Class Day ceremony honors an extraordinary, centennial cohort

Monday, May 24, 2021
by Scott Lyon

The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering honored its 32 graduating seniors in a Class Day ceremony on Monday, May 24, conferring multiple honors and awards for academic achievement.

"I congratulate you on your major accomplishment today," said department chair Sharad Malik, the George Van Lothrop Professor in Engineering. "All of you have completed this degree in exceptionally challenging circumstances over the past 15 months. The faculty, your family and friends applaud your resilience."

The event was held virtually due to public health concerns regarding the ongoing pandemic.

The graduating class of 2021 overcame an extraordinary set of conditions. They were forced to leave campus in the middle of their junior year, disrupting every aspect of life including two months of work in the department's signature design course, known colloquially as car lab. There was no recovering what had been lost. But within two weeks, their autonomous vehicles scrapped, the students started designing and building low-cost, scalable ventilators — a key tool in treating COVID-19 patients globally. The experience led to an unprecedented level of undergraduate experience with real-world problem solving under highly constrained conditions, and marked this class as one of the most resilient in memory. In their senior year, the students navigated a fall semester of remote learning, pivoting toward thesis research projects that could be carried out under the University's public safety guidelines, and a third major transition, in their final semester, to a hybrid-learning model that included some in-person research and instruction.

From bedrooms, car interiors, living rooms and lobbies, the graduates beamed emoji-laden applause and congratulations to one another from across the country and around the globe. As awardees were announced and their video feeds spotlighted, nearby friends and family members punctuated these virtual scenes, reaching in for on-screen hugs.

The newly minted class will enter the workforce at companies such as Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Bloomberg and General Motors, or matriculate into graduate programs at institutions such as Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Yale University and the University of California-Berkeley.

James Sturm, the Stephen R. Forrest Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the department's director of undergraduate studies, told the graduates that life would be "a lot like car lab. You use your background to get some ideas and study the problem, but in the end you have to make a decision and do something before you are certain what to do."

"Don't be afraid," he said. "Have the confidence to make decisions."

Of the 32 graduates, 29 earned certificates in 12 different programs, including Cognitive Science, Engineering Biology, Robotics and Intelligent Systems, and Statistics and Machine Learning. (An undergraduate certificate at Princeton functions much like a minor at other universities.)

Seven earned honors; eight more earned high honors; and three students — Samuel Breckenridge, Zak Dasaro and Trisha Madhaven — earned highest honors.

Eighteen of the graduates were inducted into one or more honor society: Sigma Xi, for distinguished scientific research; Tau Beta Pi, recognizing outstanding engineering achievements; and Phi Beta Kappa, the nation's preeminent liberal arts honor society.

A ceremony held by the School of Engineering and Applied Science, in the afternoon, recognized the graduating seniors as part of the full BSE program and awarded two electrical and computer engineering graduates — Trisha Madhaven, with the MacCracken Award, and Elaine Wright, with the Elgin Award.

This was the centennial class of Princeton's engineering school, founded in 1921.

The full list of electrical and computer engineering students graduating in the class of 2021, along with any honors and awards they received, is below:

Mark Abramovitz
Honors

Saisha Agrawal
High honors, Tau Beta Pi, Sigma Xi
Hisashi Kobayashi Prize

Harsh Babla
Honors, Sigma Xi
Peter Mark Prize

Avi Bendory

Samuel Breckenridge
Highest honors, Phi Beta Kappa, Tau Beta Pi, Sigma Xi
Hisashi Kobayashi Prize

Misael Campos

Kavya Chandran

John Chen

Matthew Collins

Zak Dasaro
Highest honors, Tau Beta Pi, Sigma Xi
G. David Forney Jr. Prize

Jovana Djokovic
Sigma Xi

Claire Dong
High honors, Tau Beta Pi, Sigma Xi
Bradley Dickinson Award for System Design

Isabel Greene

Ibrahim Ali Hashmi

Michaela Hennebury
High honors
Sigma Xi Book Award

Kyle Johnson
Honors

Skylar Jung
Honors
Sigma Xi Book Award

Jovana Kondic

Ben Laitner

Lap Hei Lam

Iman Lulla
Honors, Sigma Xi
Sigma Xi Book Award

Trisha Madhavan
Highest honors, Phi Beta Kappa, Tau Beta Pi, Sigma Xi
Peter Mark Prize
Charles Ira Young Memorial Tablet & Medal

Sam Markoff
High honors
Optical Engineering Award of Excellence

Jana Sebaali

Ellie Shapiro
Honors

Kalil Shaw
Honors, Sigma Xi
Optical Engineering Award of Excellence

Robert Shi
Sigma Xi Book Award

Charles Smith
High honors, Sigma Xi
John Ogden Bigelow Jr. Prize in Electrical Engineering

Nick Sum
High honors, Tau Beta Pi, Sigma Xi

Ethan Thai

Elaine Wright
High honors, Sigma Xi
Bradley Dickinson Award for System Design

Changxiao Xie
High honors, Sigma Xi