Graduates of the ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science gathered at Llewellyn Hall on 15 July to receive diplomas, celebrate achievements, and begin new chapters of their lives.
Huiting Wu admitted to being nervous leading up to the ceremony, where she received her PhD of Photovoltaic Engineering and offered remarks as Student Speaker.
“It was really a mixed feeling of excitement, and sadness as well because we’re leaving ANU,” Wu said moments after the ceremony ended. “This is the closing of chapter of our lives and moving on to the next one. So, it’s really a mixed bag of emotions. And I think I’m still recovering from it.”
Wu’s speech, which was themed around humility in the pursuit of knowledge, and the need to have compassion and inspire hope during trying times, received high praise from fellow graduates like Rebecca Craine.
“She gave a really nice speech,” said Craine who also appreciated the remarks of Guest Speaker and ANU alumnus John Sutherland.
“It was great to see all the people that I had been a student with go up and get their awards,” Craine said. “And then we got to come out here and celebrate with our families.”
Craine’s double major was comprised of Mechanical and Material Systems Engineering and Earth Science, but she said the highlight of her time at university was a student-led activity: designing and building a solar car.
ANU Solar Racing, along with her systems engineering course work, “taught me how to work well with people and in groups as well as how to deal with complex situations and navigate situations where there is no clear path or solution, which I think will prepare me well to deal with this in the real world”, Craine said.
Thien Truong earned his PhD last year and stayed at ANU to serve as a postdoctoral fellow in the School of Engineering. He said it was “a great honour” and “fantastic” to walk across the stage, and receive his PhD sash and a handshake from Vice-Chancellor and Nobel Laureate Brian P. Schmidt.
Asked about their brief exchange, Truong recalled that Schmidt had said, “you’ve done so well” and wished him luck on future endeavours.
“Coming to ANU, I wanted to pursue a research career on clean and renewable energy technology to serve the world,” Truong said. “My big hope for the future is to have 100% renewable energy electricity from sources such as solar, and wind, without the need for fossil fuels. My research results could contribute partly to that future with more efficient solar cells.”
Benjamin Hofmann said it had been an especially meaningful day for him because his parents had flown in from Adelaide.
“That’s been the most special part, for sure,” he said. “They came early, so I was able to take them all around the ANU — all my favourite places — and I really enjoyed being able to share that with them at the end of my journey.”
Hofmann, who earned Bachelor of Engineering and Bachelor of Economics degrees, said his most eye-opening educational experiences were in the emerging field of Humanitarian Engineering.
“The technology is the part of enjoy the most, and maybe the part I’m best at, but it’s not the most important part,” Hofmann said. “If I want to be good at what I do, and bring the most benefit, I need to have a people-first approach.”
Feiyue Tao received her Masters in Advanced Computing diploma as well as the Postgraduate Medal for Academic Excellence.
She said that three of her four semesters at ANU were impacted by the pandemic, with two of them entirely remote. But she is grateful to lecturers and staff members who went above and beyond to support her and her studies.
She said the medal she had received was a vote of confidence, of sorts, a reminder to believe in herself.
Looking back at her academic career, she said she had limited herself and her efforts due to self-doubt. As an international student from China speaking English as a second language, she had often “struggled with catching the word from my mind”.
She had been told by many that maths are very important in computer science, “but I’m not really good at that,” she said.
“But now I realise, ‘So what?’ I still get is a University Medal and so those obstacles was not really a big deal.”
Edmund Hofflin was the winner of the University Medal winner for undergraduate studies, but did not attend the ceremony. His flexible double degree was comprised of Mathematical Science and Advanced Computing (Hons).
Hiking on the Larapinta trail, he respoded to questions via email to express appreciation for the interdisciplinary collaboration he experience at ANU.
“I constantly crossed boundaries between computer science and mathematics, using the tools and skills learnt in each to complement and extend the other,” he said. “My honours research focussed on optimisation, which sits right on this boundary, so I was able to put all 5 years of my degree to use.”
After sundown, many of the new graduates and their families reconvened at the Cultural Centre for drinks, live music, photos, and goodbyes.
Interim Dean Nick Birbilis addressed them briefly from the stage. “You join a pretty prestigious cohort whose ideas, creativity, and contributions have shaped and influenced the world in which we live. And I have no doubt that you will do the same,” he said.
Birbilis praised the graduates for studying and for producing outstanding research despite the pandemic. He observed that they will be entering the workforce at “one of the volatile periods of the human endeavour so far”.
“So, your skills will go a long way, and your adaptability will go a long way toward helping shape the future.”