Commencement speakers headshots

WPI Announces 2022 Commencement Speakers

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, and NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan, PhD, to Deliver This Year’s Addresses.
Media Contact
April 04, 2022

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) today announced the names of speakers for its 2022 Commencement Ceremonies:

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH, will deliver the Undergraduate address on Saturday, May 14, at 10 a.m. on the campus quadrangle.
  • U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) Director Sethuraman Panchanathan, PhD will deliver the Graduate  address on Thursday, May 12, at 5 p.m. on the campus quadrangle.

    “Both Rochelle Walensky and Sethuraman Panchanathan are exemplars of the importance of science and engineering to our nation’s health, well-being, safety, innovation, and competitiveness, and this year’s graduates—and their friends and families—are certain to be inspired by these visionary Commencement speakers,” said WPI President Laurie Leshin.

    About Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH
    Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH, is the 19th Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and ninth Administrator of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. She oversees efforts to protect and improve the health and safety of United States citizens—and, by extension, the world—through critical research; information and education; and the control and prevention of disease, injury, and disability. Dr. Walensky is an influential scholar whose pioneering research helped advance the national and global response to HIV/AIDS; she is also one of the nation’s leading experts on virus testing, prevention, and treatment, and has served on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic both nationally and in Massachusetts, conducting research on vaccine delivery and strategies to reach underserved communities. She will receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree during the undergraduate ceremony.

    Dr. Walensky previously served as Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. She is a past Chair of the Office of AIDS Research Advisory Council at the National Institutes of Health and Chair-elect of the HIV Medical Association; she previously served as an advisor to both the World Health Organization and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS. Internationally recognized for her work to improve HIV screening and care in South Africa, she is nationally recognized for motivating health policy and informing clinical trial design and evaluation in a variety of settings. In July 2020 she joined WPI’s Medical Advisory Board and, along with other respected doctors and scientists, gave her time and expertise, scientific and medical insight, and advice to inform the critical work being done by the university’s Coronavirus Emergency Response Team to help manage the health challenges associated with COVID-19.

    Originally from Maryland, Walensky earned her Bachelor of Arts from Washington University in St. Louis, her Master’s in Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health, and her Doctor of Medicine from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

    About Sethuraman Panchanathan, PhD
    Sethuraman Panchanathan, PhD, is the 15th director of the U.S. National Science Foundation where he oversees the largest federal agency that supports research and education across all fields of science and engineering. He is a computer scientist and engineer who built a distinguished career in both higher education and government, having designed and built knowledge enterprises to advance research innovation, strategic partnerships, entrepreneurship, global development, and economic growth. His scientific contributions have advanced the areas of human-centered multimedia computing, haptic user interfaces, person-centered tools and ubiquitous computing technologies for enhancing the quality of life for individuals with different abilities; machine learning for multimedia applications; medical image processing; and media processor designs. He will receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree during the graduate ceremony.

    Panchanathan has served on the National Science Board, the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the Extreme Innovation Taskforce of the Global Federation of Competitiveness Councils, and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. He is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Canadian Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the Society of Optical Engineering. He has served as editor-in-chief of the IEEE Multimedia Magazine and as editor or associate editor for many other journals. He began his career at Arizona State University (ASU) and founded the Center for Cognitive Ubiquitous Computing (CUbiC); he founded and led the School of Computing and Informatics and the Department of Biomedical Informatics; and he was appointed ASU’s Chief of Research and Innovation. During his tenure, ASU’s research volume quintupled, and U.S. News and World Report named it Most Innovative University for five consecutive years.

    Born and raised in Chennai, India, Panchanathan earned a BSc in Physics from Vivekananda College (University of Madras); a BE in Electronics and Communication Engineering from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore; an MTech in Electrical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras; and a PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Ottawa, Canada.