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 and Life 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, the D.C. Spriestersbach Prizes were awarded to Erin Peters in the humanities and fine arts and Karen Thompson in the Biological and Life Sciences. Read more about each scholar's award-winning research.

In 2016, two D.C. Spriestersbach Prizes will be awarded – one in Mathematical and Physical Sciences and Engineering and one in the Social Sciences (see below for the list of eligible departments for 2016). 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, 2014 and June 30, 2016.

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 Kathy Klein Gerling 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 references 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 Kathy Klein Gerling, Graduate College, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa 52242, and submitted electronically to Kathy Klein Gerling.

All nomination materials must be received by the Graduate College no later than Thursday, June 30, 2016.

List of Eligible Departments for 2016 D.C. Spriestersbach Dissertation Prize

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

Mathematical & Physical Sciences & Engineering

  • Applied Mathematical & Computational Sciences
  • Astronomy
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Chemical & Biochemical Engineering
  • Chemistry
  • Civil & Environmental Engineering
  • Computer Science
  • Electrical & Computer Engineering
  • Geoscience
  • Informatics
  • Industrial Engineering
  • Mathematics
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Physics
  • Statistics

Social Sciences

  • Anthropology
  • Economics
  • Geography
  • History
  • Political Science
  • Psychological & Brain Sciences
  • Social Work
  • Sociology

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 $2,500 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.

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