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Dissertations awarded Argersinger Prizes

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

LAWRENCE — Two doctoral graduates will be acknowledged for receiving the 2015 Marnie and Bill Argersinger Prize for outstanding doctoral dissertations at the annual Doctoral Hooding Ceremony at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, May 16, in the Lied Center.

Benjamin Rutt is receiving a doctorate in psychology and research in education, and he will be recognized for scholarship that addresses the treatment of military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). His dissertation, titled “The Effectiveness of Cognitive Processing Therapy and Prolonged Exposure in the Department of Veterans Affairs,” compared the success of two treatments for PTSD — cognitive processing therapy and prolonged exposure  delivered in individual therapy to veterans receiving services through the nationwide Veterans Affairs system.

According to Professor Thomas Krieshok, while “exceptionally well-written,” Rutt’s dissertation is one of the first “efforts to analyze the vast storehouse of data” collected on veterans’ mental health. Examining therapy approaches over time and across racial and ethnic categories, Rutt’s research is “one of the largest racial/ethnic group comparisons yet in the psychotherapy outcome research” and a significant step forward in evaluating the best approaches to therapy for veterans with PTSD. Currently completing an internship at the Washington, D.C. Veterans Affairs Medical Center, after graduation Rutt will continue his research as a postdoctoral fellow in their trauma recovery program. Rutt has also received the Outstanding Dissertation award from the School Education.

William Sanders is receiving a doctorate in mathematics and is recognized for his dissertation titled “Categorical and Homological Aspects of Module Theory over Commutative Rings.” Sanders’ research investigates a fundamental problem in mathematics and many sciences, understanding the solution sets to polynomial equations. Visualizing these equations through geometric representation is problematic because human beings can visually perceive only three dimensions. Sanders’ insight is to analyze these equations using algebraic structures and their symmetries and dualities.

Professor Milena Stanislavova remarks that Sanders “has been an exceptional student and scholar in every sense,” organizing seminars for fellow graduate students, performing outreach to elementary schools, giving invited lectures at other universities and publishing articles in prestigious journals. Already “in his very brief career, Sanders has the track record in research, teaching and service comparable to a tenured-track professor,” producing scholarship with “huge potential” for mathematics as well as computer science and physics. A rising star in his field, Sanders has accepted a postdoctoral research position at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim.

All of the dissertations nominated were defended with honors, the highest mark given to a dissertation defense. “In a typical academic year, less than 10 percent of all the dissertations defended at KU earn honors,” said Michael Roberts, dean of graduate studies. “KU has over 450 candidates for research doctoral degrees this year. Each department can only nominate one graduating doctoral candidate. Earning honors and being nominated for this award indicate a significant accomplishment at KU.”

The Argersinger Prize was established through KU Endowment in 1992 and is named in honor of William J. Argersinger and his wife. He was KU’s first vice chancellor for research and graduate studies and dean of the graduate school.

KU Endowment is the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management foundation for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.

All nominations for the Argersinger prize are listed with department and dissertation title.

Annaria Barnds, bioengineering, “Biomechanical Markers as Indicators of Postural Instability Progression in Parkinson’s Disease.”

Rachel Bloom, English, “Crossing Idiomas: Negotiating Translingual Rhetoric within Global Health Publics.”

Travis Cram, communication studies, “Rhetoric, World-view, and Strategy in United States National Security Strategy Documents.”

Leiqiu Hu, geography, “An Investigation of Remotely Sensed Urban Heat Island Climatology.”

Guoyi Ke, aerospace engineering, “Time Domain Simulation for Outdoor Sound Propagation Near the Ground Considering Various Barriers and Environmental Conditions.”

Daniel Noonan, physics & astronomy, “First Observation of the Production of a Single Top Quark in Association with a W Boson.”

Hannah Owens, ecology & evolutionary biology, “Modeling Species Distributions: Applications and Methods for Marine Biogeography and Conservation.”

April Rand, social welfare, “‘It’s a Marathon Not a Race’: Exiting the Commercial Sex Trade.”

Benjamin Rutt, psychology and research in education, “The Effectiveness of Cognitive Processing Therapy and Prolonged Exposure in the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

William Sanders, mathematics, “Categorical and Homological Aspects of Module Theory over Commutative Rings.”

John Shreve, American studies, “Transformation and Resilience at Shuri-Jo: Defining a Genome of Place.”

Meredith Trexler, philosophy, “Aesthetic Experience and Becoming Good: An Examination of the Connection Between Aesthetics and Ethics in Plato, Kant, and Iris Murdoch.”

Euna Yoo, medicinal chemistry, “Exploration of Toll-like Receptor 7 and 8 Agonists as Potential Vaccine Adjuvants.”