Celebrating the Class of 2023

Congratulations to our graduates!

On Monday, May 15, the Columbia Engineering Class of 2023 gathered on the South Lawn of Columbia’s campus to celebrate Class Day.

Keynote speaker Nina Tandon, who obtained her PhD from Columbia in 2009 before going on to become CEO and co-founder of the biotech company EpiBone, addressed more than 2,000 students in the audience. 


Cells possess remarkable resilience and regenerative capabilities. They repair and regenerate damaged tissues, adapt to stressors, recover from injuries. You too are made of cells. You too are resilient, adapt to stress, evolve, repair. You are part of an unbroken line of cells tracing back billions of years. In other words – you got this, engineers!

Nina Tandon

Dean Shih-Fu Chang reminded students that they were now ambassadors for Columbia Engineering and its vision of “engineering for humanity.”

“Whatever your chosen areas of interest and paths, you are all now ambassadors for Columbia Engineering–you will show the world the unique spirit of a Columbia Engineer! This spirit is creative, persevering, analytical, curious, empathetic, and deeply ethical. It brings a problem-solving approach to the challenges and opportunities of our time. It is also deeply optimistic–the challenges of our day can seem overwhelming. From climate and health, to disinformation and poverty–it is easy to become dejected. But as 21st Century Engineers, you are prepared to bring your technical expertise and broad learning to these issues. To develop solutions that look at all facets of a problem, and importantly, to think about the people and communities that will be affected by the solution. We call this the human-centric approach. This is the great benefit we can offer to the world, and to our communities.”

Students were also addressed by Columbia University President Lee C.Bollinger, Senior Class President Kennedy Ariana Salamat, Valedictorian Ethan Wu, and graduate student speaker Camille-Louise “Cam”  Kouba Mbayo. Several students and faculty members also received awards in recognition of their service and achievement. 

On Wednesday, May 17, students will gather for the University Commencement ceremony with President Bollinger. Yi Zhang, associate in the discipline of industrial engineering and operations research, will receive the Presidential Teaching Award and alumnus Alexander A. Ned BS’87, MS’90 will receive the Columbia Alumni Medal. 

Highlights from the ceremonies

Meet the Class Day Speaker

Class Day speaker and EpiBone CEO Nina Tandon PhD’09 returns to the Engineering School to catch up with mentor and University Professor Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic. Find out how their longtime collaboration has evolved through the years and how their work on EpiBone is advancing personalized medicine. Credit: Jane Nisselson and Beatrice V. Mhando


Wednesday, May 17, 2023 at 10:30 a.m. (EDT)

Student Award Winners

Zvi Galil Award for Improvement in Engineering Student Life
Columbia Organization of Rising Entrepreneurs (CORE)

Bernard Jaffe Prize 
Yunus Kovankaya 

School of Engineering and Applied Science Scholar Athlete Award
Elisa Luo

Campbell Award
Alexander Moreno

School of Engineering and Applied Science Student Activities Award
Katherine O'Reilly

Thomas "Pop" Harrington Medal
Athena Pagon 

George Vincent Wendell Memorial Award
Elias Tzoc-Pacheco

Robert D. Lilley Award for Socially Responsible Engineering
Engineers Without Borders: Yuba County

Morton B. Friedman Memorial Prize for Excellence
Yash Vijay Amonkar, PhD

Graduate Student Life Leadership Awards
Mark Barbet, PhD
Albert Fernandez Veiga, MS

Graduate Speaker
Camille-Louise Kouba Mbayo, MS

Valedictorian and Illig Medal Winner
Ethan Wu

Julia Zhao

Faculty Award Winners

CEAA Distinguished Faculty Teaching Award
Lydia Chilton, Assistant Professor of Computer Science

Xunyu Zhou, Liu Family Professor of Financial Engineering 

Edward and Carole Kim Award for Faculty Involvement
Hardeep Johar, Senior Lecturer in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research 

Janette and Armen Avanessians Diversity Award 
Brian Smith, Assistant Professor of Computer Science

Presidential Teaching Award Winner
Yi Zhang, Associate in the Discipline of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research

Alumni Award Winner

Columbia Alumni Medalist
Alexander A. Ned BS’87, MS’90