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Doctoral hooding ceremony

Doctoral Hooding Convocation

Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson

Targett to doctoral grads: Help solve the world's complex problems

It was a day of triumph, cheers and collective relief as more than 160 students from 21 nations participated Friday morning, May 27, in the University of Delaware's Doctoral Hooding Convocation, a rite of passage for those who have attained academia's highest degree.

Hundreds gathered beneath sunny skies and a large white tent on UD's Green to see the candidates process with the faculty mentors who guided their studies.

A pair of bagpipers – Mark Hurm and David Bailiff – led the procession of University leaders, deans, faculty members and students as scores of dads and moms, spouses, children and friends watched and waved, captured the scene with cameras and clapped for joy.

It was a day to smell the roses, which were onsite in abundance. It was a day to savor an academic achievement that most Americans – 98 percent of them anyway – have not attained.

And it was a day to think of what comes next.

That was the focus of University President Nancy Targett's convocation address as she urged graduates to connect with those outside their particular disciplines and invest their hard-earned skills and knowledge into things that really matter.

"You're starting a new phase of work – one that focuses on the creation and application of new knowledge to help understand and solve the complex problems of our world," she said.

The impact of the learning and influence represented in the gathering could have extraordinary reach, with students from all of UD's seven colleges and five continents around the world. As they go out to teach or continue their research or work with industry or government or nonprofits they take abilities that can be applied to an enormous range of critical challenges.

"We look to you for leadership in addressing the grand challenges of the 21st century and leading our world to a better tomorrow," said Ann Ardis, senior vice provost for graduate and professional education.

The hooding ceremony is rich with tradition, and Mary Martin, associate vice provost for graduate and professional education, explained the history and significance of the regalia.

She also continued a powerful tradition of sharing comments from students and/or special notes about them.

Some were funny. Patrick Spanninger, whose degree is in animal and food sciences, thanked his tomato and spinach plants for surviving his many experiments because, after all, without them he wouldn't have made it to the finish line. And Okechukwu Ogbuu, whose degree is in materials science and engineering, said he rarely talked to himself before starting his doctoral program. "Now I can hold a long problem-solving conversation with myself," he said.

Some were amazing. Holly Caldwell said she grew up in "abject poverty" but broke through that cycle and will go on to teach history at Susquehanna University.

Some were scary. Sezin Zengin Farias Martinez of Turkey, whose degree is in economics, survived a serious car crash while carrying twins – both of whom also survived.

Some came away with "firsts." Ashutosh Khandha earned UD's first doctorate in biomedical engineering, for one. And others followed in familiar footsteps, as James Angelo did, earning a doctorate in chemical engineering as his father Michael Angelo did at UD.

All know the rigor of the work and resolve required to reach this landmark day.

And all respect the value of learning in a rich, deep way.

"Anyone who stops learning is old," said Richard Mulski, whose degree is in educational leadership. "Anyone who keeps learning is young, whether they are 20 or 80."

Targett pressed for that kind of endeavor, with an "ultimate goal" in mind.

"Whatever you do after today, whatever form of engagement you choose – whether it be in the sciences, the humanities, the social sciences, business or health sectors, education or engineering – your ultimate goal is the creation and application of new knowledge to help understand and solve the complex problems of our world," Targett said.

Seven awards were made in recognition of special achievement:

• Jonathan Rosen received the Allan P. Colburn Prize in Engineering and Mathematical Sciences for his dissertation "Design of Electrolyzer for Carbon Dioxide Conversion to Fuels and Chemicals." His dissertation chair was Feng Jiao of chemical and biomolecular engineering.

• John Bockrath received the George Herbert Ryden Prize in Social Sciences for his dissertation "The Economic Consequences of Market Structure in the Liner Shipping Industry." His dissertation chair was Michael Arnold of economics.

• Ai Hisano received the Wilbur Owen Sypherd Prize in Humanities for her dissertation "Eye Appeal Is Buy Appeal: Business Creates the Color of Foods, 1870-1970." Her dissertation chair was Susan Strasser of history.

• Anil Pandey received the Theodore Wolf Prize in Physical and Life Sciences for his dissertation "Synthesis of Conformationally Diverse Peptides to Control Peptide Structure and Function and Investigation of Unique Serine/threonine Phosphorylation Effects on Peptide Conformation." His dissertation chair was Neal Zondlo of chemistry and biochemistry.

• Ashley Farmer received the Dan Rich Prize in Criminology for her dissertation "Copwatchers: Citizen Journalism and the Changing Police-Community Dynamic." Her dissertation chair was Ivan Sun of criminology.

• Erin Crowgey received the Interdisciplinary Research Prize for her dissertation "Applied Genomics: Development of Bioinformatics Pipelines for Analyzing Clinical Pediatric Genomic Data." Her dissertation chair was Cathy Wu of bioinformatics and systems biology.

• Andrew Teplyakov, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, received the Outstanding Doctoral Graduate Advising and Mentoring Award. He was called one of the best in his field – anywhere – and a "pillar of the graduate program," serving on 43 dissertation committees.

The joy of the day was everywhere to be found, and support teams savored the day with their graduates.

Carlos Charriez, who teaches at Wilmington Friends School, used a red wagon to haul roses and other necessities, then tended to 2-year-old Hugo while his wife, Megan Pell, collected her degree in special education.

Chaitanya Barhale, who earned a master's degree in economics at UD in 2012, took his wife's purse as she walked into the tent so she wouldn't have to bother with it. Elizabeth Pasipanodya earned her doctorate in psychology and has a postdoctorate position at the University of California in San Diego.

"It has been six-plus years of really hard work," Barhale said before joining other family members.

After watching his daughter, Stephanie, receive her new credentials, Fred Lampkins of New Jersey took a long, fond look at her diploma.

"She did it," he said. "I'm so proud I can hardly speak. I had to be here for her."

For more photos, check out the Facebook gallery.

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