The University of Notre Dame’s Graduate School recognized 278 master’s and 159 doctoral degree recipients and presented several special awards during Commencement ceremonies today in the Purcell Pavilion of the Joyce Center.
Gregory Sterling, dean of the Graduate School, delivered the Commencement address.
The recipients of several Graduate School awards also were recognized during the Commencement ceremony.
The top graduating doctoral students in the humanities, social sciences, science and engineering were honored with Eli J. and Helen Shaheen Graduate School Awards.
- Zachary R. Gagnon, a chemical engineering Ph.D. who is a creative experimentalist and engineer who has invented several technologies involving pathogen detection that can potentially transform the biotech industry, was the recipient in engineering. He will undertake a two-year postdoctoral position in cell biology at Johns Hopkins University and will assume his assistant professor position in 2011.
- In the humanities, the recipient was Abigail Louise Palko, a Ph.D. in literature and a fluent French speaker who studies the colonial and post-colonial predicaments of Caribbean and Irish women writers, showing how their fiction wrestles with themes of oppression. She will become the new director of undergraduate studies in Notre Dame’s Gender Studies Program.
- Bennett J. Streit, a chemistry and biochemistry Ph.D. who has undertaken pioneering work on a mechanism to convert chlorite, a highly toxic chemical abundant in the environment due to its use as an industrial bleaching agent, into a harmless chloride and oxygen, was the recipient in the sciences. He will assume a postdoctoral position in Paris at the French National Atomic Energy Commission.
- In the social sciences, Patrick Flavin, a political science Ph.D., whose academic focus is the topic of the responsiveness of state governments to the political preferences of their citizens (with findings that state governments systematically under-represent their poorest citizens and over-represent the most wealthy), was the recipient. He has accepted a tenure-track position at Baylor University.
Alvin Plantinga, Rev. John A. O’Brien Chair in Philosophy, was recognized as the University’s 2010 Rev. James A. Burns, C.S.C., Graduate School Award recipient. The award is given annually to a faculty member for distinction in teaching or other exemplary contributions to graduate education and honors the first Notre Dame president with an advanced degree.
Stephen Dumont, chair of the University’s Department of Philosophy, said that Plantinga is “widely recognized as the world’s foremost philosopher of religion, and, indeed, one of the top philosophers in the world.”
Plantinga has directed 23 doctoral dissertations and influenced countless graduate students at Notre Dame. Plantinga is “the key reason Notre Dame is ranked first in the English-speaking world in the philosophy of religion, and, of course, a key reason many of our best graduate students come to Notre Dame,” according to Dumont.
The recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus Award, Robert Boguslaski, president of the Serim Research Corporation, also was recognized during the exercises. He received his doctorate in chemistry from Notre Dame in 1966.
Serim Research Corporation develops, manufactures and markets test strips based on a patented dry reagent technology. The test strips replace complex and cumbersome multi-step wet chemistry colorimetric assays. Serim’s test strips have a number of uses — a prime one is testing for disinfectants and water quality in thousands of dialysis and surgical centers worldwide.