Suiting up for graduation, virtually

student wearing suit and tie in front of curtiss hallVishesh Bhatia had a suit tailor-made to wear to his graduation from the Iowa State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences this May. Sensible, lightweight grey wool. Modern, slim fit with a pop of color in the jacket lining – bright Kelly green.

Like many in the Class of 2020, the senior in genetics had big plans for graduation. His parents and grandparents were flying in from New Delhi, India. The trip was part of his parents’ 25th and his grandparents’ 50th anniversary celebrations.

Then, the world shut down.

Due to precautions to avoid the spread of COVID-19 Iowa State University commencement and department and college graduation ceremonies were canceled.

“Who would have known that it would all become just a dream?,” says Bhatia. “Who would have known that March 13 would be the last day for the Class of 2020 to walk on central campus as students.”

Bhatia is former vice president of ISU Student Government, served as a community adviser for the Department of Residence and chaired the International Student Advisory Board, in addition to conducting zebrafish research in the Department of Genetics, Development and Cell Biology. (Zebrafish are a useful species for genetics research aimed ultimately at new kinds of gene therapy treatments for animals and humans.)

Bhatia truly made the most of his Iowa State adventure.

He was looking forward to his moment to shine in front of thousands in Hilton Coliseum as the college’s convocation student speaker, and to stand with his classmates as the Class of 2020 tossed their hats at university commencement.

Bhatia did get to wear his suit, though under production lights and the gaze of a video camera.

Tune in on May 8 at 9 a.m. to hear Bhatia’s remarks as part of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences virtual convocation ceremony. The video celebration will be released on the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Facebook page then made available at

“Even though this has been an unprecedented time for students and supporters, it’s important to celebrate the achievements of this class,” he says. “And to offer thanks for the amazing faculty, staff and administration… We cannot thank them and our families enough for providing us with encouragement and support.”

Bhatia plans to wear his suit again this December when he joins others in the Class of 2020 in Fall semester graduation ceremonies at Iowa State. He’ll be on campus pursuing his Ph.D. in genetics. His career goals lie in studying nanovaccines and human genetics.