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May 16, 2022

Hajim students cheer as their degrees are conferred at Friday’s University-wide Commencement Ceremony at Fauver Stadium. You can see a recording of the ceremony here. (Photos by J. Adam Fenster/University of Rochester)

Dear members of the Hajim School community,

Thanks to all of you who joined us for Commencement. It was a wonderful culmination of the ways all of us—students, faculty, and staff—pulled together to bring the academic year to a successful conclusion.

I truly believe that when COVID is no longer pandemic, but endemic, we will look back on this trying period and realize that we are stronger and more resilient for having experienced it.

I hope, above all, that our graduating students will look back on this period of their lives as superb training for the path ahead of them, as they continue to confront the world’s grand challenges. I am confident they will make the world a better place!


Left to right, Julie Bentley, Carla Boff, Laurel Carney, and Stephen Wu.

Commencement is also an opportunity to recognize the important role of our faculty and staff in preparing our students. I am honored to announce these awards:


To merit a Lifetime Achievement Award, a Hajim School faculty member must demonstrate distinction in three key areas: research, education, and service. This year’s recipient, Laurel Carney, the Marylou Ingram Professor of Biomedical Engineering, has clearly met the standard. Laurel is a world-renowned expert in auditory processing and hearing loss. She has received six teaching awards since joining our faculty in 2007 and has provided invaluable mentorship to BME faculty in the art of grantsmanship. She chairs the BME Graduate Admissions Committee, and is a member of the BME Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee and the BME leadership team. As Diane Dalecki, BME’s department chair, notes, Laurel is “a treasured member of our University.” Learn more.


Julie Bentley, professor of optics, is an internationally recognized expert and consultant in designing lenses and optical systems. Her outstanding teaching skills draw comparison to those of the legendary Rudolf Kingslake, a beloved former Institute of Optics professor. Julie has earned several teaching awards. Twenty-four of her students have won awards at optical design competitions. Julie has also supervised optical design projects involving more than 400 students. She has a “phenomenal” record of service to SPIE, the international society of optics and photonics, and co-chaired Optifab, North America’s largest optical manufacturing conference and exhibition from 2012-2017. She holds four patents and is author or co-author of 75 papers and presentations. Learn more.


The Department of Biomedical Engineering is unique in being organizationally aligned with both the Hajim School and the Medical Center. This provides increased learning and research opportunities for BME students and faculty. But the arrangement can be an administrative challenge. So, the department is fortunate to have Carla Boff as its lead administrator. Her colleagues marvel at how Carla can juggle myriad duties and still cheerfully stop whatever she is doing to help someone else meet a deadline or prepare for a department event. During the COVID shutdown, subsequent furloughs, and a spate of staff changes, Carla worked countless hours and was “rock solid” in keeping the department running. “I could not be more grateful,” department chair Diane Dalecki says. Learn more.


“This had to be one of the best Covid-acclimated classes that I have taken in the last two semesters . . . I learned so much,” one student said after taking ECE 221: Electronic Devices and Circuits during the fall of 2020 from Stephen Wu, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering. Stephen, a recipient of the University’s 2022 G. Graydon Curtis ’58 and Jane W. Curtis Award for Nontenured Faculty Teaching Excellence, is a “passionate teacher who strives to ensure that his teaching material is relevant, challenging, and engaging,” says department chair Marvin Doyley. During the pandemic, Stephen mastered the “flipped” teaching model, making short, high-quality recordings that students can view in their own time, and using classroom time to solve questions. He is also an outstanding mentor for undergraduate and graduate students alike in his research lab. Learn more.


Robert Shannon is hooded by Commencement Marshall Diane Dalecki, chair of biomedical engineering, during the conferral of Bob’s honorary doctorate degree on Friday. (Photo by J. Adam Fenster/University of Rochester)

Two Institute of Optics alumniRobert Shannon ’54, ’57 (MA) and James Wyant ’67 (MS), ’69 (PhD)—were recognized at Friday’s commencement for the honorary degrees they received in 2020 and 2021, respectively, when neither could receive their degrees in person because of COVID. Fortunately, Bob was able to attend this time. And we welcome the opportunity to again appreciate their contributions.

Bob, who received an honorary doctorate of engineering, began his career at Itek Corporation, a leading builder of early satellite reconnaissance systems. He was involved in the design of several of the optical systems used in space observation systems. Bob later joined the faculty of the Optical Sciences Center at the University of Arizona, ultimately serving as director of the center. He was responsible for several research and engineering projects.

Jim, who received an honorary doctorate of science, is a professor emeritus and founding dean of the James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences at the University of Arizona. Jim has served our University in many ways. He established two professorships at the Institute and taught at its summer school for many years.  He serves on our Dean’s Advisory Committee, is a University of Rochester life trustee, and recipient of our Distinguished Alumnus Award (1994).


This year’s recipients of Hajim School undergraduate awards, left to right, top to bottom: Amanda Adams, John Bates, Ognjen Bosić, Suet Chan, Cassius Close, Peter Francis, Ava Giorgianni, Chenhao Jian, Zihao Li, Liying Lin, Befikadu Mekonnen, Tram Nguyen, Helena Schreder, Helen Shammas, Yichen Shen, and Levi Sunday-Lefkowitz.

Congratulations as well to this year’s recipients of Hajim School student awards for outstanding achievement.

The Charles L. Newton Prize — recognizing engineering students who show a special proficiency in an engineering subject and have conducted research, given a presentation or published a paper:

  • Helena Schreder, mechanical engineering.
  • Zihao Li, optical engineering.

The Donald M. Barnard Prize — awarded to engineering students on the basis of personal qualification and achievement.

  • Yichen Shen, optics and electrical and computer engineering.
  • Peter Francis, electrical and computer engineering.
  • Cassius Close, audio and music engineering.
  • John Bates, biomedical engineering.
  • Helen Shammas, biomedical engineering.
  • Ava Giorgianni, biomedical engineering.
  • Amanda Adams, biomedical engineering.
  • Levi Sunday-Lefkowitz, chemical engineering.
  • Liying Lin, mechanical engineering.
  • Chenhao Jian, mechanical engineering.

The Richard Eisenberg Engineering Award — which recognizes hard-working undergraduates with an interest in metallurgy:

  • Befikadu Mekonnen, biomedical engineering.

The G. Harold Hook Prize — presented to students who have demonstrated outstanding interest in engineering and have conducted research, given a presentation or published a paper.

  • Tram Nguyen, biomedical engineering and economics.
  • Suet Chan, optical engineering.

The Tau Beta Pi Prize —awarded to a senior who, through academic achievement, proven leadership, and character has excelled and inspired fellow students.

  • Helena Schreder, mechanical engineering.
  • Ognjen Bosić, mechanical engineering.

Click here to also see recipients of departmental awards.

In addition, congratulations to:

  • Caroline Stockwell ’22 of biomedical engineering, who will join the Andalusian Center for Microbiology and Regenerative Medicine in Seville, Spain, through the Fulbright US Student Program. Caroline will “investigate ways to improve radiation therapy for patients with brain tumors” through study of the mechanism of action of a Mesenchymal Stem Cell-based therapy.
  • Justin Pimentel ’23 of computer science, who will study abroad in Spain through the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program.
  • Nathaniel Webber ’23 of computer science and philosophy, who has received a DAAD RISE summer internship to study “human-centered swarm behavior” at the University of Lübeck’s Institute of Computer Engineering.
  • Abdoul Rasmane Maiga ’25 of computer science, who, along with Souleymane Diallo ’24 (politics, philosophy, and economics), will promote long-term peace and reconciliation in Guinea through Projects for Peace.


Sushant Kumar and Juniyali Nauriyal after giving their winning pitch at the New York Business Plan Competition.

The big winners at this year’s New York Business Plan Competition are Juniyali Nauriyal and Sushant Kumar, both PhD students in the lab of Jaime Cardenas, assistant professor of optics. Juniyali and Sushant, cofounders of Photonect, won the Grand Prize and $15,000. Their new fusion-splicing technology connects optical fibers to integrated photonic devices 10 times faster, improves device performance fourfold, and leads to a 50 percent reduction in costs. Learn more here about their journey from great idea to a grand prize, and the support and resources they received at our University along the way.

Members of the University’s 2021 iGEM team, competing as Bio-Spire, placed first in the Health & Well-being category of the competition, earning them a spot in the finals.  They presented a medical device that can be used within hospitals to continuously monitor patients for the early detection of sepsis. Congratulations to Bio-Spire team members Tiana Salomon, Amanda Adams, and Tracey Moyston, all of biomedlcal engineering, and Anca Frasineanu, biological sciences and chemistry, and Jingyi Yan, biological sciences.


The following Hajim School students and alumni are recipients of prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowships:

  • Michaela Alarie ’21 biomedical engineering, currently pursuing a PhD at Brown University.
  • Caroline Cardinale ’21 mechanical engineering, currently pursuing a PhD at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).
  • Jarod Forer ’22 mechanical engineering, who will pursue a PhD at the University of Oregon.
  • Amanda Forti ’19 chemical engineering, currently pursuing a PhD at the University of Delaware.
  • Unni Kurumbail ’18 chemical engineering, currently a graduate student at University of Wisconsin-Madison.
  • Claire Wilson ’21 chemical engineering, currently pursuing a masters’ degree at Carnegie Mellon University.


Edmund Hajim ’58, former chair and life member of our University’s Board of Trustees and our school’s chief benefactor, for delivering his sage advice to our graduating students and making it possible for them to receive copies of his autobiography. And thanks to everyone who helped launch our new way of celebrating commencement this year. A lot of hard work was required—especially at the departmental level—to switch from a school-wide diploma ceremony to individual department ceremonies. Thanks as well to our assistant dean Alvin Lomibao and members of his staff and to our University’s IT and Event and Classroom Management offices for the important roles they played.

Have a great week!

Your dean,
Wendi Heinzelman

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