On Friday June 11, 2021, Caltech held its 127th launch as part of an event held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but featured a small live event on campus for graduates vaccinated which allowed graduate students to watch the virtual launch together. The Institute honored graduates with 476 degrees: 227 bachelor’s degrees, 104 master’s degrees, 145 doctorates; and celebrated 50 additional graduates whose graduate degrees (12 masters and 38 doctorates) were awarded by the Board of Trustees in October 2020.
Caltech President Thomas F. Rosenbaum opened the ceremony, noting that the promotion had endured more than a year of learning under pandemic conditions. “You have endured disruption and grief with resilience and grace. Together with your academic mentors and academic colleagues, you have been successful in staying connected and opening new connections, creating new avenues of learning,” he said. declared.
David Lee (PhD ’74), Chairman of the Board of Caltech, offered his congratulations. Lee highlighted the highlights of an eventful year, including the landing of the March 2020 mission and the opening of the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Neuroscience Research Building on campus. He also noted that the Institute’s reflection on its past led to the decision to rename some buildings on the campus. “This is an important step towards realizing Caltech’s aspiration to become a community in which talented individuals from all walks of life can strive to realize their full potential and contribute to the mission of research and development. education of the Institute, ”he said.
The keynote speaker was Norman R. Augustine, a longtime leader in the aerospace industry and former director of Lockheed Martin. Speaking to the 2021 class on the theme of “resilience”, Augustine acknowledged the strange circumstances of this ceremony. “You will always receive special attention as a member of the 2021 class who graduated under the extraordinarily difficult circumstances surrounding a pandemic,” he said. “Few of courses before you have been called upon to invoke the stamina, resilience, and courage that you have displayed.”
Augustine further praised the potential of science and technology to meet the great challenges of the 21st century. “It is the strength of the US economy that will fund our efforts to deal with climate change, deteriorating infrastructure, disease and the chasms that exist in terms of opportunities between people. You will be at the forefront of such conquests, “he said.
A group of former speakers followed with their thoughts on resilience for promotion. Tara Gomez-Hampton (PhD ’11), associate director of medical affairs at Biosense Webster, Inc., told the class that “the problems you learned to solve here will carry over. There will be skills that you learn. right here at Caltech, when you apply them to these new situations, you’ll come out on top. “
Morgan L. Cable (PhD ’10), Group Supervisor of Astrobiology and Ocean Worlds at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which Caltech manages for NASA, informed the graduates that their Caltech training provided them with a toolkit to bring positive change to the world. “This year has been amazing. The most important thing I learned from it is that the world is capable of changing, of drastically changing, and that we can all be a part of it,” she said.
Christopher Blaszczak-Boxe (MS ’01, ’02, PhD ’05), Associate Research Professor, Department of Geosciences; associate, Earth & Environmental Science Institute + Institute for Computational & Data Sciences; and the co-director of PSU EnvironMentors at Penn State University echoed this idea. “Although the future of some of you contains a certain degree of uncertainty,… one thing is guaranteed: your professional training will yield high returns on your investment,” he said.
Maryam Ali (BS ’05), medical writer at Medtronic Neurovascular, reflected on the inability to know everything. She was not satisfied with her attempts to learn differential equations while at Caltech, so after graduation she carried her textbooks around the world for years to learn equations ” correctly ”. After more than a decade, she finally knew she had to let them go. “I hope you realize this sooner than I do,” she advised.
Finally, Mason Smith (BS ’09), Software Developer at TGS Management Company and Caltech Board Member, educated students on the importance of learning from failures and setbacks, not just successes. “Hope you don’t just remember the satisfaction of getting the right answer at the end,” he said, then added, “Knowing that not all problems can be solved easily is what that will really set you apart. “
At the graduation ceremony, each participating graduate had a slide displayed on the screen as their name was called out.
Rosenbaum subsequently presented four prizes to the members of the promotion:
The Mabel Beckman Award, awarded annually to junior or senior women, recognizes academic and personal excellence, contributions to the Institute community, and exceptional character and leadership. It was awarded to Arushi Gupta and Isabella Camplisson. “[Gupta] served as a liaison with faculty members and created a peer counseling program in which first and second year students were matched with mentors in their options, ”said Rosenbaum. , and a responsive campus environment. “
The Frederic W. Hinrichs, Jr. Memorial Award recognizes the senior who, in the opinion of undergraduate deans, made the greatest contribution to the student body during their undergraduate years. The award was presented to Varun Shanker. “Vision, empathy and determination permeate Varun’s leadership and service,” said Rosenbaum.
The George W. Housner Award for Academic Excellence and Original Research is awarded to seniors who have demonstrated excellence in scholarship and preparation for outstanding original scientific research. This year’s Housner Award went to Michael Yao and Alexander Zlokapa. “Demonstrating remarkable intellectual agility and ambition, Alex brought his knowledge and technical ability to some of the most pressing challenges of the day,” Rosenbaum said, including the COVID-19 forecast on campus and racial inequalities. Yao worked in the lab of Mikhail Shapiro, professor of chemical engineering, on a new project focused on engineering probiotic bacteria that can be remotely controlled using ultrasound in the service of microbial therapies like those currently being developed to treat certain cancers. “Embodying the ideals of a citizen scientist, Michael applied his interest in diagnostic and therapeutic technologies to work with Atria Connect, a non-profit medical organization he co-founded to provide training in portable ultrasound tools to patients. doctors from rural areas of Haiti.
The final award recipients, the Milton and Francis Clauser Doctoral Prize, were first announced at the launch ceremony, as is tradition with this award. Rosenbaum said the Clauser Prize is awarded to students whose doctoral theses reflect extraordinary standards of quality, innovative research, and the potential to open new avenues for human thought and effort. This year, for the third time in the history of the Institute, two prizes were awarded for a tie vote.
David J. Anderson, professor of biology Seymour Benzer, director of the Tianqiao Institute of Neuroscience and Chrissy Chen and academic advisor to this year’s first recipient, Hui (Vivian) Chu. Chu received the award for his thesis, “Neural Control of Male and Female Aggression in DrosophilaAnderson explained that males and females of fruit flies fight differently; males rush while females head butt. “Despite these sex differences in attacking behavior,” Vivian found one guy. neuronal cell that controls aggression in both sexes, the first of its kind to be described in any animal. “
Mansi Kasliwal, Assistant Professor of Astronomy, was the advisor to the second Clauser Prize winner, Kishalay De, who won his thesis, “The Whisper and the Bang: Cosmic Fireworks in the Lives of Compact Binaries”. Handing over the award, Kasliwal said, “Kishalay built the very first large-field infrared surveyor, and it is now deployed at the Palomar Observatory. This surveyor opened a whole new window on our universe.
Closing the event, Rosenbaum referred to the famous quote from Nobel Laureate Dennis Gabor, who said: “The future cannot be predicted, but the future can be invented,” telling the graduates: “You are the accomplished inventors. You have the skills and the initiative. and the confidence to make a difference. ”Finally, the Perseverance The rover sent its congratulations from the surface of Mars, instructing Caltech graduates to “dare powerful things.”
After the launch ceremony, 302 people joined a virtual champagne toast on Zoom which also included the nearly 200 graduates who gathered on campus. Parents and friends congratulated the graduates, while the new graduates shared their favorite memories of the Institute. Rosenbaum quoted a few lines from poet Mark Strand before saying to the promotion, “You will go through a life shaped by Caltech. I wish you wholeness and magic in your journey forward.”