All Eyes on 2020

Click on the image to see photos from this year's academic assembly. slideshow
—Photos by Timothy Lee Photographers

At the annual academic assembly Aug. 30, Dean Mary C. Boyce officially welcomed the Class of 2020 to the start of their first year at SEAS.

“You are joining a remarkable set of peers,” Boyce said, highlighting interdisciplinary work at Columbia spanning engineering, the applied sciences, and a range of other disciplines. “No matter what the challenge around the world, engineers and applied scientists are at the forefront of finding solutions, revolutionizing technologies, and enabling creativity in other fields.”

She encouraged students to “participate fully in everything Columbia offers,” noting that SEAS is renowned for developing leaders who innovate at the interface of STEM and fields like policy, law, and journalism.

Some 330 members of the new class packed Havemeyer Hall for the annual event. Students also got to hear from alumni guest Ky Harlin BS’08, former vice president of growth and data science at Condé Nast and director of data science at Buzzfeed, along with distinguished faculty and student mentors who discussed some of the advanced research happening on campus, and offered tips for making the most of their undergraduate experience in Morningside Heights and beyond.

Harlin, now CEO of the data engineering consulting startup ESK Enterprises, said a well-rounded Columbia education helped him develop and pursue his research interests, including better understanding how, when, and why content goes viral.

“Columbia really gave me both specific and more general skills to help me embark on my professional journey and explore what I loved,” Harlin said. “The Columbia core was extremely important to me, giving me a great love for analytical thinkers of past and present, and also giving a real leg-up in applying engineering knowledge in different areas.”

Students then heard from Eitan Grinspun, associate professor of computer science, and Hod Lipson, professor of mechanical engineering, about their groundbreaking, creative work computing complex motion and designing self-aware robots, respectively. Sidney Perkins ’17SEAS rounded out the program by offering his perspectives as a current student.  

“Open up to your peers, and remember the power of positivity,” said Perkins, a biomedical engineering major and former president of Columbia’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders. “Struggling is okay, common, and actually expected—you all deserve to be here!”

Fulfilling a longstanding tradition, incoming students received a commemorative beanie at the event to mark their membership in the Columbia Engineering community. Once a mandatory accessory on campus, the beanie is today a unique souvenir celebrating first-years’ new school, new friends, and the exciting new academic year ahead.

—by Jesse Adams

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