Screen readers: Two navigational links to follow.Skip to site navigation.Skip to page content.
The University of Iowa News Services
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us

University of Iowa News Release


March 25, 2010

Graduate College awards top dissertation prizes

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

Seven scholars will be formally recognized for their exemplary research as graduate students on Friday, March 26, during a ceremony at the Senate Chamber of the Old Capitol. The event will be held in conjunction with the James F. Jakobsen Graduate Research Conference, organized by the Graduate Student Senate.

Adam Ziemann (molecular physiology and biophysics) and Samuel Graber (American studies) will receive top doctoral honors with the D.C. Spriestersbach Dissertation Prize. The award carries a $2,500 prize.

The dissertations of Carmen Halabi (genetics), Matthew Miller (English), Alok Shah (molecular and cellular biology) and Elizabeth Sutton (art history) will be honored with the Graduate College Deans' Distinguished Dissertation Award.

Susan McKernan (dental public health) won the L.B. Sims Outstanding Master's Thesis Award.

The Spriestersbach Prizes are awarded annually on a rotating basis in two of four broad disciplinary areas: humanities and fine arts, mathematical and physical sciences, biological and life sciences, and social sciences. They are named for D.C. Spriestersbach, dean of the Graduate College from 1965-1989.

Ziemann, who earned his M.D. and Ph.D. in molecular physiology and biophysics in 2009, won the Spriestersbach Prize in biological and life sciences for his dissertation, "Effects of Low pH on Seizures and Fear: A Critical Role for Acid-Sensing Ion Channels." Ziemann's work also was honored with a first runner-up distinction in the Council of Graduate Schools CGS/UMI Distinguished Dissertation Award competition for 2009. This is the nation's most prestigious honor for doctoral dissertations. Ziemann is in the residency program in internal medicine at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

Graber, who earned his doctorate in American studies in 2008, won the Spriestersbach Prize in humanities and fine arts for his dissertation, "Twice-Divided Nation: The Civil War and National Memory in the Transatlantic World." Graber currently is a lecturer in humanities and English at Christ College at Valparaiso University.

Halabi and Shah each won the Graduate Deans' Distinguished Dissertation Award in biological and life sciences.

Halabi, who earned an M.D. and Ph.D. in genetics in 2009, was recognized for her dissertation, "Interference with Peroxisome Proliferator Activated Receptor Gamma Function in Smooth Muscle Causes Vascular Dysfunction and Hypertension." She is currently an intern in the pediatric residency program at the St. Louis Children's Hospital.

Shah, who earned his doctorate in molecular and cellular biology in 2009, won for his dissertation, "Structural Maintenance and Chemosensory Function of Human Airway Motile Cilia." Shah is a postdoctoral associate in mammalian cell biology and development at Rockefeller University in New York.

Miller and Sutton both received the Graduate Deans' Distinguished Dissertation Award in humanities and fine arts.

Miller, who earned his doctorate in English in 2007, was honored for his dissertation, "Collage of Myself: The Making of Leaves of Grass." He is an assistant professor of English at the Stern College for Women at Yeshiva University in New York.

Sutton, who earned her doctorate in art history in 2009, won for her dissertation, "Economics, Ethnography, and Empire: The Illustrated Travel Series of Cornelis Claesz, 1598-1603." Sutton currently is a visiting professor of art history at the University of Northern Iowa.

McKernan, who received her master's degree in dental public health in 2009 and is a postdoctoral research fellow in the UI College of Dentistry, won the L.B. Sims Award for her thesis, "Modeling State Dentist Workforce Using County-Level Population Data."

For details on the Jakobsen Conference, visit

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Graduate College Office of External Relations, 205 Gilmore Hall, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: John Riehl, 319-384-1309,