The D.C. Spriestersbach Dissertation Prize was established to recognize excellence in doctoral research. Each year, a winner of the D.C. Spriestersbach Dissertation Prize is eligible to 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

Spriestersbach 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.

Stephen McMillan, who earned his Ph.D. in Physics and Astronomy in 2020, has been awarded the 2022 D.C. Spriestersbach Prize in the Mathematical, Physical Sciences, and Engineering category.

Darcy Diesburg, who received her doctorate in Psychological and Brain Sciences in 2022, received the 2022 Spriestersbach Prize in the Social Sciences.

In 2023, two D.C. Spriestersbach Prizes will be awarded – one in the Biological and Life Sciences and one in the Humanities and Fine Arts.

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) during the period of July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2023.

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. 

Recipients of the D.C. Spriestersbach Prize are honored with a $2,500 award.

Nominations for the 2023 prize should be submitted online by May 25, 2023, and must include:

  • An abstract of the nominee's dissertation (not to exceed five double-spaced pages). Appendices containing other material, such as charts, tables, and/or references, may be included as additional pages (not to exceed five pages).
  • Three letters of recommendation evaluating the significance and quality of the nominee's dissertation work. One of these letters is to be from the nominee's dissertation supervisor, another from a member of the nominee's dissertation committee, and the third from a person of the nominee's choice.
  • The nominee's curriculum vitae (not to exceed five pages).
  • A three-page, double-spaced dissertation summary in non-technical language, presenting the purpose, methods, and results of the research, and a clear statement of its significance within the discipline.

Eligible Departments for 2023 D.C. Spriestersbach Dissertation Prize

The following lists, although not all-inclusive, illustrate the fields to be considered in these disciplinary areas:

Biological and Life Sciences

  • Anatomy and Cell Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Science Program
  • Free Radical and Radiation Biology
  • Genetics
  • Human Toxicology
  • Immunology
  • Integrated Biology
  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Physiology and Biophysics
  • Neuroscience
  • Pathology
  • Pharmacology

Humanities and Fine Arts

  • American Studies
  • Art History
  • Classics
  • Communication Studies
  • English
  • Film Studies
  • French and Francophone World Studies
  • German
  • Linguistics
  • Mass Communication
  • Music
  • Philosophy
  • Religious Studies
  • Second Language Acquisition


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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

Fifteen 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.