University of Delaware
Bagpipers lead the doctoral hooding procession.

New doctors

UD doctoral recipients celebrated during gala hooding ceremony


4:37 p.m., May 25, 2013--As University of Delaware doctoral recipients marched into a tent on The Green to receive their coveted hoods on Friday, May 24, the jubilation and pride inside stood in stark contrast to the persistent chill outside.

Cloaked in the intricate robes and distinguished hoods that signify excellence, the doctoral recipients filed in behind bagpipers, greeted by family, friends and mentors from around the globe.

Campus Stories

From graduates, faculty

As it neared time for the processional to open the University of Delaware Commencement ceremonies, graduating students and faculty members shared their feelings about what the event means to them.

Doctoral hooding

It was a day of triumph, cheers and collective relief as more than 160 students from 21 nations participated in the University of Delaware's Doctoral Hooding Convocation held Friday morning on The Green.

Cheering squads journeyed from Turkey, China, Sri Lanka, Japan, Iran and many U.S. states to make the doctoral hooding convocation a global celebration.

UD President Patrick Harker welcomed the graduates, referring to them — perhaps for the first time — by their freshly minted titles.

“Here it comes; I hope it’s everything you’ve always imagined it would be,” he said. “Congratulations doctors!”

Harker asked the graduates to carry the mantle of academic leadership in the changing academic landscape.

“Your work will help us test the world around us — find its limitations and its possibilities,” said Harker. “It will shrink the unknown, diminish the untried, and expand our human capacity, not just for knowledge and technique, but for care and consideration and compassion.”

James Richards, vice provost for graduate and professional education, shared some important numbers: 254 students receiving doctorates, 120 students present for the ceremony, 52 doctoral degree programs at UD, recipients from 34 countries and 24 and 66 — the ages of the youngest and oldest recipients.

Richards echoed Harker’s call for academic pioneers, and said the graduates are the next generation of leaders and innovators.

Paul Quinn, professor of psychology, delivered the convocation address, paralleling his renowned research on the cognitive development of infants with the new experiences awaiting the graduates.

Quinn urged the graduates to commit themselves to being lifelong learners and to becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable realm of the unknown.

Infants are equipped with natural cognitive learning processes, powered by a fuel that galvanizes learning, said Quinn.

“The majority of one’s motivation has to be coaxed out of oneself,” he said, noting that the graduates burned a supply of natural curiosity, energy and enthusiasm to earn their degrees.

Quinn urged the graduates to use their exceptional self-motivation throughout their lives, especially when faced with “complex problems for which the answer may not be available.” He implored them to tolerate periods of uncertainty and anxiety from which the best work often emerges.

“Be confident in your cognitive skill set powered by natural curiosity,” he said.

Michelle Der Bedrosian, who earned a doctorate in animal and food sciences, certainly knows something about tolerating periods of anxiety. After being injured in a car accident, she had to learn how to re-walk — a grueling feat within itself — especially difficult in the midst of pursuing the University’s highest academic degree.

Mehrnoosh Soori battled the status quo, becoming the first Iranian female student in her field to apply abroad for a Ph.D. Soori’s mother traveled from Iran to watch her daughter receive her doctorate in biological sciences on Friday.

For David Lane, who earned a doctorate in sociology, the hard work and uncertainty paid off as he was offered a job at the University of South Dakota just one hour before the doctoral hooding ceremony began.

As the graduates stepped on stage one by one to receive their well-earned hoods, many reflected on the challenges along the way — sleepless nights, homesickness, family issues — while also thanking the mentors, advisors, parents, children and family members who journeyed with them.

The howling wind was no match for the warmth and joy emitted from the faces of the graduates and their loved ones as they exited the tent.

Anne Peng, who earned a doctorate in linguistics, said she would love to use her expertise to create a linguistics video game. As she stood on the steps of Gore Hall, she succinctly summarized her dual emotions.

“Elation. Disbelief.”

“The entire time I had doubts I could finish,” she said. “It means so much to me to accomplish this dream.” 

Dissertation and mentoring prizes awarded

  • Amit Katiyar, mechanical engineering, won the Allan P. Colburn Prize in Engineering and Mathematical Sciences for “Dynamics of Ultrasound Contrast Microbubbles and Therapeutic Effects of Low Intensity Ultrasound.” His dissertation chair was Kausik Sarkar.
  • Benjamin R. Banta, political science and international relations, won the George Herbert Ryden Prize in Social Sciences for “Humanitarianism and the Western Way of War.” His dissertation chair was Daniel Green.
  • Jamin J. Wells, history, won the Wilbur Owen Sypherd Prize in Humanities for “The Shipwreck Shore: Marine Disasters and the Creation of the American Littoral.” His dissertation chair was Arwen Mohun.
  • Hua He, chemistry and biochemistry, won the Theodore Wolf Prize in Physical and Life Sciences for “Crystal Chemistry and Properties of New Ternary Pnictides.” Her dissertation chair was Svilen Bobev. 
  • Joseph M. Fox, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, was honored with the Outstanding Doctoral Graduate Student Advising and Mentoring Award. Students noted that Fox’s “enthusiasm for science is infectious” and that he kept a sleeping bag in his office in case he had to stay the night to finish a proposal. 
  • Brian Pitt, a doctoral student, who sadly lost his fight with cancer this year, was also honored during the ceremony for his “tremendous promise.”

Article by Kelley Bregenzer

Photos by Evan Krape

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