UCLA Engineering Class of 2017 celebrated at commencement

Jun 26, 2017

By UCLA Samueli Newsroom

Distinguished commencement speaker Adam Cheyer: Visualize success concretely and watch life surprise you as you exceed even your greatest dreams.

The UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science held its 2017 commencement on Saturday, June 17, at Pauley Pavilion. Approximately 720 bachelor’s degrees, 450 master’s degrees, and 120 doctoral degrees were conferred at the ceremony.

“Along this road, you made lifelong friends, you’ve found confidence in your abilities, and built a base of knowledge that will be the foundation for career,” said Jayathi Murthy, Ronald and Valerie Sugar Dean “The end point on this journey is a degree from UCLA and one of the best engineering schools in the world. Congratulations!”

Artificial intelligence pioneer and UCLA Engineering alumnus Adam Cheyer MS ’93, co-founder of Siri Inc., was the 2017 distinguished commencement speaker. In his remarks, he shared that his still on-going quest to help users interact with the internet through conversation, got its start in the early 1990s while he was a still a master’s student in computer science at UCLA. He also noted that more than ever, citizens who are fluent in STEM topics will be even more important in the years to come.

“Without getting political, I want to say that science and logic and math and a quality education that seeks truth above all, is maybe more important than ever before with all of the global problems we will need to solve in the coming years,” he said. “I can’t wait to see how you’re going to use what UCLA has given through its education, as you as go forth and change the world in the way that you see fit.”

Today, Cheyer is a co-founder and vice president of engineering at Viv Labs, a startup dedicated to providing the world with “an intelligent interface to everything.”

He left the graduates with five points from his remarks

  • Appreciate the gift that is life and make the most of it.
  • Challenge yourself to do more than you think you can.
  • Find your passion and pursue it, perhaps over decades if necessary.
  • Visualize success concretely and watch life surprise you as you exceed even your greatest dreams.
  • Most importantly, do not listen too much to what anyone else tells you. Be a skeptic. Chart your own path. And do it your own way.

Student speaker Frank Chen, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, offered his thoughts on what being an engineer really means. He shared three key ideas –mentorship, learning and community – that he wanted his fellow graduates to take to heart.

“The first step to breaking down the barrier to STEM is to spark passion, and that cannot happen without mentorship,” Chen said. “Being an engineer is about helping others, spreading knowledge, and using your experience to guide people in doing their best.”

Chen, who received the Harry M. Showman Prize for undergraduate students, also encouraged his fellow graduates to be part of a culture change in the technology community.

“While engineers around the world have made significant technological advancements like self-driving cars, bionic limbs, and reusable rockets, we have yet to resolve key issues in our very own community: gender discrimination and racial inequality in the workplace,” he said. “We were able to build such a great engineering community here at UCLA, now it is our time to help make that happen outside of the college campus.”

Electrical engineering senior Jaclyn Yangyuen sang national anthem. Iris Cong, graduating with a degree in computer science, was named the school-wide Outstanding Bachelor’s Degree awardee. Doctoral student Helen Durand received the Harry M. Showman Prize for graduate students. Emily Paluch, materials engineering major and the 2016-17 President of SWE, received the Russell R. O’Neill Distinguished Service Award. To read a short interview with each of the award winners, click on the Q&A link below their bios. The full list of graduates receiving honors at commencement is here.
A video of the entire ceremony is available here.

Student Speaker and Harry M. Showman Prize, undergraduate
Frank Chen

Frank Chen, graduating with a degree in computer science, was the student speaker for the 2017 commencement. The student speaker represents all graduates at commencement and is selected through a competitive process. Chen also received the undergraduate Harry M. Showman Prize, which recognizes students who have effectively communicated the achievements, research, results or social significance of any aspect of engineering. Chen heads to Redmond, Wash. next month to start as a technical program manager at Microsoft.

Q&A with Frank Chen


Harry M. Showman Prize, graduate student
Helen Durand

Helen Durand, who received her Ph.D. in chemical engineering, is the graduate student winner of the Harry M. Showman Prize. The award recognizes students who have effectively communicated the achievements, research, results or social significance of any aspect of engineering. Durand also received her B.S. and M.S. degrees in chemical engineering from UCLA. In 2014, she was the school’s Edward K. Rice Outstanding Master’s Student and this year, was a co-recipient of the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering’s Department Outstanding Ph.D. student award. In August, Durand starts a tenure-track faculty position at Wayne State University, in Detroit.

Q&A with Helen Durand


Outstanding Bachelor’s of Science Award
Iris Cong

Iris Cong, graduating with a bachelor’s in computer science, is the school’s 2017 Outstanding Student Award winner at commencement. Cong has received several top national and international honors for students including the National Defense Science & Engineering Graduate Fellowship, the National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship (declined); and the Goldwater Scholarship. In 2016 she participated as a young researcher at the Heidelberg Laureate Forum. Cong will pursue a Ph.D. in physics at Harvard University, and is interested in quantum computing research.

Q&A with Iris Cong

National Anthem Singer
Jaclyn Yangyuen

Jaclyn Yangyuen was the national anthem singer and was selected in a competitive process. She will be graduating in the fall of 2017 with a degree in electrical engineering. In her four years at UCLA, Yangyuen has dedicated herself to organizations that encourage inclusivity and creativity: IEEE WATT (Women Advancing Tech through Teamwork), YOUTHphonics a cappella, and PAQ (Pan-Asian Queers). She is excited for this upcoming summer, where she will be returning as an Audio-Video Acoustical Engineering intern at Walt Disney Imagineering.

Q&A with Jaclyn Yangyuen

Russell R. O’Neill Distinguished Service Award
Emily Paluch

Emily Paluch, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in materials engineering, received the Russell R. O’Neill Distinguished Service Award. She was also the Materials Science and Engineering Department’s Outstanding bachelor’s degree recipient. As a senior Paluch was the president of the Society of Women Engineers at UCLA. This summer, Paluch will be at Keysight Technologies in Santa Rosa, Calif, as semiconductor integrated circuit process development intern. She will return to UCLA in fall, to start a master’s degree program in materials engineering, with an emphasis on electronic materials.

Q&A with Emily Paluch

Share this article