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Dissertations awarded Argersinger Prizes

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

LAWRENCE — Two doctoral graduates will be presented with the 2013 Marnie and Bill Argersinger Prize for outstanding doctoral dissertations at the annual Doctoral Hooding Ceremony at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, May 18, at the Lied Center of Kansas.

Anastasiia Aleksandrova, of Kansas City, Kan., will receive a doctorate in cell biology and anatomy and is being recognized for her outstanding work on vertebrate heart development. Her dissertation is titled “Tissue-Level Mechanisms Driving Cardiac Progenitor and Extracellular Matrix Movements During Early Vertebrate Heart Development.” According to Professor Dale Abrahamson, University Distinguished Professor in anatomy and cell biology, Aleksandrova’s research on the formation of the heart is "groundbreaking in both its conceptual underpinnings and the technical approaches used" and "will shape how investigators in the field think about how hearts form.” Aleksandrova will continue her research career with a postdoctoral position at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

Ryan Gibb, of Omaha, Neb., will receive a doctorate in political science. He is being recognized for his dissertation titled “The Politics of Land Reform in Uganda.” Mark Joslyn, associate professor of political science, described Gibb’s dissertation as a “first of its kind analysis of the political, economic and ethnic crises that fuel renegotiations in the relationship among people and their governments,” that “makes a significant and original contribution to the fields of political science, African studies, international studies, history and economics.” While completing his doctoral degree, Gibb received a Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowship for his study of Kiswahili. Gibb is in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.

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 Thomas Heilke, dean of Graduate Studies. “KU grants over 250 research doctoral degrees a year. Each department can nominate only one graduating doctoral candidate per year. Earning honors and being nominated for this award indicates 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 are listed by major and dissertation. Those in bold are in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

  • Shankar Agarwal, India: "PkANN: Non-Linear Matter Power Spectrum Interpolation through Artificial Neural Networks," physics and astronomy.
  • Norberto Baldi Salas, Costa Rica: "Genetic Structure and Biodemography of the Rama Amerindians from the Southern Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua," anthropology.
  • Brett Bricker, Lawrence: "A Rehetorical Investigation of Public Disbelief in Climate Science," communication studies.
  • Damayanti Chakraborty, India: "Natural Killer Cells, Hypoxia, and Epigenetic Regulation of Hemochorial Placentation," pathology and laboratory medicine.
  • Laci Gerhart-Barley, Hutchinson: "Glacial Tree Physiology: Using Stable Isotopes to Reconstruct Plant Response to Environmental Change Since the Last Glacial Period," ecology and evolutionary biology.
  • Skye Leedahl, Lawrence: "Older Adults in Nursing Homes: Assessing Relationships Between Multiple Constructs of Social Integration, Facility Characteristics, and Health," social welfare.
  • Erin Whitney Moore, Tucson, Ariz.: "Examining the Longitudinal Effects of the PE Class’ Climate on Students’ Goal Orientations and Intrinsic Motivation to be Physically Active," health, sport and exercise science.
  • Stephen Politzer-Ahles, Gambier, Ohio: "Psycholinguistic and Neurolinguistic Investigations of Scalar Implicature," linguistics.
  • Vaughn Scribner, Valley Center: "Imperial Pubs: British American Taverns as Spaces of Empire, 1700-1783," history.