2024 Convocation Student SPeaker: Dua Azhar

May 2, 2024

Above: Dua Azhar (left) with Swoop (Buteo jamaicensis) dressed appropriately for the lab in PPE.

On May 2 physics graduate Dua Azhar spoke at the College of Science's 2024 convocation ceremony staged at the Huntsman Center. Her complete remarks are below.

Thank you, Dean Bandarian for the introduction. I am honored to speak today before the deans, faculty, family and friends, and of course Class of 2024, congratulations!

We’re all here today because of our love for the sciences. I know I've always been drawn to the mysteries of the natural world, from the universe to the human brain, all the way down to quantum mechanics. That rush of excitement and ideas that comes when reaching towards that you don’t understand keeps me motivated. So, it would make sense that I am here today graduating with a degree in physics. But if you told high school me I’d be doing that, I’d probably burst out laughing.

What I’ve learned these past few years is that there is a caveat to deciphering these mysteries because, as Cillian Murphy’s character says in the film Oppenheimer, “theory will take you only so far.” You see, in quantum mechanics, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle states that it’s impossible to know all information about a particle. If you think this drives scientists crazy, you’re absolutely right. The past four years for all of us have also been filled with uncertainty, and I don’t know about you, but I also went a bit crazy. Yet, I and all of you are here today to celebrate the chances we took and the perseverance through the uncertainties that have come with this journey.

Dua Azhar gives student speech at 2024 Convocation.

For many of us here today, this is our first proper graduation – the last time we gathered for graduation, it was on Zoom and in parking lots. The global pandemic also didn’t stop after those make-do send-offs. However, we all decided to continue our educational journeys despite that uncertainty. Like many of you, I struggled during that time. Despite the difficulties, it was also beautiful because we came together to help each other push through it all. I know for a fact that I would not have been able to go through that time without the mentorship and support of the faculty, who went out of their way to not only accommodate all of us but also provide individual support, in and outside of classes. For example, while I was uncertain about my studies, it was because of the faculty and the college’s resources that I was able to forge my educational path, combining my interests in neuroscience with physics. I know many of you could share similar stories, because together, we persevered through uncertain times to reach this day.

And we didn’t get here alone. We all have loved ones that have supported us and set us on our paths. In my case, I cannot take credit for any of this without acknowledging the uncertainties my parents faced as immigrants. Exactly 30 years ago, being one of the few Pakistanis in Utah at the time, my father graduated from the U in mechanical engineering. His studies and career path influenced my own, and it was through both of my parent’s sacrifices in adapting to a new country that I am here today.

Watching my parents and the talented individuals around me, I have learned the value of taking chances amidst uncertainty. My parents took a chance for a better opportunity for our family. WE all took the crazy chance to go to college during a pandemic! And I took a chance on the sublime complexity that is physics.

As we leave here today, we’ll be entering anew into a world that is now especially uncertain and scary. But we can come together again to push through it. Some of us graduates might not know where we will go next, but there is a beauty to that uncertainty. It will bring the excitement, the collaboration, and the knowledge needed for us, together, to solve the problems and mysteries that keep us up at night. So sure, theory might only take you so far, but theorize anyway. Then take a chance, because you won’t know until you try.

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