Experimenting with the Future
College of Natural Sciences graduates enter the world with a rare perspective
Some 1,667 new graduates were honored at the College of Natural Sciences Senior Celebration May 12. Ceremonies, led by Tricia Serio and her fellow deans ushered the budding scientists into a world where their analytical know-how and fact-based perspective is rare and sought after in the job market.
Addressing a full house of 10,000 friends, families and community members at the Mullins Center, Dean Serio emphasized the importance—and rarity—of a degree in the sciences.
Of the 30% of adults in the United States who hold a bachelors degree, only about a fifth are degrees in natural science, mathematics or psychology. For those with associates degrees, only 6% are in the natural sciences. "By any measure," Serio says, "you are about to go out into the world in rare company."
Several student speakers shared their paths to science at the ceremony.
Mufid Alfaris '18, a bearded Physics and Astronomy double major, told the audience of his struggle, not to get into college—but to stay alive. Fleeing first his home in Iraq, and later his adopted home of Syria due to violence and civil war, he finally landed in the U.S. 5 years ago, "with nothing but a dream of becoming a physicist and the determination to make it come true."
To his fellow physicists, Alfaris said, "Do not give up your dream. No matter how hard it will seem to accomplish."
Matthew Yee '18, a Food Science and Sustainable Food and Farming graduate said he arrived at UMass, in search of "the recipe for life." Yee studies and experiments allowed him "to explore my endless curiosity about the wonderfully complex foods that our world has to offer."
A few student speakers emphasized the responsibilities inherent in a career in the sciences.
Shelby Cox '18, a Mathematics & Statistics and Linguistics double major, established and led the UMass chapter of the Association for Women in Mathematics. She acknowledged just how much what it means to be a scientist has changed—but that the principles of science have remained the same.
"As we move on to new adventures as educators, actuaries, data scientists, software engineers and researchers, we probably won't have to remember the pigeonhole principle or the first 10 digits of pi, but we will continue to solve problems."
Julia Sidman '18 an Environmental Conservation graduate emphasized the hands-on learning that helped her—and her fellow scientists—to understand the world and its elements.
"For four years we've tracked mud into Holdsworth from our boots and made our friends jealous with our field trips and labs," Sidman said.
And then her tone shifted. "We're the defenders of the natural world," Sidman said, "and we're graduating at a time when the need to protect our resources from the naysayers, the deniers, and the environmental protection repealers is at an all-time high."
Looking up through the stage lights into the crowd, with a mixture of excitement and confidence, she said, "Congratulations."
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