Three students graduating this spring from the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering spoke at the college’s 2020 online graduation celebration, held on May 3. Jayla Bradley and Sylvester Kwo represented the students receiving their Bachelor of Science degrees in Engineering, while Yao Xiao represented those students receiving their Ph.D. degrees.
Jayla Bradley (B.S., ISE ’20)
Jayla Bradley was born in Key West, Florida, but considers herself a nomad. Jayla is from a military household, and she was frequently adapting to new things and lifestyles wherever in the world she was. The military lifestyle shaped her to be open minded, outgoing and resilient, and it allowed her to embrace her love for traveling. While living in Japan for four years, Jayla had the opportunity to experience the Japanese culture first hand. Returning to America for college, she became passionate about pursuing a degree where she could create optimal experiences for her community. At UF, Jayla chose Industrial and Systems Engineering as her major. In addition to her studies, Jayla interned with Northrop Grumman, The Walt Disney Company, and Accenture.
During her time at UF, Jayla also engaged in activities that prepared her to be a leader in her engineering career. She served as the President of the National Society of Black Engineers and as Vice President of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated. She also excelled at being an Engineering Ambassador – one of the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering students who proudly represent the college to inspire future Gator Engineers. Outside of school, Jayla has enjoyed traveling, performing, and serving her community, particularly, volunteering with children. Jayla is joining Accenture as a consulting analyst in Atlanta, Georgia upon graduation.
In her speech, Jayla talked about Words that You Speak. “Watch how you speak to yourself, it affects a lot more than you know,” Jayla says. To emphasize her point, she quoted Proverbs 18:21 (AMP) in the opening of her speech: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it and indulge it will eat its fruit and bear the consequences of their words.”
Sylvester Kwo (B.S., MAE ’20)
Sylvester Kwo joins the ranks of UF alumni as a graduate of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, with a minor in computer science. Sylvester is from Tampa, FL, where he graduated from Jesuit High School in 2015. During his five years at UF, Sylvester has interned twice at Lockheed Martin as a Systems Engineering intern and once at Northrop Grumman as an Industrial/Methods Engineering intern, working on technical defense projects at each internship. He also interned at SeaWorld Orlando as a College Experience Leadership intern, gaining experience as an operations team lead for the opening of the Mako roller coaster in the summer of 2016. This internship dovetailed closely with one of the highlights of his extracurricular activities – Sylvester was the founding vice president of the Gator Theme Park Engineering and Design Club, a professional student organization that facilitates projects and opportunities for engineering students in the themed entertainment industry.
On campus, Sylvester has been heavily involved with Gators Athletics, serving as an undergraduate recruiting assistant for Florida Gators Football, a public address announcer for Gators Men’s and Women’s Tennis, and as a student athlete tutor at the Hawkins Center for Academic and Personal Excellence. Starting in July, he will begin his professional career as a Systems Engineer at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control in Orlando, Florida.
In his speech, Sylvester talked about the well-roundedness of Gator Engineering graduates, saying, “While we Gators Engineers gain invaluable engineering knowledge during our academic studies, the abundance of opportunities available at the University of Florida has enabled us to continually step outside of our comfort zones and to work toward the Gator Standard, becoming the best versions of ourselves in every aspect of life. This emphasis on developing the entire individual, rather than on only developing technical skills, produces Gators Engineers who excel in leadership, communication, service, athletics, the arts, and a plethora of other intangible or non-technical areas.” His hope, Sylvester said, was to “inspire the Class of 2020 graduates to use their unique and well-rounded abilities, in conjunction with their engineering competencies, to leave a lasting imprint that extends far beyond the technical scope of engineering.”
Yao Xiao (Ph.D., BME, ’20)
Yao Xiao recently earned her Ph.D. degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Florida. She obtained her M.S. degree in computer science from Florida International University in 2016, and a B.E. degree in software engineering from Tianjin University in 2013. She will be a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center starting in the fall of 2020. Yao’s research interests lay in the fields of biomedical image analysis and computational health informatics. By using machine learning, deep learning, and computer vision techniques, her research goal is to provide more reliable, feasible, and affordable solutions toward disease diagnosis and treatment decisions.
Yao has 20 peer-reviewed publications in flagship journals, book chapters, leading conference proceedings, and conference abstracts. Yao has led or participated in over ten research projects since 2016. She also contributed in academic services and leadership, including performing peer reviews for nine journals and conferences, evaluating UF Graduate Student Council student travel grants, serving on the Department of Biomedical Engineering Graduate Student Council executive board, organizing lab journal clubs, and mentoring students.
Yao’s speech, From Zero to One, is focused on faith, the belief that “I can” and that “I will never give up.” She told of her experiences in pursuing her Ph.D. degree, moving from the “zero” state (not having her degree) to the “one” state (achieving her Ph.D.) through a strong belief in herself. “Every single step counts, every tiny effort counts, every tiny achievement counts,” Yao said. “We will meet more challenges as we begin our careers and live our lives. We need to believe in ourselves, believe that we can make it happen. Never give up.” She inspired the graduating Ph.D. students to understand that, no matter what difficulties arise in their journeys through life, they must always remember the faith and beliefs that helped them reach their goals.