The University Graduate School Distinguished Master's Thesis Award
The University Graduate School Distinguished Master's Thesis Award
Each degree granting program of The University Graduate School nominates one truly outstanding Master’s thesis from each category* for consideration by a committee of faculty reviewers for The University Graduate School Distinguished Master’s Thesis Award. The Awards Committee of the Graduate Faculty Council considers such criteria as originality, documentation, significance, accuracy, organization, and style. There are four awards of $1,500 each, two for Indiana University Bloomington and two for IUPUI.
*2022 categories are: 1) Mathematics, Physical Sciences and Engineering, 2) Social Sciences
2022 Award Recipients
Sheetal Prasanna and Danielle Abel were recently recognized with the 2022 award for IUPUI. Prasanna won in the mathematics, physical sciences, and engineering category (School of Engineering, electric and computer engineering) and Abel won in the Social Sciences category (School of Science, clinical psychology).
Prasanna’s thesis, “Sensor Fusion in Neural Networks for Object Detection,” focuses on machine learning for object detection using automotive images, radar and lidar data.
According to one of Prasanna’s reviewers, Maher Rizkalla, Ph.D., “Her contribution to novel approaches, leading to compensating for the lack of data from camera and radar fusion network is significant…Her presentation was among the best I have seen. Her contribution has been pending the publication in a high impact factor journal.”
Rizkalla also wrote, “[Prasanna] achieved a perfect cumulative GPA, and was among the Top 100 Award and Elite 50 at IUPUI. She [also] received a number of awards, including Chancellors’ Scholarship, University Fellowship, and Tau Beta Pi Scholarship.”
Mohammed El-Sharkawy, Ph.D., Prasanna’s major research advisor for her master’s Thesis wrote, “By assisting the team to develop an android application to alert drivers of traffic slowdowns, Sheetal proved herself to be a skilled engineer as well as a team player.”
After interning for three summers with Aptiv, a global automotive company that aims to develop safer, greener, and more connected solutions for mobility, Prassana was hired as a full-time engineer by Aptiv after her graduation in May 2022.
One of Abel’s reviewers, Michelle Salyer, Ph.D., described Abel’s thesis, “Investigation of Social Dysfunction and Affect in Schizophrenia,” as truly outstanding. “Danielle sought to answer two important research questions regarding the nature of social functioning in people with schizophrenia…The study was well-designed and innovative. Danielle used a multimethod assessment of social behavior to produce high quality data.”
In describing the construction of Abel’s study, Salyer added, “She begins with a broad overview to engage the reader to understand the big picture of what the study is addressing and why we should care. This is followed by a detailed and directed literature review to lead the reader to the study design and how she is addressing clear gaps in the literature.”
Abel’s primary research mentor since she joined IUPUI clinical psychology doctoral program in 2018, Kyle Minor, Ph.D., wrote, “During her time at IUPUI, Danielle has excelled: she has demonstrated impressive conceptual skills and ranks at the very top of doctoral students who have come through our program – a particularly high bar given the excellent credentials of this comparison group.” Minor continues with, “Danielle’s dissertation is an innovative real-world study that explores how different aspects of social interactions are related to predicted and experienced pleasure of those interactions in schizophrenia.”
Perhaps the basis of awarding Abel this prestigious award is best summed up by Minor’s statement: “At this early stage, Danielle is already laying a solid foundation for a career as an independent scientist.”
Congratulations to our 2022 Distinguished Master's Award Winners!
Previous Award Winners
2021 Award Recipients Ivette Muzquiz and Jill Weiss Simins were recognized with the 2021 award for IUPUI. Muzquiz won in the biological/life sciences category (School of Engineering, Biomedical) and Weiss won in the humanities category (School of Liberal Arts, History).
Muzquiz’s thesis, “Reversible Nerve Conduction Block Using Low Frequency Alternating Currents,” focused on the exploration of a phenomenon discovered in Dr. Ken Yoshida’s lab involving nerve conduction block elicited using direct nerve electrical stimulation using a novel stimulation waveform.
As Muzquiz’s thesis advisor, Dr. Yoshida wrote, “Ivette’s research involved the translation of Low Frequency Alternating Current Block to live animals, and determining whether the nerve block was capable of eliciting a measureable change in organ function. In her work, she demonstrated that the waveforms functionally blocked neural signals that slowed heart rate and reduced breathing rate in anaesthetized rats and pigs respectively.”
Dr. Yoshida also wrote, “Extraordinarily, Ivette managed to complete this technically challenging experimental work and MS degree during the time of virtual learning, and campus closures due to the Global Pandemic. Beyond being exceptionally organized in planning her research time and course time, Ivette is exceptionally bright and talented.”
Muzquiz is now an R&D Engineer at Procter & Gamble.
Jill Weiss Simins
According to Weiss Simins’ thesis committee chair, Dr. Nancy Robertson, Weiss Simins’ thesis, “’A Little Deviltry’: Gilded Age Celebrity and William Merritt Chase’s Tenth Street Studio as Advertisement,” blended painstaking research into primary sources, a mastery of the relevant scholarly literature from several disciplines, and an innovative “reading” of Chase’s artwork to analyze his rise to prominence against the backdrop of the literal life-and-death struggles of artists of his day.
Another member of her thesis committee, Dr. Robert Patrick Kinsman, wrote, “The thesis is well-written, easy to read, well-footnoted, and combines a broader range of research than most M.A. theses focused on a singular course topic. It adeptly combines historical discourse, art historical analysis, and a more theoretical discussion of celebrity.”
Weiss Simins is a historian at the Indiana Historical Bureau, a division of the Indiana State Library, where she has worked since 2008. Recently, she was recognized with the Dorothy Riker Historian Award, named for Riker, who was a 50-year employee and editor for the Indiana Historical Society and the Indiana Historical Bureau from 1929 to 1979. This award is made annually to a historian who has made distinguished contributions to the field of historical scholarship, including presentation, use of materials and preservation.
2020 Award Recipients Kelsey Binion and John Burns were recently recognized with the 2020 award for IUPUI. Binion won in the social sciences category (School of Liberal Arts, Communication) and Burns won in the mathematics/physical sciences/engineering category (School of Informatics and Computing, Health Informatics).
Binion’s thesis, “Assessing Communication Effectiveness in Interprofessional Healthcare Teams,” focused on assessing communication among health professionals and students in training. Binion’s thesis adviser, Dr. Maria Brann, wrote “Ms. Binion’s thesis is of extremely high quality. [Her] thesis addressed the important trend of interprofessional teamwork in health care interactions… Kelsey’s unique approach allowed her to gather data from standardized patients during a simulation training experience of health care trainees… She recognized how important and valuable interprofessional communication is to the physical and mental health of patients and explored this topic with professionalism and respect for all participants involved.”
Dr. Kristine Karnick, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Communication Studies wrote in her letter of nomination, “This thesis is highly original and brings forward a communication perspective, which is often overlooked in the literature, especially in interprofessional practice and education. The thesis focused on an interprofessional simulation, and Ms. Binion analyzed feedback from standardized patients after they engaged with a group of health profession learners. Often, communication in this area is measured by students’ and faculty members’ perceptions and feedback; however, Ms. Binion used a different approach, because she wanted to understand whether communication competencies could be demonstrated and visible to the standardized patients.”
Ms. Binion is currently pursuing a PhD in Health Communication at IUPUI.
Burns’ thesis, “Instant Messaging Supporting Decision Support Interventions – a Radiologist Centric Study,” was chosen based on the importance of the research, scope and translation, the strength of his data and analysis, as well as his skills in communication and writing.
One of Burns’ thesis committee members and an Assistant Professor in Health Informatics, Saptarshi Purkayastha, PhD., wrote, “[His thesis] contributes greatly to the fields of health informatics and human computer interaction. John identified a clinical problem – humans dislike of current decision support interfaces – and a novel solution in a conversational agent that would work with clinicians as a trusted team member… After an exhaustive literature and patent search, John has filed for design patent for this thesis, and is currently negotiating with clinical software companies to implement this within hospitals. This technology will be a major game changer in how clinicians interact with computers.”
Another thesis committee member, Judy Gichoya, PhD from Emory University, wrote, “The writing is phenomenal. John has made this interesting for radiologists and developers. It is easy to read, organized well, and communicates clearly to the reader. Throughout each step of the scientific process, John kept detailed notes. Every section is thorough without being overwhelming, and every potential finding is explored to its fullest extent.”
Mr. Burns is currently pursuing a PhD in Health and Biomedical Informatics at IUPUI.
Landon Crouse and Kyle Haas were recently recognized with the 2019 award for IUPUI. Crouse won in the humanities category (History) and Haas won in the biological/life sciences category (Electrical and Computer Engineering).
Crouse’s thesis is entitled, “Engelbert of Admont's De Regimine Principum and Lex Animata: A study in the Eclecticism of the Medieval Aristotelian Political Tradition” which is based on his analysis of the eighteenth-century printed edition of the Latin text of Engelbert of Admont’s De Regimine Principum. Crouse’s mentor, Eric L. Saak, Ph.D., wrote “Mr. Crouse’s [thesis] stands out above all the others with respect to scholarly erudition and sophistication, independence of research, requisite scholarly skills, and contribution to scholarship… In other words, Mr. Crouse’s thesis is in extremely rare company indeed. It is a very impressive piece of work.”
Another faculty member, Elizabeth Thill, Ph.D., wrote in her letter of nomination, “Classical studies is by its nature an interdisciplinary field, combining numerous methodological means of analysis (historical, linguistics, translation, archaeology) within a complex field of evidence…Given that Mr. Crouse selected as his subject a Latinist writing on Ancient Greek philosophy, he took up the mantle of a Classicist, as well as a historian. I can attest he wore the mantle ably.”
Crouse has applied to both Notre Dame’s History Graduate Program and their Medieval Institute in order to pursue a PhD in Medieval Studies. Upon acceptance to and completion of either program, he would like to continue researching and writing about medieval intellectual history, teach it at the university level, and achieve a full professorship.
Haas’ thesis is entitled, “Transfer Learning for Medication Adherence Prediction from Social Forums Self-Reported Data” and was selected for the award by a panel of faculty from the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department using criteria based on the scope and importance of the research, the strength of his data and statistical analysis, and excellence in writing. Haas’ thesis focused on a machine learning model which uses social media data to predict a patient’s medication adherence.
According to his advisor, Zina Ben Miled, Ph.D., Haas had two summer and one fall internship at Eli Lilly & Company. As part of his research work at Lilly, Haas published two conference papers: one was published in the 2018 ACM International Conference on Bioinformatics, Computational Biology, and Health Informatics; and the other was published in the 2019 AMIA Summits on Translational Science.
Miled also wrote in a letter of nomination, “The approach he proposed allows the cost-effective identification of patients at-risk of medication non-adherence in a general population. His approach can extend health forums such as Patients-Like-Me with predictive services for medication adherence. He demonstrated and validated his approach for fibromyalgia and diabetes.”
After graduation, Haas joined Eli Lilly and Company as a senior analysist in research data sciences and engineering.
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.
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.
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