Group portrait of award winners
Class of 2022 award winners with Dean Andrea Goldsmith and Distinguished Teaching Award recipient Yiguang Ju. Photos by Frank Wojciechowski

Welcoming graduates, friends and families to the annual Class Day ceremony on Monday, May 23, Dean Andrea Goldsmith expressed “joy and pride” at presiding over the first in-person ceremony for Princeton Engineering graduates in three years.

She praised the Class of 2022’s outstanding work and determination through the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. “My faculty colleagues and I are deeply impressed, not only with what you have accomplished, but with the many ways that you’ve been shaped by this pandemic,” Goldsmith, the Arthur LeGrand Doty Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, told students at the gathering in the Friend Center courtyard. “We’ve been inspired by your hard work, dedication and perseverance. These are the attributes that brought you to Princeton in the first place and that led you to succeed here, and they will be the foundations of your future successes.”

With 343 graduates receiving engineering degrees and 44 receiving bachelor of arts degrees in computer science, the class included 387 students, which represents 31% of the University’s Class of 2022. Members of the engineering class participated in athletics, dance and music; served the community of Princeton, the country and the world; studied abroad, contributed to new technologies and discoveries, and published academic journal papers, said Goldsmith.

She added that graduates will go on to obtain graduate and professional degrees, enter the workforce at large companies, small companies and startups; create their own companies, play professional sports, enter military service, or work as service fellows with Teach for America or Princeton’s Project 55.

“I hope you will follow your dreams wherever they may lead, that you won’t be afraid to take risks and embrace challenges, and that each of you will define success in your own unique way that encompasses both your personal and professional lives,” said Goldsmith.

Professor speaking at podium
Yiguang Ju, the Robert Porter Patterson Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and director of the Program in Sustainable Energy, was recognized with the engineering school’s annual Distinguished Teaching Award.

In addition to recognizing graduates, the engineering school honored Yiguang Ju with its annual Distinguished Teaching Award. Ju, the Robert Porter Patterson Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and director of the Program in Sustainable Energy, was cited for his clear, engaging lectures and commitment to both challenging and supporting his students.

“His enthusiasm for his subject and delight for the transfer of knowledge are an inspiration,” said one student.

“He’s a passionate teacher who motivates our students in the most important energy-related topics relevant to engineering, science, and of course our whole society,” said Goldsmith. “He has made and continues to make a tremendous impact on students and his colleagues through his teaching and dedication.”

“Many people say we have distinguished faculty, we have distinguished alumni,” said Ju in accepting the award. “But today I want to say one thing: Princeton is great because we have distinguished students. You mentored us, you enriched us, and you inspired me. Thank you, Princeton, and thank you to the Class of 2022.”

The winners of major awards at the 2022 Princeton Engineering Class Day, as presented by Associate Dean for Undergraduate Affairs Peter Bogucki, were:

THE J. RICH STEERS AWARD

Zachary Hammack

A computer science major, Hammack developed a tool to help students prepare for the Aviation Selection Test Battery, the Air Force’s test to assess pilot potential that involves processing multiple sensory inputs simultaneously. His adviser, Professor David Walker, said that Hammack came up with this creative and potentially high-impact project completely on his own, learned many different skills in order to implement it and to integrate different components, and had a successful and comprehensive result. Hammack, of Germantown, Tennessee, will begin training as a Navy pilot.

Logan O’Donnell

A mechanical and aerospace engineering major with a certificate in robotics and intelligent systems, O’Donnell, along with classmates Joshua Coleman and Dayan Mitchell, completed a senior project entitled “Low-Cost Jet Engine Design as a Basis for Stand-alone Power Generation” in which they designed and prototyped a gas turbine based on modifying a car turbocharger by adding a combustor between the compressor and turbine. It was then integrated with a generator to produce reliable power in developing countries. Their advisers, Professor Daniel Nosenchuck and Glenn Northey, said the work epitomized the essence of innovative engineering. O’Donnell, of Brick, New Jersey, will pursue a master of engineering degree at Princeton and will serve as a military intelligence officer in the Army Reserve.

JEFFREY O. KEPHART ’80 PRIZE IN ENGINEERING PHYSICS

Xuan Hoang Le

An electrical and computer engineering major with certificates in applications of computing and engineering physics, Le was involved in quantum computing research almost since he arrived at Princeton, working with Professors Andrew Houck and Nathalie de Leon. His thesis, advised by Houck, was entitled “Towards a 2-D Superconducting Kerr-cat Qubit,” in which he attempted to show that bosonic code work that had been ongoing at Yale in 3-D cavities could be done effectively in fabricated devices in 2-D given reductions in error rates. Le performed his own device design, fabrication and measurement, and also made advances in theoretical understanding and data analysis. Houck said that this was the sort of project he would typically give to an advanced graduate student, and that he is writing a proposal based on Le’s results. Le, of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, will pursue a Ph.D. in physics at Harvard.

THE TAU BETA PI PRIZE

Hayden Burt

Student accepting award
Hayden Burt received the Tau Beta Pi Prize, awarded annually to a member of the senior class who has significantly contributed a major part of his or her time to service to the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

A mechanical and aerospace engineering (MAE) major with a certificate in linguistics, Burt was extraordinarily generous in service to the School of Engineering and Applied Science. She responded immediately to requests for help, such as with a 2021 forum for rising B.S.E. sophomores. As an Engineering Interactor and Peer Academic Adviser for two years, Burt advised many first-year B.S.E. students. She was well-known for her leadership of the high school outreach of the Society of Women Engineers. For several years, she mobilized fellow students and faculty members to give presentations. Burt helped make these programs happen smoothly from inception to execution, as well being a cordial and welcoming host. MAE lecturer Lamyaa El-Gabry said Burt helped fellow students in a caring and non-judgmental manner. Matthew Lazen, director of studies at Butler College, called her “one of the most dependably [selfless] and warm students I know at Princeton.” Professor Nathan Arrington, of the Department of Art and Archaeology, wrote that at his excavation in Thessaloniki, Greece, Burt “lifted up the people … with her, whether … sitting next to them on the bus … or helping them with a wheelbarrow.” For her thesis, Burt worked in Professor Edgar Choueiri’s lab to develop psychoacoustics tests to evaluate novel technology that delivers different audio programs for different people in the same place. Choueiri said her thesis was “truly excellent” and will be the focus of a journal paper. Burt, of Kinnelon, New Jersey, will pursue a master of engineering degree at Princeton.

THE JOSEPH CLIFTON ELGIN PRIZE

Sydney Hughes

A chemical and biological engineering major with certificates in German language and culture and sustainable energy, Hughes has a passion for sustainability and addressing the climate crisis that has guided her studies, research and outreach. She was director of campus events for the Princeton Energy Association. In this position, she organized the Princeton Energy Case Competition for about 50 local high school students to present ideas on sustainable solutions to energy problems in New Jersey as well as panels, talks and interactive events with industry experts on various energy technologies. Hughes’ dedication to the public interest through development of carbon-free energy infrastructure is evident in her senior thesis, advised by Professor Michele Sarazen, entitled “Utilizing Amino-polymer Adsorbents Supported on Metal-organic Frameworks for CO2 Capture,” in which she investigated the efficacy and stability of hybrid adsorbents for CO2 capture from both flue gas and direct air capture. Sarazen said Hughes was a relentlessly positive, exacting and adaptive experimentalist. Hughes, of Carmel, New York, will work on hydrogen fuel cell research at the Technical University of Munich under a Sachs Global Scholarship.

Nick Thielsen

A civil and environmental engineering major with certificates in architecture and engineering and materials science and engineering, Thielsen investigated the use of timber beams in modern construction. Timber has been used as a building material since the Stone Age, and timber-framed structures are a significant element of the cultural landscape, but in this age of concrete and steel, wood is not often the subject of engineering analysis to improve its performance. Yet, timber is a renewable material and emits significantly less whole-life embodied carbon than concrete and steel construction. Unlike steel, however, properties of wood differ along its major axes, which causes problems when timber beam ends are notched to fit into larger structural elements. For his thesis, Thielsen studied the relationship between the arc of curved tapers and shear strength in timber beams end-notched on the tension face. Through numerical modelling and extensive laboratory testing, he defined properties and developed design tools for arc-tapered beams, leading to better efficiency in use of material and occupancy space, and significantly improving resilience to hazards such as earthquakes and strong winds. Based on his research, he proposed a change in building codes to encompass circular arc tapers as the end-notch parts of timber beams. His adviser, Professor Branko Glišić, said Thielsen’s research “has the potential to affect timber construction at large and to improve the sustainability and resilience of our built environment.” Thielsen, of Mankato, Minnesota, will pursue a master’s degree in civil engineering with a specialization in wood science at Oregon State University.

THE GEORGE J. MUELLER AWARD

Isabelle Grosgogeat

An operations research and financial engineering major with certificates in applications of computing and finance, Grosgogeat was a coxswain on the Ivy League Championship women’s open crew team, ranked number four nationally. Her coach, Lori Dauphiny, said that much of the team’s success was due to Grosgogeat’s contribution and leadership. In recognition of her accomplishments, she was named first-team All-Ivy in addition to being an Academic All-Ivy. Grosgogeat’s thesis was entitled “Show Me the Money: An Empirical Analysis of the Impact of Women and Minority Ownership on Private Equity Fundraising Performance,” in which she sought to understand reasons for the underrepresentation of women and minorities at ownership and managerial levels in private equity firms. To do this, she compared success rates in private equity fundraising. Key findings of her thesis suggest that women- and minority-owned firms set significantly lower fundraising goals than their white male counterparts, that women-owned funds raise less capital than their peers, and that women-owned firms need more time to raise capital than their peers. Her adviser, Professor Ludovic Tangpi, said that for a student at this stage, Grosgogeat’s thesis showed a rare command of wealth management, data analysis and the private equity sector. Grosgogeat, of Westport, Connecticut, will work as an investment and banking analyst at Lazard.

Cole Becker

An electrical and computer engineering major with a certificate in statistics and machine learning, Becker was captain of men’s squash, and led the team to a top-six finish nationally, always playing in one of the top four positions. His coach, Sean Wilkinson, said Becker was competitive among the best players in the country. He was named Academic All-Ivy and selected as a College Squash Association Scholar-Athlete. He also received the George C. McFarland Jr. Award, Princeton’s highest squash award. Becker’s thesis was entitled “Data-driven Methods for Decision-making Under Uncertainty,” advised by Professor Bartolomeo Stellato, and focused on applying machine learning to decision-making under uncertainty, fundamental to areas such as advanced control systems, transportation, logistics and robotics. Becker unified two major techniques to make decisions in the presence of uncertainty: robust optimization and distributionally robust optimization. Stellato said: “Through the lens of machine learning clustering, Cole designed a new framework to balance conservatism and computational efficiency to make optimal decisions in an uncertain world,” and extoled Becker’s dedication and curiosity. Becker, of San Mateo, California, will pursue a master of engineering degree at Princeton.

THE CALVIN DODD MACCRACKEN SENIOR THESIS/PROJECT AWARD

Joshua Eastman

A civil and environmental engineering major, Eastman completed a thesis entitled “Advancing Nondestructive and Scalable Field Methods to Measure Tree Carbon Storage and Sequestration in Indian Cities.” Working with the Pune, India, Municipal Corporation, he measured urban tree volumes using forestry lidar methods and related them to carbon sequestration potential. After mastering the methods of tree allometry, he conducted nondestructive tree volume estimation in leaf-on and leaf-off conditions and used machine learning algorithms to assess tree woody volume. His adviser, Professor Anu Ramaswami, said Eastman’s thesis involved “primary new data generation, using a new technology (lidar volume estimation), complex geospatial mapping, complex process modeling and statistical analysis, and managing international field work during COVID from Princeton,” resulting in “an exciting, impactful and massive study.” Eastman, of Huntington, West Virginia, will attend medical school at Marshall University. He intends to become a pediatrician and study the interplay of environment and children’s health.

Nicole Meister

An electrical and computer engineering major with certificates in cognitive studies and robotics and intelligent systems, Meister completed thesis work that addressed gender bias in computer vision datasets. A gender cue is information in an image that is learnable by a modern image classification model and has an interpretable human corollary. Analyzing large-scale computer vision datasets, Meister found that gender cues are ubiquitous, occurring from low-level information (such the mean value of the color channels) to the higher-level composition of the image (such as pose and location of people).” To solve this, she designed a quantitative metric via a gold-standard human benchmark to compare multiple computer vision interpretability approaches. In addition to testifying to the excellence of Meister’s work, her adviser, Professor Olga Russakovsky, said that she “thinks carefully about the impact and downstream uses of her work, which is quite rare and impressive.” Meister, of Ellicott City, Maryland, will pursue a Ph.D. in computer science at Stanford with a National Science Foundation fellowship.

Graduate with family members
Nicole Meister, a recipient of the Calvin Dodd MacCracken Senior Thesis/Project Award, with her family at the 2022 Class Day

Harry Shapiro

Outdoor portrait of student
Harry Shapiro at Princeton’s campus energy plant. Photo by Tori Repp/Fotobuddy

A mechanical and aerospace engineering major with certificates in engineering and management systems, history and practice of diplomacy, and robotics and intelligent systems, completed a thesis entitled “Carbon-adjusted Dispatch Optimization for Princeton’s Campus Energy Plants.” He worked with adviser Dr. Lamyaa El-Gabry and with Princeton’s Engineering and Campus Energy team to develop optimization algorithms for Princeton’s existing heating/cooling/power production system that optimize the dispatch of each component in the system. Ted Borer, director of the energy plant, said that “Harry’s dispatch model and insights have far-reaching implications for complex campus-scale energy systems such as those at hospitals, airports, military bases, research campuses and universities.” Shapiro’s model indicates that Princeton could save approximately $2.7 million per year through adjusted dispatch of existing equipment. His work was recognized with the Campus Impact Award at Princeton Research Day. Shapiro, of Chicago, Illinois, will work as an analyst at Sycamore Partners.

THE LORE VON JASKOWSKY MEMORIAL PRIZE

Selena Chiu

A chemical and biological engineering major, Chiu spent several years working in the lab of Professor Sujit Datta, mentored by Ph.D. student Jenna Ott. Her first project was “A Biophysical Threshold for Biofilm Formation,” which involved investigating the competition between bacterial dispersal and biofilm formation in complex media with varying initial conditions, environmental factors and cell properties. This work resulted in multiple presentations to Datta’s research group as well as professional presentations to the Northeast Complex Fluids and Soft Matter Workshop and the American Physical Society Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics. Datta said that Chiu’s talks conveyed her enthusiasm, passion, confidence, good humor and deep knowledge. A paper submitted to the journal eLife is under revision for publication after enthusiastic peer reviews. Chiu then extended her work in Datta’s lab with the project “Exploring Biofilm Dispersal in Vibrio cholerae.” Since 2018, Chiu has been a peer mentor in the Princeton University Mentoring Program at the Carl A. Fields Center, assisting first-year students of color in their academic, cultural and social acclimation to Princeton. Chiu, of Burnaby, British Columbia, will pursue a Ph.D. in chemical engineering at Stanford.

Xuan Hoang Le

An electrical and computer engineering major with certificates in applications of computing and engineering physics, Le was involved in research in quantum computing since early in his Princeton career, working with Professors Andrew Houck and Nathalie de Leon. In his sophomore year, he made a key contribution to using tantalum as a replacement for niobium in superconducting qubits, leading to a paper in Nature Communications. In his junior year, he developed a new model to understand the limit of tantalum and suggest further improvements, leading to a 45-minute talk to the National Quantum Initiative, which is extraordinary for an undergraduate. In his senior year, he broadened his research to device design, fabrication and error correction, and gave a talk at the American Physical Society meeting. He generated several new hypotheses that are leading to new projects. “On top of being incredibly productive in the lab, Hoang is my go-to person for thinking about random questions,” said de Leon. Houck cited Le’s “amazing dedication, creativity and tenacity at research.”

JAMES HAYES-EDGAR PALMER PRIZE IN ENGINEERING

Anthony Hein

A computer science major with certificates in applications of computing, optimization and quantitative decision science, and statistics and machine learning, Hein has compiled an exceptional academic record, and his scholarly achievements have been recognized with the George B. Wood Legacy Sophomore Prize, the Class of 1939 Scholar Award, the Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence, as well as induction into Phi Beta Kappa and Tau Beta Pi as a junior. His thesis, “Searching for Optimal Strategies in Proof-of-stake Mining Games With Access to External Randomness,” advised by Professor Matt Weinberg and Dr. Matheus Ferreira, addressed issues in cryptocurrency mining. Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin employ “proof-of-work” mining protocols that require massive electricity consumption.  Alternative “proof-of-stake” mining protocols mitigate this, but are prone to strategic manipulation.   Hein demonstrated that strategic manipulation is always possible when some miner owns more than 32.35% of the stake, but never possible when every miner owns less than 31.89% of the stake. Weinberg said his thesis was “well on-track to be a submission to a top-tier conference in theoretical computer science.” Hein served as a peer tutor in COS 226, a lab TA for COS 126, 226, 217 and 306, and an undergraduate course assistant for COS 309 and 326. He was also a mentor in the COS Mentorship Program, involving visits to a grade school to help students learn programming. He has also been CTO of the Daily Princetonian and treasurer of Princeton Puzzles. Hein, of Colonia, New Jersey, will work in software development at Five Rings.

Claire Wayner

A civil and environmental engineering major with certificates in environmental studies and sustainable energy, Wayner has compiled an exceptional record in both academic work and leadership. Her accomplishments have been recognized with the George B. Wood Legacy Sophomore Prize, the Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence, as well as induction into Phi Beta Kappa and Tau Beta Pi as a junior. She was awarded the Harry S. Truman Scholarship for public service and the Udall Scholarship for environmental leadership, and this spring she received the M. Taylor Pyne Honor Prize, the highest general distinction conferred on an undergraduate. For her thesis, Wayner investigated how bioenergy technologies can be applied on a local scale by modeling county-level spatially optimized networks of biomass and bioenergy production for the continental United States. Her analysis of location of energy demand, CO2 sequestration networks, and preference for type of biomass favors a local and decentralized production model in order to minimize transport costs. Her adviser, Professor Jesse Jenkins, said that it provided “[an] important set of optimization capabilities. … with … important insights on the likely distribution of bioenergy for net-zero scenarios.” Outside the classroom, Wayner has been president of the Student Climate Initiative, captain of the University Climbing Team, and the cofounder of the Princeton Birding Society, as well as being an opinion columnist for The Daily Princetonian. Wayner, of Baltimore, Maryland, will be an associate at RMI, an environmental nonprofit, working on electricity market modeling and transmission regulatory planning.