Student News

Physics commencement celebrations during the COVID-19 pandemic

By John Cerne, PhD

Our students work very hard and accomplish great things to complete their degrees, so one of the highlights of the year is celebrating their graduation. This has been made more complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic, but we have done our best to celebrate the commencement of our graduate and undergraduate students. In spring 2020, no in-person graduation ceremonies were held and we were unable to have our departmental reception to honor our graduating seniors. Faculty and friends posted best wishes to our graduates online. In 2021, UB held commencement ceremonies in the stadium, but the department was not allowed to host its usual reception for our physics majors after the commencement. Fortunately, we did get permission to hold an outdoor commencement ceremony the day after the main undergraduate commencement. The ceremony was held in the Fronczak breezeway and over a dozen faculty and students celebrated the graduation of six students. Each graduating student was introduced by the Directors of Graduate and Undergraduate Studies, Professors Hu and Cerne, respectively. It was great to be able to get together to celebrate our graduates! The photo below shows the May 2021 commencement participants, with the graduating students seated in the front row. 

Participants consisting of physics faculty and students at the department’s commencement celebration on May 17, 2021. Graduating students are seated in the front row, from left to right: Jiawei Wang, Xi Chen (MS), Muhammad Kilinc, Bilal Barut, Hannah Seppala (BS,) and Lauren Kim (BS). 

In October 2021, UB held commencement events for students who graduated in 2020. One of our PhD students, Jungryeol Seo, flew in from Atlanta, Georgia to be hooded by his advisor, Prof. Cerne. The photos below are from the commencement event at UB’s Alumni Arena and a re-hooding after the event.

Professor Seo (left) and Professor Cerne shaking hands after the hooding at the Alumni Arena.
Hooding re-enactment without masks after the commencement ceremony.

It was a great pleasure to see Jungryeol again and celebrate his graduation with him! The pandemic has given us new perspectives on and appreciation for these ceremonies. We also miss being able to gather together. For example, I never thought I would yearn for in-person faculty meetings, but the pandemic has changed that! We all are looking forward to celebrating with our graduates in person in the future!

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