Department honors graduates in virtual Class Day ceremony

Monday, Jun 1, 2020
by Scott Lyon

The Department of Electrical Engineering honored its 21 graduating seniors in a virtual Class Day ceremony on Monday, June 1, conferring multiple honors and awards for academic achievement.

During the ceremony, director of undergraduate studies James Sturm congratulated the seniors for completing a "difficult and demanding" four years.

"The path forward is almost never clear," he said. "Use your internal compass. Pick the direction that is right for you, not what others think you should do."

Department chair Sharad Malik, in his opening remarks, praised the graduates' family members for their "guidance, inspiration and support that provided an even more important foundation" than the fundamental principles of "Boolean algebra, Fourier transforms and Maxwell's equations." He then asked the parents to rise, wherever they were, so that the faculty and students could recognize their efforts.

Due to public health concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, the ceremony was held remotely via the Zoom web application, a staple of higher-education gatherings throughout the crisis. Malik emphasized that the virtual nature of the ceremony did not undercut the very real accomplishments at its center.

The University held its virtual commencement one day earlier, graduating the Class of 2020 in one of the strangest academic finales in generations. Campus life ground to a halt midway through the spring semester as nearly all undergraduate students left for home in the days leading up to March 23. Those turned out to be the graduating seniors' final days as Princeton residents. Following spring break, instruction moved entirely online and events were either held virtually, postponed or cancelled.

While a staggering disruption, students adapted to the conditions with remarkable poise, completing lab assignments and finalizing thesis research without access to the physical spaces and instruments specifically designed to collect and analyze such data.

In the end, the festivities that mark the high point in the academic year, normally held in every corner of the campus, were instead held in living rooms and home offices around the world. This year, rather than filing stiffly into neat rows of folding chairs, loved ones of all ages logged into a centrally hosted webinar and gazed into their computer screens. Their smiles did not register the difference.

Of the 21 graduates, 15 earned certificates in 10 different programs, including Chinese Language and Culture, Engineering Biology, Robotics and Intelligent Systems, Statistics and Machine Learning, and Journalism, as well as others. (An undergraduate certificate at Princeton functions much like a minor at other universities).

Four earned honors; three more earned high honors; and two students — Abby Breitfeld and Markos Markakis — earned highest honors.

Eight of the graduates were inducted into one of three honor societies: 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 (SEAS), in the afternoon, recognized the graduating seniors as part of the full BSE program and awarded two electrical engineering graduates — Clare Cook and Markos Markakis — further awards.

The full list of electrical engineering students graduating in the Class of 2020, along with any honors and awards they received, is below:

Neel Ajjarapu

Nick Brady

Abby Breitfeld
Phi Beta Kappa, Tau Beta Pi, Sigma Xi, Highest Honors
Bradley Dickinson Award for System Design

Jacob Brown
Sigma Xi, Honors
G. David Forney, Jr. Prize

Steven Chien
Sigma Xi, Honors

Clare Cook
Tau Beta Pi, Sigma Xi, High Honors
Optical Engineering Award of Excellence
Lore Von Jaskowsky Memorial Prize (SEAS)

Eric Dogariu

Jessica Ho

Katherine Hong

Alden Hunt

Alex Ju
John Ogden Bigelow, Jr. Prize in Electrical Engineering

Kevin Liu
Sigma Xi, High Honors
Sigma Xi Book Award

Kyle MacMillan
Sigma Xi

Markos Markakis
Phi Beta Kappa, Tau Beta Pi, Sigma Xi, Highest Honors
Charles Ira Young Memorial Tablet and Medal
Calvin Dodd MacCracken Senior Thesis/Project Award (SEAS)

McGinnis Miller

Jonah Ng
Peter Mark Prize

Akash Pattnaik

Hari Santhanam

Kevin Wadman

Joe Zhang
Tau Beta Pi, Sigma Xi, High Honors
Hisashi Kobayashi Prize
David Zuluaga