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 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.

Viral Shah, who earned his Ph.D. in molecular physiology and biophysics in 2017, has been awarded the 2017 D.C. Spriestersbach Prize in the Biological and Life Sciences category.

Shah's dissertation uncovered cell surface transport proteins that contribute to proton and bicarbonate secretion in the lung.

John Eicher, who received his doctorate in history in 2015, won the 2017 Spriestersbach Prize in the Humanities and Fine Arts.

Eicher's dissertation centered on two German-speaking Mennonite communities' use of their
German identity in maintaining internal cohesion and in dealing with governments.

In 2018, two D.C. Spriestersbach Prizes will be awarded – one in Mathematical and Physical Sciences and Engineering and one in the Social Sciences.

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, 2016 and June 30, 2018.

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.

Recipients 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, an award certificate, and a copy of Spriestersbach's book, "The Way It Was."


Nominations for the 2018 award are due June 6, 2018.

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.