Wednesday, February 4, 2009

UI tops Yale for number of best dissertations in the country

What does Press-Citizen Poetic License contributor Mike Chasar have in common with Jessica Horst, Susan Behrends Frank, Matthew Anderson, David Lasocki?

They are all winners of the University of Iowa’s best dissertation award — the D.C. Spriestersbach Dissertation Prize — who have gone on to win the nation’s top dissertation prize: the Council of Graduate Studies/UMI Distinguished Dissertation Award.

That means, for each of the years that they’ve graduated, each one has written the best dissertation in the nation in one of four broad fields — biological sciences; social sciences; mathematics, physical sciences and engineering; and humanities and fine arts.

When Chasar won last year — for his English dissertation, “Everyday Reading : U.S. Poetry and Popular Culture, 1880-1945” — he helped UI tie with Yale University as the school with the most Distinguished Dissertation Awards received in the entire country. Each school had received four awards.

This year, Jessica Horst — who won for her pediatric psychology dissertation, “Turning novel names into known names” — brought UI’s total to five and helped the university clinch one of the most difficult and most underappreciated titles in academia.

Frank won in 1997 with an Art History dissertation on collaborations between Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel. Anderson won in 1993 with a Physiology dissertation on the “Function and Regulation of the Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator.” And Lasocki won in 1984 with a Music dissertations that focused on “Professional Recorder Players in England, 1540-1740.”

In the past decade, UI also has had many finalists for the national dissertation prize — including Angela Hess, Anatomy and Cell Biology (2003); Michael Tavel Clarke, English (2003); Nathan William Brixius, Computer Science (2002); Christopher Otrok, Economics, (2000); Daryl A. Scott, Genetics (1999); Eric Griffin, English (1999); and Razvan Gelca, Mathematics (1998).

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