Editor’s note: Contact information for the students is available to members of the news media by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet eight of UC Davis’ graduating students with special stories: a graduate student who completed his doctoral degree while still age 19, the University Medalist, a 48-year-old fulfilling a promise to his parents, and the five student speakers for the undergraduate commencements June 16 to 18.
Graduate Studies commencement
3 p.m. Thursday, June 15
University Credit Union Center, Davis campus
Doctorate at age 19 — Tanishq Mathew Abraham, 20, of Sacramento will be conferred with a Doctorate of Biomedical Engineering — completed this spring while he was still 19 — at the Graduate Studies commencement. His sister, Tiara Abraham, will sing the national anthem at the ceremony. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in music from UC Davis last year when she was 16 and is a now a master’s student at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in Bloomington.
After earning three associate degrees from American River College, 13-year-old Tanishq started studies as a transfer student at UC Davis in fall 2016. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree summa cum laude in biomedical engineering in June 2018 and began doctoral studies that fall. His research has focused on using generative AI in microscopy and pathology. Tanishq is the founding CEO of the medical AI research center MedARC, through which he collaborates with researchers from around the world. He is author of academic papers and a book chapter, and he has won multiple honors and awards.
Friday, June 16, to Sunday, June 18
Golden 1 Center, Sacramento
2 p.m. Friday: Student speaker — Celia Sophia Mares de Juan of Guadalajara, Mexico, is graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in international relations and sociology-organizational studies with a minor in human rights. A peer advisor helping fellow students with global learning opportunities, she conducted her own research on the motivations that minority students have to study abroad. She also helped Global Affairs research best practices to support minority students going abroad. As an intern with Article 26 Backpack, a human rights tool supporting academic mobility, she translated documents into Spanish and helped users in different countries access educational and work records safely stored in their digital “backpacks.” Mares de Juan plans to start a master’s degree in nationalism and conflict management at the University of Salamanca in Spain. [Able to do interview in Spanish.]
2 p.m. Friday: A promise fulfilled — Austin Nichols, 48, of Vacaville, California, will be wearing small photos of his late parents on his graduation tassel when he is conferred with a Bachelor of Arts degree in African American and African studies. Nichols’ parents had pushed him to take his education seriously, but it was only years later after his father died that he learned why. After wasting his high school years but still graduating, Nichols joined the Navy. In a bargain struck then with his parents, he promised to earn a degree later. After Nichols was honorably discharged, life happened. Marriage. Three children, now 21, 17 and 8. A career with Comcast Communications and now as a journeyman transmission gas system operator with PG&E. And after his mother died, nine years as a caregiver for his father.
But when his father died in 2018, Nichols learned what had made his dad so adamant about schooling: He hadn’t been able to go to high school. He was a sharecropper until age 18 on the Louisiana land where his ancestors had been enslaved. Within six months, Nichols started full time at Contra Costa College, where he earned an associate degree in 2021. At UC Davis, he continued full-time studies — enthralled to be studying his African American heritage. Nichols snagged a lot of night shifts and continued working full time with PG&E. He wasn’t planning on attending graduation until his wife said it would be an important example for their children, including one studying at San Jose State and another starting at UC Davis in the fall. And this is Father’s Day weekend.
9 a.m. Saturday: University Medalist — Neeraj Senthil of Sunnyvale, California, will be awarded the University Medal as the campus’s top graduating senior and be conferred with a Bachelor of Science in biomedical engineering. Between maintaining A+ grades, earning a provisional patent and co-authoring a research paper, his weekly activities have included cuddling sick babies at the university’s medical center and teaching math at local schools. Read the news release.
9 a.m. Saturday: Student speaker — Yoanna Soliman of Ventura, California, has earned a Bachelor of Science degree in molecular and medical microbiology on her way to a career in medicine. An immigrant from Egypt at age 8 and raised by a single mother, she served as director of philanthropy for Empowered Arab Sisterhood-Epsilon Alpha Sigma, the first Arab sorority in the nation, and she organized its Women’s Empowerment Week twice. In addition to being a student assistant in Graduate Studies, Soliman also served as a chemistry department ambassador, organizing social and career-related events. As chair of the student government’s committee for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, she organized events to promote STEM education and career preparation. Through the student organization Project Catalyst, Soliman introduced local elementary school students to science experiments.
2 p.m. Saturday: Student speaker — Eduardo “Eddie” Landicho of Springville, California, will be awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree in design and is in the first generation of his family to graduate from a four-year university. Landicho has a rare form of muscular dystrophy and has used a wheelchair since age 5. After earning two associate degrees at a community college, he transferred to UC Davis, where the Department of Design’s architecture curriculum allowed him to study how to make a better future for people with disabilities. Landicho participated in the department’s diversity, equity and inclusion committee and served as its student chair. He has showcased his projects for others and created a project proposal to make his department’s home building, Cruess Hall, a place with more radical forms of accessibility. Landicho gave a 2022 TEDx UC Davis Talk, in which he explained how design is the key to creating a sustainable, inclusive and equitable environment for those with disabilities.
9 a.m. Sunday: Student speaker — Karen Nguyen, from near Ceres, California, has earned a Bachelor of Science degree in neurobiology, physiology and behavior and is pursuing a career in dentistry. She served as president of the Pre-Dental Society at UC Davis and founded The Filling, which raises funds and donates supplies and volunteer services to provide oral health care for those in need. Through the UC Davis Health-Related Internship program, Nguyen got experience working in a dental office serving low-income patients. Nguyen also served on the board of two organizations, one that promotes student mental health, and Project Connect, which fosters service to build connections among students and other members of the Davis community.
2 p.m. Sunday: Student speaker — Genna Weinstein of Los Angeles is graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in international relations and African American and African studies with a minor in communication. Her experience at UC Davis has provided a good foundation for her intended career doing community outreach and advocacy for the University of California or a nonprofit or political advocacy group in K-12 education policy. Weinstein has supported communications for the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as well as the Quarter at Aggie Square program; worked in strategic communications during an internship at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law in Washington, D.C.; served as the chief of staff for a senator of the student government; and represented the university at high schools, universities and the state Capitol. She has served as an assistant director of Picnic Day and completed the 48 Aggie Traditions. Weinstein was also involved with Hillel House, the Archery Club and Pi Sigma Alpha, a political science honor society.