LAWRENCE — Two doctoral candidates and one faculty member received honors during the 2023 Doctoral Hooding Ceremony at the University of Kansas.
“I am extremely proud to recognize these three individuals for their contributions to scholarship and to the campus community. The caliber of KU’s doctoral students and the graduate faculty is outstanding,” said Jen Roberts, vice provost for academic affairs and graduate studies. “The Argersinger Awards do more than acknowledge the demanding work that goes into our students’ research. They recognize curiosity, creative approaches, tenacity and excellence. Our Byrd Award for faculty is a testament to our faculty’s compassion, their excellence as mentors and to the incredible professional relationships we develop with graduate students. These three are great examples of KU’s excellence found across all our campuses.”
Argersinger Dissertation Awards
Each year, KU faculty members nominate outstanding doctoral dissertations to be considered for the Marnie and Bill Argersinger Dissertation Award. Two awards are presented, one for the fields of natural and physical sciences, technology, engineering and math; the other for the fields of social sciences, education, humanities, music and the arts.
Jonathan Enders, who completed his studies in neurosciences this spring at KU Medical Center, received the award for the fields of natural and physical sciences, technology, engineering and math, for his work “Mechanisms of Analgesia by a Ketogenic Diet.”
Enders’ research focused on diabetic neuropathy, which leads to sensory dysfunction, loss of sensation in the limbs, pain and poor coordination, and ultimately, diminishing quality of life. Enders was able to show that following a ketogenic diet can prevent and reverse nearly all biomarkers of diabetic neuropathy, including stimulation of new axon growth and reductions in pain. He was able to identify new underlying mechanisms by which elevated ketones can act at the cellular level to prevent and reverse nerve damage caused by diabetes.
His nominators, faculty members Douglas Wright and Julie Christianson, stressed that this research identified two new mechanisms that add to the growing understanding of ketone metabolism. Further, the ability to reverse nerve damage is rare in this field. His research pinpoints this form of dietary intervention as a candidate to translate into clinical trials and clinical treatment of diabetic neuropathy.
Enders’ work has already been recognized multiple times. His research has been disseminated into numerous first-author publications in the journal Pain, one of the most prestigious journals in the field.
Enders is currently finishing projects at KU Medical Center through June. He will then begin a postdoctoral fellowship at the Medical College of Wisconsin. He plans to continue the study of pain, especially following chemotherapy treatments. His long-term goal is to remain in academia and eventually establish his own neuroscience research laboratory.
Brian Trump, a doctoral graduate in history, received the Argersinger award for the fields of social sciences, education, humanities, music and the arts, for his work “Sex Crimes and Criminal Sexuality: Legislating and Policing Community Boundaries in Nebraska, 1880-1980.”
His dissertation combines extensive legal history, social history and the growing body of scholarship on gender and sexuality in the American West. It analyzes a broad range of sexual offenses prosecuted in Nebraska over a 100-year period of rapid and deeply felt social change.
Trump’s initial broad focus was narrowed to just a single state — Nebraska — and to focus on sex crimes, which he approached through records on policing, criminal charges, trials and the courts from 1880 to 1980. He researched individual cases in local newspapers and positioned his work in the context of broader changes to the criminal code at the state level, changes which he also puts into a national context.
In this work, Trump argues that sex crime prosecutions and their subsequent coverage in the Nebraska press both reflected and reinforced hierarchies of race, class, gender and mobility at the local and state level.
His nominator Beth Bailey, wrote, “Brian traces the ways in which sex crime prosecutions reveal the distinctions that communities drew between insiders and outsiders, between those who belonged and those at the margins of society, and between those who were deemed worthy of legal protection and those from whom communities claimed they needed protection.
Trump is currently an editorial specialist with the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition at the Kentucky Historical Society.
Byrd Graduate Educator Award
The university also awarded the Louise Byrd Graduate Educator Award to Phillip Drake, associate professor of English. The award is named in honor of the late secretary of the KU graduate school and of the graduate council. Byrd was noted for her deep concern for the welfare of graduate students.
Drake is an award-winning scholar who has been with the university since 2014. His scholarship crosses boundaries and connects diverse topics such as environmental literature, science and technology, cultural studies, animal studies, political ecology and science fiction. Drake has a history of service in his department, in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and at the university. He was named the Department of English director of graduate studies in 2019, shortly before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
His nomination contained numerous testimonials of his humanity and the appreciation the graduate students felt for his mentorship and empathetic interaction with them. At a time when graduate students are typically learning the art and science of teaching, the pandemic required re-envisioning the classtime experience and navigating the unprecedented levels of disengagement that many students felt. Drake was praised as an adviser and advocate who sought out support and resources so all students, and graduate students in particular, could succeed in their goals.
In the nomination, Drake was recognized for his proactive approach to improving the graduate program within the English department and his leadership of several changes. Numerous supporting letters praised his skill at advising, mentoring and connecting graduate students with others and with support.
KU’s Marnie and Bill Argersinger Dissertation Awards were created in 1992 through the generosity of the former vice chancellor of research and graduate studies and dean of the graduate school, William Argersinger Jr., his wife, Marnie, and their friends. The Louise Byrd Graduate Educator Award was established in 1984. Both awards are made possible through KU Endowment.