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University of Iowa News Release


March 24, 2008

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 Graduate Dean's Distinguished Dissertation Award and the L.B. Sims Outstanding Masters Thesis Award.

Five scholars will be formally recognized for their research accomplishments as graduate students on Friday, March 28, at a ceremony on the UI campus. The event will be held in conjunction with the James F. Jakobsen Graduate Research Forum, organized by the Graduate Student Senate.

Four award recipients will be honored for exemplary doctoral research. Michael Chasar (English) and Michael Koenigs (neuroscience) will receive top doctoral honors with the D.C. Spriestersbach Dissertation Prize. Each will receive $2,500 along with a Graduate College award certificate. The dissertations of Kathryn M. Floyd (art and art history) and Katie L. Grinnell (anatomy and cell biology) will be honored with the Graduate College Dean's Distinguished Dissertation Award.

One award recipient will receive honors for exemplary master's research. Timothy M. Flanagan (physics and astronomy) 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.

Chasar, who earned his doctorate in English in 2007, won the Spriestersbach Prize in the humanities and fine arts for his dissertation, "Everyday Reading: U.S. Poetry and Popular Culture, 1880-1945," supervised by Adelaide Morris, professor of English. Chasar also won the nation's most prestigious honor for doctoral dissertations this year, the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS)/UMI Distinguished Dissertation Award. He is currently a visiting assistant professor of English at the UI.

Koenigs earned his doctorate in neuroscience in 2006. He won the Spriestersbach Prize in the biological and life sciences for his dissertation, "A Novel Role for Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex in Emotion and Decision-Making: Lesion Studies of Moral Judgment, Economic Choice, and Brand Preference," supervised by Daniel Tranel, professor of neurology. Koenigs is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

Floyd, having earned her doctorate in art and art history in 2006, won the Graduate Dean's Distinguished Dissertation Award in the humanities and fine arts for her dissertation, "Between Change and Continuity: Documenta (1955-2005)," supervised by Craig Adcock, professor of art and art history. Floyd is currently a visiting assistant professor at Skidmore College, Department of Art History in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Grinnell earned her doctorate in anatomy and cell biology in 2007. She won the Dean's Distinguished Dissertation Award in the biological and life sciences for her dissertation, "The Effect of OCT-4 on the Developmental Potential of Mouse Interfollicular Basal Keratinocytes," supervised by Jackie R. Bickenbach, professor of anatomy and cell biology. Grinnell is currently postdoctoral fellow at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Flanagan earned his master's degree in Physics and Astronomy in 2006. He won the L.B. Sims Award for his thesis, "Dust Release from Surfaces Exposed to Plasma," supervised by John Goree, professor of physics and astronomy. Flanagan 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 he hoped would "serve as tangible evidence -- as 'gold standards'-- 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 Spriestersbach Prize have fared exceptionally well in the national competition. Iowa, with four winners, is tied with Yale. Ohio State and Princeton rank next, with three winners each since the inauguration of the national competition in 1981. Ten other Iowa nominees have been finalists in the national competition. Graduate College Dean John Keller said the success of Iowa's candidates in the national competition is a tribute to the high standards of excellence met by doctoral research conducted at this university.

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, graduate college dean, associate provost for graduate education, and vice provost at the UI from 1991 through 2001. Sims went on to national-level work with the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) in Washington, D.C. (2001-06) as dean-in-residence. Each year, the Sims Award winner becomes the UI's nomination for the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools (MAGS) 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 regarding the Jakobsen Research Conference, visit

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

MEDIA CONTACTS: Nicole Riehl, University News Services, 319-384-0070,