Graduating Students Say Caltech Delivered on Its Promise

Students say Caltech offers “beyond believable” research opportunities, amazing camaraderie

Published : Thursday, June 13, 2019 | 5:16 AM

Caltech's 2018 graduating class just prior to last year's commencement. Photo by Bill Youngblood for Caltech.

[Updated] Break out the “Pomp and Circumstance” sheet music, for another colony of busy Caltech Beavers is ready to hit the job market and the outer reaches of academe.

They are counting down to commencement day, June 15, at Caltech where 586 graduates will pick up 240 bachelor’s degrees, 139 masters, and 207 doctorates.

Computer science is the most popular first option among bachelor’s recipients, according to Caltech spokeswoman Deborah Williams-Hedges.

A small sampling of these bright young, future leaders in the world of science revealed a complete satisfaction with their experience at the school, which they said, delivered on the things they came in search of.

Jules Oppenheim of New York said he was drawn to Caltech by the research opportunities, which he deemed “beyond believable.”

France Córdova, distinguished astrophysicist, director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), and Caltech alumna (PhD ’79), will be the speaker at Caltech’s 125th annual commencement ceremony.

He laid the school’s success at the door to the faculty room.

“The professors really focus on each individual student and really try and make them grow as a scientist,” said Oppenheim, who will be moving on to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in pursuit of a doctorate in chemistry.

Pending graduate Subhadra Vetrivel highlighted the sense of community she felt when first visiting the campus. She spoke of a school where everyone knows everyone else, where people look out for one another, and lend mutual support in their pursuits.

“I think a big part of that is the fact it is such a small school and everyone’s interested in the same things, like science and technology,” said Vetrivel. “Everyone’s kind of geeky and nerdy.”

Vetrivel is presently working as a program manager for Microsoft. Her plan is to enroll in Stanford University’s business school in two years’ time.

Kavya Sreedhar was also sold on a spirit of collaboration these students say reigns at the school. She was impressed by the passion and excitement Caltechers bring to their studies and she likes the fact the core curriculum familiarizes students with each other’s disciplines.

“It’s actually amazing how much students are willing to go out of their way to help each other,” said Sreedhar. “It’s really all about learning, and they get ideas off of each other and it really creates this amazing synergy.”

She will be joined at commencement by her mother, father, sister, brother and grandparents coming down from Oregon.

Christopher Johnstone said Caltech is a place for people who want to improve and change things.

“I think that really just comes from being such a small place,” he said. “If you have a good idea, then Caltech’s where you can just do those things. And that applies to research, or starting a club… to all kinds of things there.”

Johnstone is also moving onto MIT to do his doctoral work.

Caltech was founded in 1891 as an independent and privately supported institution. Together with Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which it manages for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, it is the largest employer in Pasadena.

Its graduates are prepared through a rigorous curriculum, close collaborations with faculty and small class sizes to assume the mantle of science leadership around the world.

France Córdova, distinguished astrophysicist, director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), and Caltech alumna (PhD ’79), will be the speaker at Caltech’s 125th annual commencement ceremony.

The ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. on Friday, June 14, on Caltech’s Beckman Mall, and it will be live-streamed at

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