Florida Tech Class of 2016

Florida Tech is filled with all sorts of great students, and this year’s graduating class is one of the best. Here are some student success stories from both our undergraduate and graduate commencement ceremonies as presented by university president Dr. Anthony J. Catanese on May 7, 2016.

Curtis Marsh, Aerospace Engineering B.S.

A young man named Curtis Marsh exemplifies what those accolades suggest: Because Florida Tech is the best, we attract the best.

Raised in a Kingston, Jamaica, neighborhood marked by frequent violence and deep poverty, Curtis came to Florida Tech to study aviation and aerospace. Those were early passions for him, fostered by his involvement in the Aviation Club of Jamaica and the Caribbean, which his friend Samuel Neil started in 2007 and now has 12 chapters across the country. It was through the club that he learned of Florida Tech.

After an amazing four years here, where he was involved in hands-on projects such as rocket design and Formula SAE and where he founded with friend Jordan Samuels the student organization Live to Inspire, Curtis in March found himself among hundreds of others interviewing for a job as a structural analysis engineer at Boeing.
Curtis is an aerospace engineering major, and to work for Boeing would be, he said, his “dream job.”

Well, the next day, his cell phone rang. It was Boeing, with a job offer. They later told Curtis he got the job because of the projects he did here, as well as his humility, involvement and passion.

Nathan Price, Chemistry B.S.

Another of today’s graduates, chemistry major Nathan Price, is finding work a little closer to home – but at no less a prestigious place.

Nathan was among the first batch of interns to work at the Ciambrone Radiochemistry Laboratory at Patrick Air Force Base, considered the world’s most advanced testing lab. An outstanding student and young scientist who won several awards during his time here, including the Baum Award, the Martin Zung Award, and the Chemistry Department Student of the Year Award, Nathan has received training in radio chemistry safety and forensics at the lab, which analyzes samples to determine if the nuclear test ban treaty has been violated. He is expected to be offered full-time employment there after his graduation.

Ashley and Alyson Vezina, Chemical Engineering B.S. and Biological Sciences B.S.

We are always proud of producing students who represent the ideal of excellence: left-brain and right-brain powerhouses who excel academically and athletically. Let me introduce you to two of them here today: identical twins from Oviedo, Florida, named Ashley and Alyson Vezina.

We would be here a long time if I listed all of their awards, but here are a few highlights: both had 4.0 GPAs during their four years here. Both were named to the All District Academic team the last three years. Both have been named overall academic athletes of the year – Ashley for soccer, Alyson for track and field. And at this year’s Honors Convocation, they were named co-winners of the American Association of University Women Academic Award for Excellent for Women.

Did I mention that Alyson, who earned her degree in molecular biology, was named outstanding senior in biological sciences, and Ashley won the Donald R. Mason Award as the outstanding senior in chemical engineering, her major?

They came to Florida Tech after being recruited by our dearly departed soccer coach Fidgi Haig. They really loved our small classes and remarkable research opportunities, as well as how their coaches and their professors helped them balance academic and athletic obligations.

Emmanuel Akpan, Chemical Engineering B.S.

Growing up in Nigeria, Emmanuel Akpan was always fascinated by how stuff was made and how things worked. A family friend who was an engineer at Shell Oil Company solidified those curiosities and set Emmanuel on his path toward becoming a chemical engineer.

We are fortunate that path took him to Florida Tech. I say we, and I mean we, because he has interacted with a lot of people thanks to his involvement in a wonderful variety of organizations, including the African Student Association, the honors societies Phi Kappa Phi and Kappa Theta Epsilon, the National Society of Black Engineers, where he was national chair for a year, and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and American Chemical Society. He also found time to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity and serve as a tutor.

Emmanuel hopes to head to grad school and continue exploring the connections between renewable energy and current energy sources. Then it’s on to fixing energy problems afflicting third-world countries, an effort that will allow him to continue what he’s done so passionately here at Florida Tech the last four years: help others.

Jeffrey White, Electrical Engineering Ph.D.

It was 1981 when Jeffrey White came to work at Harris Corporation. Fresh from earning engineering degrees at Boston University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Jeffrey would spend the next 19 years at the Melbourne-based company.

He left Harris in 2000 to launch a successful start-up that was later purchased by DRS. It was during that second phase of his working life that Jeffrey found himself thinking, frequently, about getting his doctorate and wishing he had done while in school three decades prior. His musings started to come more frequently, and Jeffrey’s wife finally said one day, ‘Why don’t you go to Florida Tech and get it?’ So in 2011, that’s what he did. Two years of intense coursework followed, and then three years to complete his dissertation.

The process left Jeffrey with several insights: Florida Tech’s faculty can quote “hold their own” with the ones at MIT. Few people, including even accomplished engineers, likes taking tests. And one can learn from almost anyone. That last one had younger students coming to Jeffrey for advice on, as he said, “things I have lived and breathed.” And it meant him learning from them, as well.

Jeffrey will now pursue something new for him: a job in academia.

Tiziano Bernard, Flight Test Engineering M.S.

Call him a pioneer or, as he puts it good naturedly, a guinea pig, but Tiziano Bernard is here today as the first student to earn a master’s degree in our flight test engineering program. Already having earned his bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from Florida Tech, Tiziano was eager to enhance that heavily theoretical knowledge with the hands-on testing, measuring and evaluation offered in flight test engineering.

It’s a logical progression for Tiziano, who also earned his pilot’s license while he was here and has been fascinated by aeronautics since his childhood in Trieste, Italy. Tiziano has really embodied our high tech with a human touch approach, from working on a space station-bound experiment with Dan Kirk to doing cutting-edge research with Guy Boy to the Mars Rover he helped design for his senior design project to the two conferences he was able to attend – all as an undergrad!

He owes his passion, energy and love of flying to his parents, who were avid travelers. As Tiziano told us, “I didn’t care where I were going as long as I was flying.”

His next journey: earning his Ph.D.

Carly Randall, Biological Sciences – Ecology Ph.D.

Carly Randall came to Florida Tech in the summer of 2012 and is here today to collect her doctorate in ecology from the Department of Biological Sciences. She has focused on coral diseases in the Caribbean and has been very active during her tenure at Florida Tech.

First and foremost, Carly published five high-profile articles, including a first authored paper in the prestigious journal Nature Climate Change in 2015. Carly’s research has already been cited over 225 time and featured in national and international news outlets, including Science Daily and USA Today.

In 2015, Carly received a prestigious National Philanthropic Education Organization Scholar Award, one of just 85 awarded that year in North America, and also in 2015 she received an Outstanding Graduate Student of the Year in Biology award.

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