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University of Iowa News Release


March 30, 2007

UI Graduate College Awards Dissertation Prizes

The University of Iowa Graduate College has awarded its most prestigious dissertation prizes, the D.C. Spriestersbach Dissertation Prize, the Dean's Distinguished Dissertation Award, and the L.B. Sims Outstanding Master's Thesis Award.

Five scholars will be formally recognized for their research accomplishments as graduate students today at a ceremony on the UI campus. The event will be held in conjunction with the James F. Jakobsen Graduate Research Conference organized by the Graduate Student Senate.

Four award recipients will be honored for exemplary doctoral research. Katherine Boris Dernbach (anthropology) and Marius Vasile Ionescu (mathematics) will receive top doctoral honors with the D.C. Spriestersbach Dissertation Prize. Each will receive $2500 along with a Graduate College award certificate. The dissertations of Phyllis L. F. Rippeyoung (sociology) and Lijing Gou (chemical and biochemical engineering) will be honored with the Graduate College Dean's Distinguished Dissertation Award.

One award recipient will receive honors for exemplary master's research. Chandramouli Krishnan (physical therapy and rehabilitation science) will receive top master's honors with the L.B. Sims Outstanding Master's Thesis Award. He will receive a $500 honorarium and a certificate from the Graduate College.

Dernbach, who earned her doctorate in anthropology in 2005, won the Spriestersbach Prize in the social sciences for her dissertation, "Popular Religion: A Cultural and Historical Study of Catholicism and Spirit Possession in Chuuk, Micronesia," supervised by Mac Marshall, professor emeritus of anthropology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) and professor of community and behavioral health in the College of Public Health.

Ionescu earned his doctorate in mathematics in 2005. He won the Spriestersbach Prize in mathematics, physical sciences and engineering for his dissertation, "C*-Algebras Associated with Mauldin-Williams Graphs," supervised by Paul S. Muhly, CLAS professor of mathematics. Ionescu is now the John Wesley Young research instructor in the Department of Mathematics at Dartmouth College.

Rippeyoung, who earned her doctorate in sociology in 2006, won the Graduate Dean's Distinguished Dissertation Award for her dissertation, "Is it Too Late Baby? Pinpointing the Emergence of a Black-White Test Score Gap in Infancy," supervised by Mary C. Noonan, assistant professor of sociology in the CLAS. Rippeyoung is now teaching sociology at Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo, Ontario. In July 2007, she will begin as Assistant Professor at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

Gou earned his doctorate in chemical and biochemical engineering in 2006. He won the Dean's Distinguished Dissertation Award for his dissertation, "Photochemical Method to Eliminate Oxygen Inhibition in Free-Radical Photopolymerization," supervised by Alec Scranton, associate dean and professor of chemical and biochemical engineering in the College of Engineering. Gou is currently employed as a research engineer at Micron Technology, Inc., a company that produces semiconductors for use in a broad range of products such as digital cameras, automotive navigation devices, and medical equipment.

Krishnan earned his master's degree in physical therapy and rehabilitation science in 2006. He won the L.B. Sims Award for his thesis, "Quadriceps and Hamstrings Muscle Control in Athletic Males and Females," supervised by Glenn Williams, assistant professor of physical therapy and rehabilitation science, professor of orthopaedics and rehabilitation (both in the Carver College of Medicine), and director of research for the UI Sports Medicine Center. Krishnan is currently pursuing a doctoral degree at the UI.

The Spriestersbach Prizes are awarded annually on a rotating basis in two of four broad disciplinary areas: humanities and the fine arts, mathematical and physical sciences, biological sciences, and social sciences. They were created by and are named for D.C. Spriestersbach, dean of the Graduate College from 1965-1989 and UI vice president emeritus for educational development and research. He founded a prize that he said might serve as tangible evidence -- as the "gold standard" -- of the outstanding work of which graduate students are capable and to which all others should aspire.

Winners of the Spriestersbach Prize also become the UI's nominees for the Council of Graduate Schools/University Microfilms International Distinguished Dissertation Award. Winners of the D.C. Spriestersbach Prize have fared exceptionally well in the national competition. Only Yale University, with four winners, has been recognized more often than the UI since the inauguration of the national competition in 1981. The UI, with three winners, is tied with Ohio State and Princeton. Ten other UI nominees have been finalists in the national competition

The Sims Award, also awarded annually, recognizes the excellent scholarship and research that is carried out by UI graduate students pursuing master's degrees. The award was established by Leslie B. Sims, who served as graduate college dean, associate provost for graduate education, and vice provost at the UI between 1991 and 2001. Sims went on to national-level work with the Council of Graduate Schools in Washington, D.C. as dean-in-residence from 2001 to 2006. Each year, the Sims Award winner becomes the UI's nomination for the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools Distinguished Thesis Award.

For more information about current and past dissertations award winners, as well as information about recognition for excellence in graduate education at the UI, visit For details on the Jakobsen Research Conference, visit

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: Nicole Riehl, 319-384-0070,; Writer: Jennifer Masada, 319-335-2815,