), who, among other things, learned “how to work well with people, how to keep trying different angles to solve a problem when your first approach doesn’t work, and how to manage time” while at the College. Duong plans to return to BU this fall to pursue a Master of Engineering in Computer Engineering degree after a summer internship with VMware, a global leader in cloud computing.
“We all worked really hard for this,” said Lisa Cervia (BME), who intends to focus on cancer research this fall as a PhD student at Duke University. “It’s a very good feeling.”
Inspired by the College’s emphasis on the Societal Engineer, Cervia devoted countless hours to her studies, including a senior project that improved a low-cost, portable, battery-operated, optical device that could be used to rapidly and non-invasively diagnose cancer in developing countries.
The Commencement speaker, Dr. Norman Augustine, a leading architect of the space program and a former CEO of Lockheed Martin, explored how students could build on their undergraduate experience to impact society.
“The education each of you has received has prepared you not only to survive in this changing world but also to serve and to shape it,” said Augustine, who received an honorary doctorate at the BU Commencement earlier in the day. “Yet shaping the world will require more than simply the world-class education you’ve received.”
Toward that end, he advised graduates to maintain a good reputation, pursue work that motivates them, seize opportunities as they present themselves, focus on current responsibilities rather than obsess about getting ahead, engage in selfless pursuits and lifelong learning, set big goals and take calculated risks.
Before presenting a diploma to each graduate, Lutchen announced several student awards for academic excellence and service, including the first-ever Societal Impact Capstone Project Awards, which recognized three projects deemed likely to have the biggest impact on society. Caitlin M. Monahan and Dayana Rojas (BME) won first place for “Robust Dissolution System for the Detection of Counterfeit Drugs in Resource-Limited Settings;” Kholood Al Tabash, Donald N. Dougherty, Eric A. Hsiao, Kenneth Zhong and Gregory A. Zoeller (ECE) won second place for iMedix—Patient-Nurse Communciation System;” and Rachel N. Deraney, Kaitlin C. Gargiulo and Chelsea Saniel (BME) won third place for “System for Nucleic Acid Preparation for TB Diagnostics (SNAP-TB).”
Lutchen also announced the Department Awards for Teaching Excellence: Professor H. Steven Colburn (BME); Assistant Professor Douglas Densmore (ECE); and Lecturer Caleb Farny (ME). The Outstanding Professor of the Year Award was presented to Professor Mark Horenstein (ECE) and the Faculty Service Award went to Associate Professor Hua Wang (ME, MSE).
Commencement speaker Dr. Norman Augustine’s address is available at BUniverse.