Miji Um, a PhD student in the Clinical Psychology program, was one of two students recently recognized with The University Distinguished Master’s Thesis Award. Mawla Boaks, a former student in the Electrical and Computer Engineering program, was the other recipient.
Um’s thesis is entitled “Resting-state neural circuit correlates of negative urgency: A comparison between tobacco users and non-tobacco users.” Negative urgency is an impulsivity trait describing a tendency to act rashly under extreme negative emotions and is strongly related to tobacco use. However, smoking cessation strategies have been unsuccessful in initial quitting and continued abstinence. Given the strong association between negative urgency and tobacco use, she chose this topic to identify preliminary brain-based targets for negative urgency that may provide a novel avenue to design and test innovative pharmacological or physiological interventions to assist tobacco cessation efforts.
IUPUI faculty who reviewed Um’s thesis commented on sophistication of the writing, quality of work, her attention to detail on par with a more advanced doctoral student, her extraordinary efforts in gaining proficiency in MRI analysis, and her independence in reviewing the literature and data analysis. Um’s work has been presented at 17 meetings and conferences including state and national meetings focus on tobacco use and smoking. She is also a co-author on 12 published manuscripts including a first author book chapter related to her thesis.
Um’s mentor wrote: “Sometimes I had to remind myself that this was Ms. Um’s thesis and not her dissertation! She completed this study in less than a year, which is quite impressive, given the amount of work the project required and the sophisticated nature of the analyses and interpretation of the data.”
Um’s career goal is to become an independent academic researcher, investigating the behavioral and neuroscientific evidence underlying emotion-based impulsivity, and leveraging this evidence to develop intervention strategies for substance use disorders that directly target emotion-based impulsivity. Um has received a competitive F31 predoctoral research training fellowship from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to support her dissertation research that examines the relationship between positive urgency and alcohol-related risk-taking using alcohol administration and emotion induction methods as well as complex whole-brain connectomic analyses using resting-state fMRI data.
Boaks' thesis is entitled “Density Functional Theory (DFT) Study of Hydrogen Storage in Porous Silicon.” Boaks' research and thesis focus on the movement of hydrogen from a gas phase to a solid on catalytically modified porous silicon as a means of energy storage and transmission. Boaks discovered that a small cluster of palladium atoms applied to a nano-scale silicon matrix, can mediate hydrogen phase transition and storage. His laboratory work was dependent on many hours of computational analysis using our institutional Big Red II computer, but as pointed out by his thesis mentor – time well spent given the magnitude of his discoveries. Boaks' thesis studies have led to 3 patents and a grant to his mentor from the National Science Foundation. His mentor and several of his committee commented in their nomination on the clarity of his thesis and that the thesis is currently being avidly read by other students and scholars working to extend this novel technology.
IUPUI faculty who reviewed Boaks' thesis commented on the importance of his laboratory studies as well as his unique application of computational analysis using Density Functional Theory to examine a 3D structure. They noted the high quality of his work, the clarity of explanations allowing easy interpretation by others, and real world applications of his discoveries documented in the thesis. A faculty member commented that “This research is vitally important to the next generation of solid state devices and energy storage systems.”
After graduating, Boaks moved to Utah to pursue a PhD at Brigham Young University. His current research focus is on 3D printed microfluidics. After obtaining his PhD, he intends to do research as his full-time job and will look for a job in R&D as a research scientist.
Previous Award Winners
Janice Miller, a former IUPUI graduate student from the Department of History in the School of Liberal Arts was recently recognized with The University Graduate School Distinguished Master’s Thesis Award. Every year, each degree granting program of The University Graduate School may nominate one “truly outstanding” Master’s thesis for consideration by a committee of faculty reviewers. Annually, only two recipients are selected for this prestigious award from among the many IU and IUPUI students nominated.
Miller completed her MA in History at IUPUI in September 2016 with her thesis entitled “In Brighter Colors: Fauvist Influences and Gender Politics in the Art of Gabriele Münter.” She chose this topic “to highlight the career of a female German Expressionist artist, Gabriele Münter (1877-1962), who has been largely underrepresented in art historical discourse. As is so often the case with women artists, Münter's artistic endeavors had remained eclipsed by those of her companion, Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky,” said Miller.
IUPUI faculty who reviewed Miller’s thesis commented on the excellent organization, syntax, grammar and spelling within the document. One noted that: [The thesis] “is interdisciplinary in focus, equally a work of art history as well as cultural and intellectual history.” A member of Miller’s research advisory committee commented, “Ms. Miller dedicated herself to her Master’s research with an extraordinary level of commitment - a dedication that one would expect more of a doctoral candidate than a Master’s student.” One of Miller’s committee members is encouraging Janice to write a book based on sections of her thesis and indicates in a letter that this will require little revision. This faculty member also writes: “I truly believe this research merits a wider audience and would attract a readership.”
Miller said her research changed drastically when she made the crucial observation that Gabriele Münter's Expressionist work aligns very closely with the style of the French Fauves, a concurrent artistic movement led by Henri Matisse.
“This stylistic plurality demonstrates Münter's skillful judgment and reinterpretation of artistic movements beyond Germany. Together with my thesis advisor, Dr. Kevin C. Robbins, I embarked on an ambitious project to prove that Münter was not only an exceptional German Expressionist, but also the finest female German Fauve operating in early twentieth-century Europe. It is my hope that this reinvestigation of Münter's extensive oeuvre will prompt scholars to revisit the creative output of twentieth-century female artists,” Miller stated.
As a result of the award, Miller was chosen as The University Graduate School’s nominee from IUPUI for the Midwest Association of Graduate Schools 2018 Distinguished Master’s Thesis Awards. The 74th annual conference will be held from April 4-6 in Grand Rapids, Michigan next year. Miller will also present her research on Gabriele Münter at the 2018 American Historical Association Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.
Miller received her bachelor’s degree from IUPUI within the Herron School of Art and Design. She is currently teaching German Expressionism and Art History courses as an adjunct faculty member in the Herron School. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. but will first take a break from student life to pursue research and professional opportunities.
Abby Curtin Teare
Curtin Teare’s thesis, “Rethinking Landscape Interpretation: Form, Function, and Meaning of the Garfield Farm, 1876-1905”, stood out for its “depth of research, creativity, and sophistication,” according to one of her thesis committee reviewers.
Another reviewer wrote, “Abby Curtin has demonstrated how a thorough collection of historic documents related to the political, social, and agricultural history of one Midwestern farm and its family presents an opportunity to share with the general public... an important chapter in American history when farms become suburbs.”
Curtin Teare said the history program prepared her well for her current role as Grants Manager at the Cleveland History Center. “IUPUI's public history program gave me rigorous training in academic history as well as practical experience working for two public history institutions in Indianapolis. I've found that the research, writing, and project management skills I used to balance my studies and my internship schedule has prepared me for my current position, which requires me to manage the museum's grants calendar and write proposals and reports.”
Karim (right) with Nobel Prize Winner Mohammed Yunus at an International Poverty Conference in Washington D.C. Karim received a travel grant to speak about his work in Indonesia, as well as about his research on homelessness in Indianapolis.
Karim’s thesis, “Leaving the Bridge, Passing the Shelters: Understanding Homeless Activism Through Utilization of Spaces with the Central Public Library and the IUPUI Library in Indianapolis”, ranks as “among the best I have read, and in most respects, it rises to the level of a doctoral dissertation,” according to Karim’s thesis committee chair.
Another member of Karin’s thesis committee wrote, “As an applied anthropologist Karim has provided a rich body of ethnographic data that can be used by a wide range of professionals, such as policy-makers and non-governmental organizations, as they move forward to create more relevant and sensitive programs for homeless populations at the local, regional and national levels.”
Karim explained his work on the thesis “equipped me with valuable experience doing ethnographic research about homeless activism in the City of Indianapolis; this experience has given me a new perspective on poverty and inequality in a more global context.”
Karim is currently an associate planner in the Directorate of Poverty Reduction, the Ministry of National Development Planning (Bappenas) in the Republic of Indonesia.
In choosing winners, the committee considers such criteria as originality, documentation, significance, accuracy, organization and style. To be eligible for the award, nominees must have received their master’s degree between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015. Each winner received a $1,500 stipend and will be recognized at an April 11, 2016 awards reception.