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Celebrating Excellence

“The engine of research. That’s what actually drives this institution to excellence,” said Dr. Sethuraman ‘Panch’ Panchanathan. The Executive Vice President of ASU Knowledge Enterprise was commending ASU graduate students for their contributions to ASU at Celebrating Excellence on March 21.

Celebrating Excellence is an afternoon reception hosted by the Graduate College to celebrate the achievement of graduate students who are recipients of fellowships and funding through the Graduate College for the 2018-19 academic year.

In a room packed with 100 people, students and other esteemed guests honored the students who received funding. The recipients were awarded funding from Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS), COMEXUS, CONACYT, Earl A. and Lenore H. Tripke Fellowship, Ford Foundation, Fulbright, Graduate College, National Physical Sciences Consortium (NPSC) and NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP).

Almost 500 students received funding for the 2018-19 school year.

“The Graduate College believes in supporting students to create impact for society,” said Jill Lemna, manager of the Office of Strategic Graduate Enrichment at ASU. She says these awards help them to make that impact.

Graduate College funding recipient Tari Wager expressed gratitude for her award.

“On top of working and being newly married, and other things going on, it was just peace of mind,” said Wager.

Wager is finishing her master’s degree in the sustainability solutions program. With an undergraduate degree in interior design, she plans to bring sustainability into architecture and design.

Other recipients also shared how funding helps them to focus on their studies instead of getting jobs, allowing them to maximize their innovation and creativity.

Stephen Schaefer, an Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS) recipient, is a third-year electrical engineering PhD student researching semiconductor materials operating the mid and long wave infrared.

Schafer’s goals are to “grow, characterize and understand the physics of the materials that form the core of technology,” like biomedical imaging devices, vehicle and missile guidance and greenhouse gas spectroscopy.

Students like Wager and Schaefer help foster ASU’s reputation as the number one school in the US for innovation. Panch considers ASU’s success in research and innovation to be its most major responsibility.

“We are causing significant impact, positive impact in terms of what we do regionally, nationally and globally,” he said. If researchers at ASU don’t anticipate a societal problem like water shortage or energy use before it begins, Panch said, “the blame squarely should fall on Arizona State University.”

ASU credits Panch’s leadership with quintupling the university’s research performance in the past 10 years, now reaching over $600 million in total research expenditures in 2018.

At Celebrating Excellence, students were asked to share “impact” words describing their research, funding or time at ASU. Words included life-changing, progress, empowering, interdisciplinary and mirroring Panch, responsibility. This year’s event punctuated a special moment for the Graduate College, which just reached its 80th year of operation.