ENG Graduates Look to Bright Future Ahead

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Commencement ceremonies celebrate the Class of 2016

By Sara Elizabeth Cody

U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz (Hon.'16)
U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz (Hon.’16)

Sunshine from the warm, cloudless day penetrated the air of excitement inside the Track and Tennis Center, where faculty, staff, family and friends gathered to celebrate the 63rd commencement of 350 undergraduate students from the College of Engineering on May 14.

Dean Kenneth Lutchen began the ceremony by acknowledging the challenges students had to face and overcome in order to arrive at that moment today, noting that while engineering is the toughest course of study at BU, “the hard is what makes it great, and you made it.”

Lutchen also recognized the important role that family and friends played in supporting their graduates, noting that commencement was a celebration that was years in the making.

Graduates were all smiles during the processional
Graduates were all smiles during the processional

“From first steps to learning you were admitted into this great institution, you have been celebrating achievements and important milestones for the past 22 years,” he said. “Today you will celebrate the best investment you could have made walking across this stage.”

Student speaker Alexander James O’Donovan (BME’15) spoke about his personal experience of being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and how it drove him to pursue his career in biomedical engineering and ultimately landed his dream job working in Professor Ed Damiano’s (BME) laboratory developing the bionic pancreas. From the beginning, he identified closely with the College’s vision of creating Societal Engineers and that allowed him to carve out a path for his success.

“I came here because I wanted to change the world and [the College] wanted to create people to change the world,” said O’Donovan. “We now have what we need to leave our footprint on the world—the only question now is how big the footprint will be.”

U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz (Hon.’16) took the stage after O’Donovan to deliver his keynote address. After a lighthearted moment where he explained he wore his beaver print tie because beavers are “nature’s engineer,” he stressed the importance of how engineers help move society forward by describing the four pillars of engineering: to solve problems; to think broadly in order to find novel solutions; to be civic-minded; and to think globally to have a lasting impact on the world. Echoing O’Donovan’s sentiments about the Societal Engineer, he noted how BU’s vision brings these pillars together.

“As an engineer, you have both an obligation and an opportunity to improve the lives of the underserved, both in this country and across the world,” said Moniz. “It is the highest form of diplomacy.”

Moniz—who received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree at the university-wide commencement ceremony the next day—also noted that the newest generation of engineers must pick up the mantle to continue tackling some of society’s greatest challenges, from political discourse to climate change, by harnessing their education and skills acquired during their time at BU.

“I personally believe that the engineering profession is one that is associated with social progress,” said Moniz. “No matter what you decide to do with your engineering degree, your ‘science-based approach with a system-wide view’ to solve problems will present new opportunities for solutions.”

Lutchen presented Department Awards for Teaching Excellence to Professor Hamid Nawab (ECE), Associate Professor of Practice William Hauser (ME) and to Assistant Professor Ahmad Khalil (BME), who also received Outstanding Professor of the Year Award. The Faculty Service Award went to professor Irving Bigio (BME).

Later in the afternoon, Dean Lutchen presented 200 Master’s degrees and presided over the hooding of 48 PhD students in the Fitness and Recreation Center.

Alfred O. Hero (EE'80), R. Jamison and Betty Williams Professor of Engineering at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and co-director of the Michigan Institute for Data Science
Alfred O. Hero (EE’80), R. Jamison and Betty Williams Professor of Engineering at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and co-director of the Michigan Institute for Data Science

Alfred O. Hero (EE’80), R. Jamison and Betty Williams Professor of Engineering at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and co-director of the Michigan Institute for Data Science gave the graduate convocation keynote address. As a BU alum, he remembered sitting in the same place as this year’s graduates 36 years ago. He encouraged graduates never to succumb to challenges, to defend their work, and to remain humble and kind throughout their future careers.

“Engineering has given you the skills to organize and navigate through complex data and use it to solve problems,” Hero concluded. “In my experience, the two most prominent characteristics of successful engineers is the pursuit of unconventional ideas and the perseverance to get it done.”