Thousands of family and friends filled the Galen Center on May 14 as the more than 400 PhD and master’s students celebrated their commencement from the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
The processional was led by the USC Trojan Marching Band and included speeches by Grand Marshal Michael Stallcup, PhD, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and pathology; the Rev. James Burklo, associate dean for religious life; and Ite Laird-Offringa, PhD, associate dean for graduate affairs. Keck School Interim Dean Rohit Varma, MD, MPH, Laird-Offringa and Elahe Nezami, PhD, associate dean for undergraduate, masters and professional programs, awarded the diplomas during the ceremony.
Master of Science in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology graduate Nell Narasappa gave a spirited student address, while Barbara Wold, PhD, the Bren Professor of Molecular Biology, Beckman Institute, California Institute of Technology, gave the commencement address.
“One of the things that I treasure, a sure thing in each commencement that I go to as a working scientist, is hearing words roughly like, ‘today you are welcomed into the community of scholars’,” Wold said. “And that’s more meaningful every time that I hear it. In biomedical science, when you receive the PhD or when you’re on your way there with a master’s (degree), it means that you are now a maker of knowledge. You have established to a high standard of evidence and logic, something that is both new and true.”
Wold continued, explaining to the attendees that this commencement marks a turning point in the graduates’ careers.
“For your parents and family, I want to summarize what I just said. Your graduate is not merely finishing the 22nd grade. This is not just a bigger, longer bachelor’s degree with longer, harder courses and more facts stuffed into his or her brain. You now have in your midst a professional discoverer — however poorly paid.”
Photos and text by Melissa Masatani