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SEAS Welcomes Sophomores at Virtual Convocation

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UPDATED: February 5, 2021 at 6:45 p.m.

The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences officially welcomed concentrators from the class of 2023 at its first virtual sophomore convocation Thursday night.

Nearly 100 sophomores – in fields ranging from Computer Science to Applied Math to Mechanical Engineering – joined SEAS Dean Francis J. Doyle III for the 75-minute event, which featured keynote speaker R. Martin “Marty” Chavez ’85, a panel of five alumni, and a virtual tour of the newly constructed Science and Engineering Complex in Allston.

Chavez, a former chief financial officer at Goldman Sachs, emphasized how a liberal arts education combined with computer science enabled him to move up the ranks of Wall Street.

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“I was not by any means the best coder or the best software architect or the best mathematician, I wasn't the best in the group by a longshot at anything,” he said. “Here's the thing that Harvard did for me. Almost uniquely as it turned out, among the quants of Goldman Sachs and engineers, I could write a cogent English paragraph.”

Panelist Linsey C. Marr ’96, an engineering professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, added that the Engineering Sciences concentration at Harvard enabled her to explore different areas of the field.

“At MIT and other places, you have to choose a specific engineering major,” she said. “Engineering Sciences was a great pick for me because I ended up taking courses in all different types of engineering.”

When asked about favorite classes at Harvard, panelist Kayla M. Shelton ’13 — current construction manager at DTE Energy — answered that hers was SEAS’s General Education 1104: “Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science.”

“Everybody knows about the infamous science of cooking class,” she said.

That class jumpstarted her lab work and resulted in her volunteering to teach inner city students in Boston about science and cooking.

Other panelists included Alisa Luu ’15, a senior engineering lead at Nava, and Benjamin T. Zauzmer ’15, who oversees baseball analytics for the New York Mets. Morgan T. Pope ’09, a research scientist for Disney Studios, rounded out the roster of returning graduates.

Zauzmer, who concentrated in Applied Mathematics, said in an interview with The Crimson his interest in predictive analytics was piqued by a combined computer science and statistics course at SEAS, which taught him how to predict the results of everything, from awards shows to elections.

Zauzmer added that SEAS was unique insofar as its engineering students are afforded a “well-rounded” liberal arts education.

“Hopefully they'll be able to take those skills that they learn in SEAS and revolutionize — whether it's other industries or other facets of life — and try to make their little corner of the world a better place,” he said.

Though still smaller than the Sciences Division of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, SEAS has witnessed steady growth in recent years, rising from 174 declared sophomore concentrators in the Class of 2013 to 293 in the last decade.

Jaxson T. Hill ’23, a sophomore in attendance, said the virtual ceremony was “pretty cool.”

Matej Cerman ’23, another sophomore at the convocation, said the event made SEAS “a little more tangible” for students learning virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Both Hill and Cerman said the highlight of the convocation was Doyle’s virtual tour of the soon-to-be-opened Science and Engineering Complex in Allston.

The SEC — the current iteration of which was approved by the Boston Redevelopment Authority in 2016 — is finally set to become the new home for the school after years of planning and delays.

Hill described the SEC tour as the “star of the show” and “Cabot Library on steroids,” referring to the popular student study spot in the Science Center.

“So worth the wait — the building looks incredible,” he said. “After every hallway, there’s something new and enormous and amazing. The dining hall where you can swipe to get lunches? We’re never going to leave!”

CORRECTION: February 5, 2021

A previous version of this article incorrectly attributed the quote, “At MIT and other places, you have to choose a specific engineering major. Engineering Sciences was a great pick for me because I ended up taking courses in all different types of engineering,” to Alisa Luu ’15. In fact, Linsey C. Marr '96 said this quote during the panel.

—Staff writer Natalie L. Kahn can be reached at natalie.kahn@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @natalielkahn.

—Staff writer Simon J. Levien can be reached at simon.levien@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @simonjlevien.

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