Skip to main content

Each year, The Graduate School recognizes four doctoral candidates or recent doctoral graduates for creating exceptional dissertations in each of the following fields: biological and life sciences; humanities and fine arts; mathematics, physical sciences and engineering; and social sciences.

The 2021 recipients of the Dean’s Distinguished Dissertation Award are Katherine CalvinAlex GertnerNicholas Levis and Xun Xiao. Each honoree will receive a cash award; additionally, The Graduate School nominates two awardees each year for the national CGS/ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award.

“Congratulations to our 2021 recipients of the Dean’s Distinguished Dissertation Award,” said Suzanne Barbour, dean of The Graduate School. “Their exciting work addresses questions of societal, medical and scientific importance. The Dean’s Distinguished Dissertation Award recognizes the highest level of graduate student scholarship at UNC-Chapel Hill, based on originality, innovation, scholarly excellence, methodological sophistication and significance to the field of study.

“Each of these individuals has done outstanding work that portends a brilliant future as a scholar and researcher in their field of study.”

Read about their award-winning research in their own words:

Katherine Calvin, Art History

Photo of Katherine Calvin
Katherine Calvin

2021 Dean’s Distinguished Dissertation Award, Humanities and Fine Arts

Antiquity and Empire: The Construction of History in Western European Representations of the Ottoman Empire, 1650-1830

Dissertation Advisers: Christopher Johns and the late Mary Sheriff

“My dissertation examines how Europeans and Ottomans politicized images and artifacts related to ancient sites, such as Palmyra and Athens, throughout the 18th century. I argue the resulting narratives of cultural entitlement were used as political justifications for imperial expansion by both groups in present-day Syria, Iraq and Greece.”

Alex Gertner, Health Policy and Management

Photo of Alex Gertner
Alex Gertner

2021 Dean’s Distinguished Dissertation Award, Social Sciences

Quality and Access of Buprenorphine Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder in Medicaid

Dissertation Adviser: Marisa Domino

“Deaths from opioid overdoses continue to devastate communities across the country, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Medication treatment for opioid addiction is safe and effective although it remains underused. My dissertation examined access and quality of medication treatment in Medicaid, the country’s largest payer of addiction treatment.”

Nicholas Levis, Biology

Photo of Nicholas Levis
Nicholas Levis

2021 Dean’s Distinguished Dissertation Award, Biological and Life Sciences

Plasticity-Led Evolution in Nature

Dissertation Adviser: David Pfennig

“Where do new traits come from? Diverse evidence from spadefoot toads supports the controversial hypothesis that environmentally induced changes to development – phenotypic plasticity – can lead to the evolution of new features. More generally, this work provides critical information to inform ongoing debates around the origins of novelty, diversity and adaptation.”

Xun Xiao, Applied Sciences and Engineering

2021 Dean’s Distinguished Dissertation Award, Mathematics, Physical Sciences and Engineering

Photo of Xun Xiao
Xun Xiao

Physical Properties of Perovskite Materials: Understanding and Managing Carrier Behavior for Efficient Solar Cells

Dissertation Adviser: Jinsong Huang

“My research is to develop technology to make energy consumption in the world affordable and environmentally friendly. I designed a novel surface treatment method, synthesized a new active layer and explored a unique encapsulation method to convert solar energy to electricity with perovskite solar cells in an efficient and green manner.”

By The Graduate School 

Comments are closed.