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.

Samuel Brensinger, who earned his Ph.D. in Applied Mathematical and Computational Sciences in 2020, has been awarded the 2020 D.C. Spriestersbach Prize in the Mathematical, Physical Sciences, and Engineering category. Brensinger's dissertation research focused on a theory of gravitation called projective gauge gravity. This theory seeks to answer longstanding questions about the nature of the gravitational force by modifying Einstein's theory of general relativity.

Alaine Reschke-Hernandez, who received her doctorate in Music Therapy in 2019, and Brett Bahle, who earned his doctorate in Psychological and Brain Sciences in 2019, shared the 2020 Spriestersbach Prize in the Social Sciences.

Reschke-Hernandez's dissertation centered the efficacy of structured music therapy for persons with Alzheimer’s disease. Bahle's thesis explain the nature and consequences of interactions between the many sources of guidance there are for determining where we look.

In 2021, two D.C. Spriestersbach Prizes will be awarded – one in the Humanities and Fine Arts and one in the Biological and Life Sciences.

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).

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 in the spring at a special reception held in conjunction with the James F. Jakobsen Graduate Research Conference, organized by the Graduate Student Senate. At that time, winners are presented with $2,500, an award certificate, and a copy of Spriestersbach's book, "The Way It Was."

Nominations for the 2021 prize should be submitted online by early June 2021 and must include:

  • a brief letter of nomination from the DEO or DGS
  • an extended double-spaced abstract of the dissertation in PDF form, not to exceed 10 pages
    • appendices containing non-textual material, such as charts or tables, may be included
    • this should approach the 10-page limit – do not submit the short abstract deposited with the dissertation.
    • pages should be numbered and each should bear the name of the nominee
  • a 3-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
  • an updated copy of the nominee's curriculum vitae, not to exceed 5 pages
  • an electronic copy of the dissertation in PDF form

Nominees should also request three references to submit letters evaluating the significance and quality of the dissertation work (Please include a list of names and contact information for references).

  • one of these letters is to be from the nominee's dissertation supervisor
  • another from a member of the nominee's dissertation committee
  • the third from a person of the nominee's choice

List of Eligible Departments for 2021 D.C. Spriestersbach Dissertation Prize

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

Humanities and Fine Arts

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

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

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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.