The D.C. Spriestersbach Dissertation Prize

The D.C. Spriestersbach Dissertation Prize was established to recognize excellence in doctoral research. Each year the winners of the D.C. Spriestersbach Dissertation Prize become the University of Iowa's nominee in the national competition for the Council of Graduate Schools/University Microfilms International Distinguished Dissertation Award.

D.C. Spriestersbach
D.C. Spriestersbach, former Graduate College Dean

Prizes are awarded annually in two of four broad disciplinary areas-Humanities and the Fine Arts, Mathematical and Physical Sciences and Engineering, Biological Sciences, and Social Sciences. The Graduate College, in turn, holds two D.C. Spriestersbach Prize competitions in the areas specified by the Council of Graduate Schools.

In 2015, two D.C. Spriestersbach Prizes will be awarded – one in Biological and Life Sciences and one in the Humanities and Fine Arts (see below for the list of eligible departments for 2015). Each department may nominate one candidate.

To be eligible, a student must have received the doctorate, or completed all doctoral degree requirements (includes having the final deposit of the dissertation cleared through the Graduate College) between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2015.

Nominees' dissertations should represent highly original work that is an unusually significant contribution to their fields. Subcommittees chosen by the Graduate College will review the nominations and select recipients of the prize. See a list of past winners and their dissertation titles.

Each departmental nomination must be submitted electronically to and include:

  • a brief letter of nomination from the DEO or DGS
  • an extended double-spaced abstract of the dissertation in PDF form not to exceed 10 pages
    • appendices containing non-textual material, such as charts or tables, may be included
    • this should approach the 10-page limit – do not submit the short abstract deposited with the dissertation.
    • pages should be numbered and each should bear the name of the nominee
  • an electronic copy of the dissertation in PDF form
  • a 3-page double-spaced dissertation summary in non-technical language, presenting the purpose, methods, and results of the research, and a clear statement of its significance within the discipline
  • an updated copy of the nominee's curriculum vitae

Nominees should also request three referees to submit letters evaluating the significance and quality of the dissertation work (Please include a list of names and contact information for references).

  • one of these letters is to be from the nominee's dissertation supervisor
  • another from a member of the nominee's dissertation committee
  • the third from a person of the nominee's choice
  • letters should be addressed to Daniel A. Berkowitz, Associate Dean, Graduate College, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa 52242. They may be submitted electronically to Kathy Klein Gerling (

All nomination materials must be received by the Graduate College no later than Thursday, July 2, 2015.

List of Eligible Departments for 2015 D.C. Spriestersbach Dissertation Prize

The following lists, although not all-inclusive, illustrate the fields to be considered in these disciplinary areas:

Biological/Life Sciences

  • Anatomy & Cell Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Biological Sciences (Biology, Botany)
  • Biostatistics
  • Epidemiology
  • Free Radical & Radiation Biology
  • Genetics
  • Immunology
  • Integrative Physiology
  • Microbiology
  • Molecular & Cellular Biology
  • Molecular Physiology & Biophysics
  • Neuroscience
  • Nursing
  • Occupational & Environmental Health
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacy (Pharmaceutics)
  • Physical Rehabilitation Sciences Psychology (Biopsychology)
  • Speech Pathology & Audiology
  • Translational Biomedicine

Humanities/Fine Arts

  • American Studies (humanities emphasis)
  • Art History
  • Classics
  • Communication Studies (humanities emphasis)
  • Cinema & Comparative Literature
  • English
  • French
  • German
  • History
  • Linguistics (humanities emphasis)
  • Music
  • Philosophy
  • Religious Studies
  • Second Language Acquisition
  • Spanish
  • Women's Studies (humanities emphasis)

Winners of the D.C. Spriestersbach Prize are honored in the spring at a special reception held in conjunction with the James F. Jakobsen Graduate Research Conference, organized by the Graduate Student Senate. At that time, winners are presented with $2500 along with an award certificate.

Winners of the D.C. Spriestersbach Prize have fared exceptionally well in the national competition. With five winners, Iowa has been recognized more times than any other public university since the inauguration of the national competition in 1981.

UI's national dissertation award winners

2008—Jessica Horst, Psychology
2007—Michael Chasar, English
1997—Susan Behrends Frank, Art History
1993—Matthew P. Anderson, Physiology & Biophysics
1984—David Lasocki, Music

Twelve other Iowa nominees have been finalists in the national competition. 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.

For questions regarding the competition, please contact Associate Dean Berkowitz at the Graduate College ( or 335-2136) or Kathy Klein Gerling ( or 335-3492).

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