Dean Andrea Goldsmith welcomed graduates, parents and friends to the 2023 Class Day ceremony on Monday, May 29, recognizing “the accomplishments and the resilience of this great Class of 2023.”
Faced with the wrenching changes of the COVID-19 pandemic at the beginning of their time at Princeton, the students responded with “courage, determination, creativity and optimism,” Goldsmith said.
“You formed unique bonds with your friends, family and mentors as we all navigated the tragedy of COVID. My colleagues and I are so deeply impressed with your many successes over the past four years despite the challenges that you faced,” Goldsmith, the Arthur LeGrand Doty Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, told the audience gathered in the Friend Center courtyard. “Your hard work, dedication and perseverance are indeed the attributes that led you to Princeton and to your success here, and they will be the foundation for your future success.”
Goldsmith asked the students to recognize their parents, families and friends. She congratulated family members for raising “such talented and extraordinary men and women that we’ve had the honor to reach and educate and work with these past four years.”
With 352 students receiving engineering degrees and 56 receiving bachelor of arts degrees in computer science, the engineering Class of 2023 included 408 students. With 142 students, women represented 40% of engineering degree recipients, almost double the national average.
“That’s important, because this profession cannot achieve its full potential without diversity of ideas and perspectives and people,” Goldsmith said.
She said the graduates would go on to join startups, start their own companies, pursue advanced degrees, attend medical school and law school, play professional sports and serve the country through military service.
Goldsmith told the graduates that the bonds they have formed with their professors and classmates at Princeton will last a lifetime.
“The bonds between Princeton undergraduates are unlike anywhere else,” she said. “The lessons you learn, inside and outside the classroom, will always be with you, and that is why you will always carry a part of Princeton with you as well.”
In addition to honoring graduates, the engineering school recognized Amir Ali Ahmadi with its annual Distinguished Teaching Award. Ahmadi, a professor of operations research and financial engineering, was cited for his outstanding teaching and dedication to his students. Presenting the award, Vice Dean Antoine Kahn said that students have repeatedly recognized Ahmadi as being among the school’s top teachers and his courses are quickly filled.
“As a faculty member, there is nothing more rewarding than being recognized by your students,” Kahn said. He said that one student described Ahmadi as “patient, warm and deeply concerned with the well-being of his students.”
“He has made, and continues to make, an impact on students and colleagues through his teaching and dedication,” Kahn said.
The winners of major awards at the 2023 Princeton Engineering Class Day, as presented by Associate Dean for Undergraduate Affairs Peter Bogucki, were:
THE J. RICH STEERS AWARD
Awarded for scholastic performance that demonstrates the potential for future engineering study and practice
A mechanical and aerospace engineering major, Olson worked with Eric Love and Bradley Rindos on a senior project that developed a smart tourniquet. The self-actuating tourniquet can be used by untrained people to stem heavy bleeding safely. Their adviser, professor Dan Nosenchuck, said, “Thomas and his collaborators were a model of outstanding engineering practice.” After graduation, Olson will begin serving as a mechanical developmental engineer in the U.S. Air Force.
A chemical and biological engineering major, Kozlowski characterized the key enzyme made in the plant microbiome for balancing levels of a hormone that affects root length. His adviser, professor Jonathan Conway, said Kozlowski’s positive attitude was infectious and a real asset in his lab. Kozlowski will study at Tsinghua University in Beijing as the recipient of the Schwarzman Scholarship and will then go on active duty as an infantry officer in the U.S. Army.
JEFFREY O. KEPHART ’80 PRIZE IN ENGINEERING PHYSICS
Awarded to the outstanding student in the Engineering Physics program as determined by the Engineering Physics faculty
Allen, a computer science major, compiled an exceptional research biography in quantum computing. He worked on quantum transducers with professor Jeffrey Thompson and quantum gates with professor Margaret Martonosi and spent a summer working on superconducting quantum computers at IBM. His adviser, professor Ran Raz, said Allen’s thesis work was of exceptional scope and showed a deep and profound knowledge. In the fall, Allen will begin studying for a graduate degree in computer science at the University of Waterloo.
THE TAU BETA PI PRIZE
Awarded to the graduate who has significantly contributed a major part of his or her time to service to the school
A chemical and biological engineering major with certificates in materials science and engineering and sustainable energy, Denzer coordinated tours of the EQuad and helped re-establish in-person tours after the COVID-19 pandemic. As well as training new guides, Denzer worked with classmate Arthur Acuna to create videos introducing students to chemical and biological engineering. An accomplished figure skater and cellist, Denzer’s thesis explored graphitic carbon aerogels, and her adviser, professor Craig Arnold, called her an outstanding scholar. Denzer will pursue a doctorate at MIT with a graduate fellowship from the National Science Foundation.
THE JOSEPH CLIFTON ELGIN PRIZE
Awarded to a senior who has done the most to advance the interests of the school in the community at large
Arnold, a chemical and biological engineering major, served for several years as the head tutor in General Chemistry at the McGraw Center, where she supervised over 40 student study halls and led review sessions for tutors. A peer academic adviser for the engineering school, Arnold is also part of a national nonprofit organization called Matriculate, which offers free advising to low-income high school students during the college application process. She will work toward a doctor in chemical engineering at the University of California-Santa Barbara with a graduate fellowship from the National Science Foundation.
An operations research and financial engineering major with a certificate in environmental studies, Yan studied urban bicycle infrastructure in Detroit, Philadelphia and San Francisco. In addition to researching its effectiveness as an affordable, low-carbon method of transportation, Yan focused on understanding accessibility and demographic equity issues. She gathered and combined data from various sources, including the U.S. Census Bureau, to create analyzable street networks. Using multi-layered network analysis, Yan computed “bikeability curves” that trade off distance and discomfort, which allow both detailed individual analyses of cities and direct comparisons among them. In the fall, Yan will attend Harvard for a master’s degree in computational science and engineering.
THE GEORGE J. MUELLER AWARD
Recognizes a senior who has combined high scholarly achievement in the study of engineering with quality performance in intercollegiate athletics
An electrical and computer engineering major, Shashaty walked onto the women’s crew team and learned to row at Princeton. She was a member of the varsity double for two years and, with her partner Amelia Boehle, she won two Eastern Sprints gold medals, a Dad Vail championship and an IRA national championship. Her thesis examined the use of spectroscopy in oxygen detection and addressed the use of lasers in measuring oxygen levels in patients being evaluated for septic shock. Her adviser, professor Gerard Wysocki, said the research resulted in an article in a top academic journal, which he called a remarkable achievement for an undergraduate. Shashaty will pursue a doctorate at MIT.
A computer science major, Walther was co-captain of the men’s swimming and diving team. He is the fastest 100-yard freestyler in the 199-year history of Princeton swimming and the school’s record holder as a member of the 400 and 800 freestyle relay teams. He is a first-team All-Ivy and a College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association of America All-American scholar. His independent work developed an Apple Watch app to track swimming performance. It allows users to track their progress and study long-term trends with 95% accuracy. His adviser, professor Kyle Jamieson, called it “a notably inventive and practical project.” He will work as a software engineer at Palantir Technologies.
THE CALVIN DODD MACCRACKEN SENIOR THESIS/PROJECT AWARD
Recognizes the senior thesis or project work that is most distinctive for its inventiveness and technical accomplishment
A mechanical and aerospace engineering major, Ahner’s thesis was inspired by a 2022 report from the National Academies recommending a mission to Uranus in the next decade. Ahner developed a framework for solving optimal spacecraft trajectories while accounting for sources of navigation and system uncertainty in any future mission to the Uranus system. Her adviser, professor Ryne Beeson, said Ahner needed to master a variety of disciplines to accomplish the work that she would not have seen in her coursework. In the fall, Ahner will begin work on a doctorate at the University of Colorado with a Draper Fellowship.
Kaplan is a chemical and biological engineering major with certificates in engineering biology, applications of computing, applied and computational mathematics, and optimization and quantitative decision science. Kaplan’s thesis examined stress granules, which are condensates, mostly made up of ribonucleic acids and proteins, that form inside cells. Aberrant forms of stress granules are implicated in a range of diseases, and Kaplan investigated key interactions that underlie their behavior. His adviser, professor Michael Webb, initially thought the project would be too challenging for a senior thesis. Webb said when he told a colleague about Kaplan’s results, the response was “Wow, that’s really cool! I’m surprised it worked at all.” Webb will study for a doctorate at the University of Chicago.
THE LORE VON JASKOWSKY MEMORIAL PRIZE
Recognizes a student who has participated in research that has resulted in a contribution to the field, has added to the quality of the university life, and intends to pursue a career in engineering or applied science
A civil and environmental engineering major with a certificate in environmental studies, Cao performed hydrological field work as an intern for the High Meadows Environmental Institute. Living with another intern and a Ph.D. student above 9,000 feet in Gothic, Colorado, Cao collected data including soil moisture measurements and meteorological tower data. In her senior thesis, Cao used the information to develop hydrological models. She correlated vegetation and land cover with climate change to understand hydrological issues in the Rockies. Her adviser, professor Reed Maxwell, said it was sophisticated work from a senior undergraduate. Cao will pursue a graduate degree in hydrology at the University of California-Berkeley.
A mechanical and aerospace engineering major with a certificate in dance, Ikuma worked with several research groups concentrating on small satellites. He designed, fabricated and tested one of Princeton’s first nanosatellites, called MEMSat. This satellite was launched into orbit as a rideshare on NASA’s February 2021 resupply mission to the International Space Station. During his junior year, Ikuma moved to the Intelligent Robot Motion Lab, where he worked on advanced quadcopter development, in particular the design of circuitry and placement of flow sensors. For his thesis, Ikuma designed and built EduSat, which aggregates school experiments in one platform. His adviser, Mike Galvin, said EduSat will be Princeton’s first fully autonomous orbital vehicle. Ikuma will work as a hardware prototyping specialist at Skydio quadcopters in San Mateo, California.
JAMES HAYES-EDGAR PALMER PRIZE IN ENGINEERING
Awarded to a student who has manifested excellent scholarship, a marked capacity for leadership, and promise of creative achievement in engineering
An electrical and computer engineering major, Beyer used his knowledge of control theory to develop a new tool that aligns infrared lasers and provides information about the quality of the laser beam. He was able to demonstrate the utility of the technique on multiple types of beams. His adviser, professor Claire Gmachl, said his thesis is “truly excellent work” and will lead to an article in a leading academic journal. Beyer has served as an undergraduate course assistant, a member of Princeton Racing Electric and a four-year member of Princeton University Sinfonia’s horn section. In the fall, he will remain at Princeton in the master’s program in electrical and computer engineering.
Emilio Cano Renteria
Cano Renteria is a civil and environmental engineering major with certificates in application of computing, sustainable energy, and statistics and machine learning. His thesis, advised by professors Jesse Jenkins and Denise Mauzerall, analyzed the future economic value of next-generation fission reactors. Cano Renteria evaluated features such as flexibility, efficiency and fuel type. Jenkins said the work is being prepared for submission to a high-impact journal. Outside the classroom, Cano Renteria served as a peer tutor in computer science and engineering, a peer academic adviser at Whitman College and a Princeton tour guide. He received the Peer Leader of the Year Award and a Spirit of Princeton Award. He will work as a software engineer at Appian Corporation in McLean, Virginia.