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Dissertations awarded Argersinger Prizes

Wed, 05/14/2014

LAWRENCE — Two doctoral graduates will be presented with the 2014 Marnie and Bill Argersinger Prize for outstanding doctoral dissertations at the annual Doctoral Hooding Ceremony at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, May 17, in the Lied Center.

Randall Logan is receiving a doctorate in pharmaceutical chemistry and will be recognized for his work on understanding why a standard dose of a drug will lead to a range of effects in a diverse patient population. His dissertation, titled “Studies on the Mechanisms and Consequences of Drug-induced Perturbations of Lysosomal Structure and Function,” presents a step forward in explaining variability in patient response to drugs. While previous research focused on metabolism, Logan uncovered the significant role that lysosomes play in how a patient reacts to a drug. According to Professor Jeffrey Krise, who also received the Argersinger award in 1998, several of Logan’s dissertation committee members commented that “this was the best dissertation I had ever seen.” Because of the significance of his findings, Logan received widespread interest from scientists in the pharmaceutical industry, academia and the FDA, and he eventually accepted a position at Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Christopher Robinson is receiving a doctorate in American studies and will be recognized for his dissertation, titled “Firing the Canon: Multiple Insularities in Jazz Criticism.” A study of how “jazz critics imbue and narrate value to their objects of study,” Robinson’s research investigates the ways in which a “canon” of superior artwork is established, a process that occurs within and against the constraints of markets, genres and politics. Professor Sherrie Tucker said that Robinson’s scholarship has the “potential to influence scholarship not only in jazz studies and cultural criticism, but in other fields such as literary studies, film studies, historical musicology, popular culture studies and cultural studies —fields that grapple with…who gets to judge aesthetic value.” A longtime writer for DownBeat, a prominent jazz magazine, Robinson holds a certificate in women, gender and sexuality studies and has accepted a position at Duke University Press.

All of the dissertations nominated were defended with honors, the highest mark given to a dissertation defense.

“In a typical academic year, less than ten percent of all the dissertations defended at KU earn honors,” said Michael C. Roberts, dean of Graduate Studies. “KU grants over 250 research doctoral degrees a year. Each department can only nominate 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 with department and dissertation title.

Sommer L. Amundsen, bioengineering, “Brain Control of Muscles and Movement: Synergies and Kinematics Resulting from Stimulation Applied to the Forelimb Representation of Primary Motor Cortex of Rhesus Macaques.”

D. Joseph Cunningham, Germanic languages and literatures, “The Development of Pragmatic Competence through Telecollaboration: An Analysis of Requesting Behavior.”

Steven R. Davis, ecology and evolutionary biology, “Morphology, Phylogeny, and Evolutionary Development in the Weevils (Insecta: Coleoptera: Curculionoidea).”

Phillip D. Fox, history, “The Bourbon Reform of Spanish Absolutism: The Government of the Crown of Aragon, 1665-1746.”

Stephanie L. Kozak, geography, “From Section 8 to Starbucks: The Effects of Gentrification on Affordable Housing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.”

Randall L. Logan, pharmaceutical chemistry, “Studies on the Mechanisms and Consequences of Drug-induced Perturbations of Lysosomal Structure and Function.”

Ann Marie Martinez, English, “The Medieval Green Age: Environmentalism and English Literature in the Middle Ages.”

Hashim F. Motiwala, medicinal chemistry, “Catalysis of Intra- and Intermolecular Schmidt Reactions; Copper-Catalyzed Oxaziridine-Mediated C–H Bond Oxidation; Synthesis and Cytotoxic Evaluation of Withalongolide A Analogues.”

Christopher Robinson, American studies, “Firing the Canon: Multiple Insularities in Jazz Criticism.”

Erin E. Saupe, geology, “Integrating Ecology and Evolution in Deep Time: Using Ecological Niche Modeling to Study Species’ Evolutionary Responses to Climate from the Pliocene to the Present-day Biodiversity Crisis.”

Tiffany Suekama, chemical and petroleum engineering, “Engineering the Microstructure of Hydrogels to Achieve Enhanced Mechanical Properties.”

Zhenglun Wei, aerospace engineering, “Numerical and Theoretical Study of Flapping Airfoil Aerodynamics Using a Parallelized Immersed-Boundary Method.”



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