Virtual ceremony honors Ph.D. graduates, awards photonics expert "Best Dissertation"

Friday, May 29, 2020
by Scott Lyon

Twenty graduate students in electrical engineering received their Ph.D. conferral in a ceremony on Friday, May 29. Due to public health concerns, the event was held remotely via the Zoom web application, which has become a primary resource for higher education gatherings during the coronavirus crisis.

"As virtual as our ceremony is today, it does not take away from the accomplishments of our Ph.D.s," said department chair Sharad Malik. "Those accomplishments are very, very real."

Keynote speaker Vladimir Bulović, professor of engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, stressed the breadth and significance of the research represented in the graduates' 20 dissertations. He said when looked at as a whole, their work told a broader story of building a better world from the ground up by applying the fundamental principles of electricity, magnetism and quantum mechanics. Their work addressed a wide range of topics, including problems in smart healthcare, wireless communication and sensing technologies, advanced computing platforms, quantum optical devices, renewable energy storage solutions, theoretical photonics and network security.

"It is to me remarkable to reflect how Princeton transforms young, curious minds into the leaders of tomorrow," Bulović said, addressing the graduates and their families. "We will all live better lives because of the impacts you are bound to deliver."

Bulović earned his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Princeton in 1998.

Director of graduate studies Kaushik Sengupta gave introductory remarks and led the procession of the graduates. "In whatever field you are, you will make a difference," he said. "What I hope will remain is a strong commitment to help those who need it, when they need it."

The 2020 Bede Liu Best Dissertation Award went to Dr. Prashanth Venkataram, whose work helped define new limits on a century-old problem in thermal physics. The breakthrough has major implications for power and energy-related applications, according to Alejandro Rodriguez, Venkataram's Ph.D. thesis adviser.

"I am convinced that his thoughtfulness, his attention to detail, his logical and quantitative mindset, and his ability to collaborate and engage with people across different academic landscapes will prove to be an invaluable asset," said Rodriguez, an associate professor of electrical engineering.

Venkataram's professional interests span multiple disciplines. He will use his computational expertise to pursue postdoctoral research in the area of transportation at the University of California, Davis, later this year. Venkataram will work with Daniel Sperling, a top expert in that field.

The Bede Liu Award is given each year by the Department of Electrical Engineering for outstanding work by a graduating Ph.D. candidate. The award is named in honor of Professor Emeritus Bede Liu, a pioneering researcher in digital signal processing and a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

The entire class of electrical engineering Ph.D. recipients for the 2019-2020 academic year are listed below, along with their advisers:

Ayten Ozge Akmandor, advised by Niraj Jha

Chandrakanth Reddy Chappidi, advised by Kaushik Sengupta

Ching-Yu Chen, advised by Claire Gmachl

Xiaoliang Dai, advised by Niraj Jha

Joseph Lawrence Durante, advised by Warren Powell

Abdullah Guler, advised by Niraj Jha

Wei Liang Jin, advised by Alejandro Rodriguez

Andrew Kim, advised by Daniel Steingard

Kyung Min Lee, advised by Barry Rand

Yechi Ma, advised by Paul Prucnal

Michael Patrick McKeown, advised by David Wentzlaff

Michell Aaron Nahmias, advised by Paul Prucnal

Qi Nie, advised by Sharad Malik

Sunil Pandey, advised by Claire Gmachl

Scott Howard Silver, advised by Antoine Kahn

Hossein Valavi, advised by Naveen Verma

Prashanth Sanjeev Venkataram, advised by Alejandro Rodriguez

Sameer Wagh, advised by Prateek Mittal

Hongxu Yin, advised by Niraj Jha

Hejia Zhang, advised by Peter Ramadge