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Release: Immediate

Engel wins Spriestersbach Dissertation Prize in biological sciences

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Jeff Engel, who earned a doctorate in 1995 from the University of Iowa, has been awarded the 1997 D.C. Spriestersbach Dissertation Prize for excellence in doctoral research in the biological sciences. As the recipient of the UI Graduate Council's highly coveted prize, Engel will be presented with $2,500 and a certificate at a reception Wednesday, March 4.

Engel's award-winning dissertation is titled "Effects of Second Messenger and Excitability Mutations Upon Identified Neural Circuits Underlying Activity-dependent Plasticity of Behavior in Drosophila." His thesis advisor was Dr. Chun-Fang Wu.

Engel's work uses fruit flies to uncover how humans learn. "I'm interested in what makes us tick," Engel said. "Using fruit flies is a simple analog of high organisms. They are easy to work with and have pretty simple nervous systems, but their nerve cells are similar to ours."

He is currently a postdoctoral associate at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. In addition to his doctorate, Engel also earned a bachelor's degree in biology from the UI. While a doctoral student at the UI, he was a teaching assistant in biological sciences. He has published six articles in scholarly journals.

Engel is the son of Robert and Elizabeth Engel of Iowa City. His father is UI professor emeritus of planning, policy and leadership studies.

Funds for the D.C. Spriestersbach Dissertation Prize are provided by the UI Foundation. The prize is awarded annually in two of four broad disciplinary areas: humanities and fine arts, mathematical and physical sciences, social sciences, and biological sciences.

The award is named for D.C. Spriestersbach, UI vice president emeritus for educational development and research and former dean of the Graduate College. The competitive award requires "highly original work that is an unusually significant contribution to the nominee's field."

Winners of the Spriestersbach Prize also become the UI's nominee for the Council of Graduate Schools Dissertation Prize, a national award. Three UI doctoral recipients have won that national competition in recent years, including Susan Behrends Frank, art and art history, who was this year's Spriestersbach dissertation award winner in the humanities and fine arts. The UI is the only college or university with three national winners.