2015 Top Grads

SJSU President Mohammad Qayoumi will recognize this year’s top graduates at Commencement, which begins at 9:30 a.m. May 23, 2015.

Marc Ryan Gancayco and Tristan Pulliam have been named SJSU’s 2015 Outstanding Graduating Seniors for their leadership roles on and off campus, contributions to the community, and personal contributions as undergraduates. Sarah Aghazadeh and Chris Keith are the 2015 Outstanding Thesis Award recipients, in recognition of their quality level of research.

Kevin Knockenhauer took this photo of Gancayco at MIT, where he researched the nuclear pore complex (NPC) using x-ray crystallography.

Photo: Kevin Knockenhauer took this photo of Gancayco at MIT, where he researched the nuclear pore complex (NPC) using x-ray crystallography.

Marc Ryan Gancayco

Marc Ryan Gancayco will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry (biochemistry concentration). He always admired Bill Nye the Science Guy, so he took chemistry and physics at SJSU to prove that he too could be a scientist.Although no one in his family works in science, technology, engineering or mathematics, Gancayco fell in love with chemistry because it explained intimate details about biological processes.

He graduates with a 3.845 GPA. Among other awards, he received fellowships from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) Graduate College and the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program. Although he received offers from Columbia and Cornell, Gancayco will pursue a doctorate in chemical biology at UIUC, where his graduate expenses will be covered by three prestigious fellowships.
“SJSU has given me the training to stand alongside the best researchers in my field. I hope my research scientist training will help me increase scientific literacy in our society.”


Photo: Jared Gochuico

Photo: Jared Gochuico

Tristan Pulliam

Tristan Pulliam will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in biological science (systems physiology concentration). He started as a film major at SJSU, but a fraternity friend introduced him to the College of Science, where he has finished with a 3.883 GPA.

Pulliam was awarded five scholarships and held several jobs on campus, but is most proud of being a science mentor and teacher. “It has brought me a great sense of joy to see the smiles on students’ faces upon understanding difficult concepts,” he says. Pulliam says that his “love for academics and helping those in need will surely endure beyond graduation.” He is applying to medical school and plans to focus on endocrinology, as he is interested in the role that hormones play in body tissues.
“There is always time to change your habits and become the person you want to be. I’m not special. I just happened to find my passion in life, and I’ve met hundreds of amazing SJSU students who have faced far more adversity, yet have the grit to attend classes every day and earn their degrees.”



Photo: William J. Reckmeyer

Sarah Aghazadeh

Sarah Aghazadeh will graduate with a master’s degree in interdisciplinary studies. She didn’t realize the true weight of her good grades until she was selected to represent SJSU in the 2010 Panetta Institute Congressional Internship Program, which gave her a “heightened desire to make a positive difference.”

After graduating summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in public relations and political science minor, she was a teaching assistant during her interdisciplinary studies master’s program. She participated as an SJSU Salzburg Scholar, which furthered her interest in communication, globalization and her Iranian heritage, and inspired her award-winning thesis “Public Diplomacy for a Global World: The United States and Iran.” Aghazadeh also trains Olympic-style weightlifting and plans to pursue either a doctorate or a policy and communication position.
“I had felt a lack of connection, but also a sense of responsibility, to both my Iranian and American heritages. I was constantly straddling these two cultures that had a tense relationship.”



Photo: A.J. Tyler

Chris Keith

Chris Keith will graduate with a master’s degree in applied anthropology. He earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology at SJSU before beginning a graduate program, where he specialized in archaeology and osteology. For his thesis, “The Excavation and Analysis of Prehistoric Caribbean Remains: A Bioarchaeological Case Study of a Prehistoric Female from Nevis, West Indies,” he researched the complex history of the prehistoric Caribbean settlements, migrations and ethnographies.

Keith has received many accolades, including the College of Social Sciences scholarship, the Veechi Scholarship for Native American Studies, the Register of Professional Archeologist’s Award for Excellence in the Field, and an Institute of Advanced Caribbean Studies scholarship, and was a member of the Lambda Alpha National Anthropological Fraternity.
“San Jose State inspired my passion for history and for learning to use archeology and osteology to reconstruct how people lived in the distant past.”

Jody Ulate

Jody Ulate, '05 MA English, is editor of the Washington Square blog and printed alumni magazine.

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