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May 2023 Graduation Speakers Share Wisdom

Our May 2023 commencement speakers shared their hope and wisdom with our graduates. Dr. Nick Clausi (BSChE ’94), VP of Research for ExxonMobil, shared his perspectives on graduation as a parent, student, and son. He encouraged our graduates to capitalize on the powerful lessons that they learned from the pandemic, including how to succeed in non-ideal situations. He also encouraged them to use their skills to lead the world through the energy transition and other challenges. Dr. Clausi, who obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Texas in 1998, is a strong advocate of the department and serves on the CBE Alumni Advisory Board. Dr. Clausi and his father, the late Mr. Thomas Clausi (BSChE ‘64) created the Clausi Family Scholarship for students in our department.

Dr. Veenasri Vallem (PhDChE ’22), our Ferrell Outstanding Ph.D. Award winner, encouraged the graduates to always continue to move forward one small step at a time.  Dr. Vallem performed her dissertation research with Prof. Michael Dickey, where she developed stretchable composites composed of polymer gel and liquid metal for energy harvesting and actuation. The devices can convert mechanical energy to electrical energy and vice versa.  Applications include in clean energy, sensors, and autonomous robotics. Dr. Vallem is currently working on lithium metal and lithium ion battery technologies at Applied Materials in Santa Clara, California. In her graduation remarks, she noted that she wants to contribute to the advancement of sustainable energy solutions and encouraged the graduates to follow their heart.

Our student speaker, Noha Zayan (BSChE ’23), past President of the AIChE student chapter and winner of the COE Senior Award for Leadership, encouraged her fellow graduates to find their purpose, take care of themselves and each other, and never forget the Wolfpack!  Noha, who will start her career at Eastman Chemical Company this summer, was an exemplary leader and student at State. In addition to her work with AIChE, she served as an Engineering Ambassador, Chancellor’s Aide, and CBE Student Advisory Council Ambassador. She also found time to perform undergraduate research in sustainability under the supervision of Prof. Li, and she also enjoys photography and videography, fencing, traveling, and spending time with friends.