Graduate students honored for excellence in graduate education


AUSTIN, Texas – May 17, 2007 – Twelve current and former University of Texas at Austin graduate students were honored for their excellence in graduate education at the annual Graduate School/University Co-op awards banquet on May 16. The University Co-operative Society generously underwrites the banquet and awards.

The Outstanding Dissertation Award was established in 1979 by the Graduate School to recognize exceptional work by doctoral students and to encourage the highest levels of scholarship, research, and writing. Three awards of $4,000 each are given annually.

The following graduates received awards for their outstanding dissertations:

Mukremin Kilic

Mukremin Kilic
, Ph.D., Astronomy, August 2006. Dr. Kilic’s dissertation, Cool White Dwarfs and the Age of the Galaxy, documents his discoveries regarding small dense stars known as "white dwarfs" and how they can be used to determine the age of the galaxy.  He has already published more than 15 articles in prestigious scientific journals, and he is currently the Columbus Prize Fellow at Ohio State

University.  Dissertation supervisors: Don Winget and Ted von Hippel.

Dimitri Nakassis

Dimitri Nakassis
, Ph.D., Classics, May, 2006. Dr. Nakassis’ dissertation, The Individual and the Mycenaean State: Agency and Prosopography in the Linear B Texts from Pylos, is a thorough study of the personal, occupational and ethnic names of a complex writing system known as Linear B texts from Pylos, in ancient Greece.  His work is revolutionary not only for identifying individuals, but for the implications it has for the political economy and social structure of the Mycenaean kingdom of Messenia. This summer, he is scheduled to participate in the archaeological excavations of several Mycenaean tombs that are over 2500 years old.  Dissertation supervisor: Thomas G. Palaima.

Leighton Peterson

Leighton C. Peterson
, Ph.D., Anthropology, August 2006. Dr. Peterson’s dissertation, Technology, Ideology, and Emergent Communicative Practices among the Navajo is a groundbreaking analysis of the ways in which new information technologies, in particular, cell-phones and email, have impacted both the development of literacy and the maintenance of linguistic vitality amongst the Navajo.  Dr. Peterson’s findings show how the Navajo use these technologies to maintain and enhance their sense of community.  He is currently an assistant professor at Colorado College where he teaches a wide range of courses on linguistic anthropology and Native North America. Dissertation supervisors: Joel Sherzer and Pauline Strong.


The Outstanding Thesis/Report Award was established in 2003 by the Graduate School to recognize exceptional work by master's students and to encourage the highest levels of scholarship, research, and writing. Three awards of $4,000 each are given annually. 

The following graduates received outstanding thesis/report awards:

Jarrett Johnson

Jarrett L. Johnson, M.A., Astronomy, May, 2006.  Jarrett’s thesis Towards the First Galaxies was focused on one of the most important questions in astrophysics today:  the formation of first stars and galaxies and their impact on the subsequent history of the universe.  In his thesis, Jarrett made an important and highly original contribution to the field related to the formation of a new class of stars in the early universe, termed "Population II.5," as well as addressed the cutting-edge question of how the first supermassive black holes are assembled in the early universe.  Jarrett is currently working towards his Ph.D. in Astronomy at The University of Texas at Austin.  Thesis supervisor: Volker Bromm.

Jonathan Lamb

Jonathan P. Lamb, M.A., English, May, 2006.  Jon’s report Between the Brackets of Philip Sidney’s Arcadia, uncovers the secret to the punctuation style of the most influential writer of the English Renaissance, Philip Sidney, by arguing that the use of parentheses in Sidney’s work created a shared, private space between the author and the reader.  Combining an analysis of the minute textual data with one of the largest questions of the Renaissance, Jon’s work offers a new way to think about something as basic as punctuation.  He is continuing his work toward his Ph.D. Report supervisor: Professor Douglas Bruster.

Mason McWatters

Mason R. McWatters – M.A., Latin American Studies, August 2006.  Mason’s thesis, (De)Constructing Paradise: Assessing Residents’ Place Experiences During an Era of Residential Tourism Development in Boquete, Panamá delves into the impact of residential tourism by American retirees on the area of Boquete, Panama, and the inevitable clash of cultures. Mason identifies the impact of this "residential tourism" and the changes it ignites in each group in a sophisticated theoretical framework contrasting the ideas of land and place.  Thesis supervisor: Paul Adams.


The Excellence in Graduate Research Award was established in 2001 by the Graduate School and University Co-op to recognize outstanding master's or doctoral research that is substantially in progress.  Three awards of $4,000 each are given annually.

The following students received the Excellence in Graduate Research Award to support their ongoing research.

Carlos Aguilar

Carlos A. Aguilar – Biomedical Engineering.  Working toward an M.S.E. in Mechanical Engineering and a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering, Carlos is being recognized for his research:  Cardiovascular-Energized Auxiliary Power Source for Automatic Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators (AICDs) and Biventricular Pacemakers. His research involves the development of nanomaterials that convert the energy of body motion into electricity that can be used to run medical implants such as pacemakers.  This technology could reduce hospital admissions and prolong a patient’s life.  A provisional patent has been filed for this device.  Dissertation supervisor:  Shaochen Chen.

Jennifer Barrett

Jennifer B. Barrett – Sociology.  Doctors, Clerics, Healers, and Neighbors: Religious Influences on Maternal and Child Health in Uzbekistan. Jennifer’s research examines specific ways through which religious beliefs influence individual behaviors that lead to changes in reproductive and sexual health for women and children. This research will provide valuable information in shaping health and family policy in the region and inform the efficacy of channeling public health resources through religious groups.  Dissertation supervisor: Cynthia J. Buckley

Hulya Yildiz

Hulya Yildiz – Comparative Literature. Westernization, Nationalism, Gender and the Development of the Novel Genre in Turkey.  Hulya's dissertation research examines the emergence of the novel genre in Turkey during the second half of the 19th century from the perspectives of modernization, nationalism, and gender. Hulya particularly seeks to fill in gaps in the Turkish literary and cultural archive by heeding the voices of Ottoman women writers and how they shape the central social and political discussions of the time. Dissertation supervisors:  Ann Cvetkovich and Kamran Asdar Ali.


The William S. Livingston Outstanding Graduate Student Academic Employee Award was established in 2004 by the Graduate School and the Graduate Student Assembly to recognize an outstanding teaching assistant, assistant instructor, and graduate research assistant.  Three awards of $4,000 each are given annually.

Carlos Aguilar

Assaf Avni – Assistant Instructor, Advertising. 
Nominating faculty member:  Gary B. Wilcox

Jennifer Barrett

Ming-Yu Ngai
– Graduate Research Assistant, Chemistry and Biochemistry. 
Nominating faculty member:  Michael J. Krische

Hulya Yildiz

Paul Griesemer
– Teaching Assistant, Aerospace Engineering. 
Nominating faculty member:  Alvin Meyer


by Kathleen Mabley


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