Students walk into Barton Hall for the 2024 Ph.D. Recognition Ceremony.

Ph.D. graduates carved their own paths

Cornell’s newest doctoral graduates have already begun paving the way for new discoveries, President Martha E. Pollack said to more than 300 students waiting to cross the stage at the 2024 Ph.D. Recognition Ceremony on May 24 at Barton Hall.

“The knowledge brought to light by your research, and shared with the world through your dissertation, is now your own contribution to the edifice of human knowledge,” she said. “Just as your research built on the knowledge discovered and created by others, so will those who come after you, build on yours.”

A newly recognized Ph.D. recipient embraces family after the ceremony.

Each doctoral student accepted a certificate from Kathryn J. Boor ’80, dean of the Graduate School and vice provost for graduate education, or Provost Michael I. Kotlikoff as they crossed the stage.

“You have reached the pinnacle of knowledge or expertise within your specific focus in your field, and your Ph.D. serves as a recognition of your deep commitment and drive to discover new knowledge,” Kotlikoff said.

This year, the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly revived the tradition of a faculty speaker; the speaker, Praveen Sethupathy, professor and chair in the Department of Biomedical Sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine, told the students that the process of pursuing a Ph.D. looked different for every one of them.

“No two academic journeys are the same,” he said. “Confidently carve your own path. It’s tempting to compare yourself with colleagues. But you are not them. You are someone with a unique set of skills, talents, values and experiences that have shaped your interests and goals. Find the people who will support you, empower you and persevere.”

Ph.D. candidates prepare for recognition.

New graduates recognized those who were part of their networks while at Cornell and how integral their presence was to degree completion. Fangyu Wang, Ph.D. ’24, a biochemistry, molecular and cell biology graduate, expressed gratitude for her mentor, lab members and friends.

“Earning a Ph.D. means not only have I experienced academic growth, but also personally I feel like I’ve become a new person,” she said. “I’ve gained so much knowledge.”

“Doing a Ph.D. is not just you, it’s all the people around you and all the people that support you,” said genetics, genomics and development graduate Brian Aguilera, Ph.D. ’24. “It’s a marathon, and you need people to keep you going. I’m really grateful for that.”

The journey to a Ph.D. was meaningful for Aguilera as an individual, he said, but also honored those who encouraged him along the way.

“My grandparents didn’t finish high school, so for my family it’s a huge deal for me to be able to do what I love and keep on learning,” he said. “They support me and they’re really proud of this huge accomplishment. It’s not just for me, but for all of the generations behind me.”

Watch recordings of the Ph.D. Recognition Ceremony and the morning and afternoon Commencement ceremonies.

Katya Hrichak is a communications specialist in the Graduate School.

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