President John D. Simon urges doctoral candidates to ‘use your talents to the fullest.’

In the Doctoral Degree Hooding Ceremony Sunday at Baker Hall, more than 100 doctoral candidates from Lehigh’s four colleges were honored for having earned the highest degree in academics. Lehigh President John D. Simon congratulated them for “a job well done.”

Simon noted that some of the graduates will become educators and train the next generations of students, while others will go into public service, choose to build their own companies or work for national or international groups. He urged the graduates to take risks and find a way to make a difference in the world.

“Whichever path you choose,” he said, “I urge you to use your talents to the fullest. The world needs rigorous and independent thinkers.”

Provost Pat Farrell told the graduates that their scholarship will influence future directions in their chosen fields. “Your intellect, your passion and your perseverance got you here,” he said, “and they will serve you well in whatever arena you choose to make your mark. Be generous with your talents and your leadership, and you will do great things.”

At the ceremony, four graduates were presented with the Elizabeth V. Stout Dissertation Award, which recognizes doctoral dissertations that were judged to have made unusually significant and original contributions in their fields.  The award was endowed by the late Robert Stout, former dean of the graduate school and professor emeritus of materials science and engineering, in memory of his wife.

This year’s recipients were:

  • Sean Edward Pidgeon, who received a Ph.D. in chemistry, for “Bacterial Cell Surfaces: Exploiting Metabolic Pathways for Fundamental Understanding of Antibiotic Resistance and Growth.”
  • Bita Fayaz Farkhad, who received a Ph.D. in economics, for “How Welfare Programs Affect Participants’ Healthcare and Labor Market Outcomes.”
  • Netta Admoni, who received a Ph.D. in counseling psychology, for “Maternal Sensitivity and Patterns of Infant Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia and Infant Distress in Response to Maternal Engagement and Disengagement.”
  • Lam Minh Nguyen, who received a Ph.D. in industrial and systems engineering, for “A Service System with On-Demand Agents, Stochastic Gradient Algorithms and the SARAH Algorithm.”

Also, Irmak Olcaysoy Okten, who received a Ph.D. in psychology, was awarded the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Dissertation Award. The dissertation was titled “Updating Spontaneous Trait Inferences: An Analysis of Memory Reconsolidation as a Mechanism of Changing First Impressions.”

Before the graduates received their individual hoods, Provost Farrell explained the symbolism of a tradition in American higher education that dates back to 1895. Since hood linings indicate the university or college where a degree is granted, the hoods were lined in Lehigh’s colors of brown and white. The velvet trim represents the graduates’ field of knowledge, such as deep blue for a doctor of philosophy.

In addition, Farrell said, “the hoods presented to you this afternoon are symbolic of the work accomplished and the promise for future creative thought. It is our hope that they will also hold warm memories of Lehigh University.”

One by one, the candidates were called to the front of the stage, where they were joined by their dissertation advisers, who placed their hoods over their heads in recognition of their achievements. Family and friends applauded and captured the moment on cellphone cameras.

The candidates were presented by Cameron Wesson, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; Paul Brockman, senior associate dean for faculty and research for the College of Business and Economics; William Gaudelli, dean of the College of Education; and Stephen DeWeerth, dean of the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science.

- Mary Ellen Alu

This article was originally posted on Lehigh News. Read the full story here.