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Awards and Competitions



If you only had three minutes, could you:

  • Explain your research to a prospective employer?
  • Convince a potential donor to support your project?
  • Share your discoveries with a non-specialist audience?
  • Entice others to want more information about your research?

We would love to see you at the OU Graduate College’s Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) Competition! The finals are on Friday, February 23, at 1:30 p.m. at the Sam Noble Museum, followed by a reception and the award presentations. Event registration not required.


Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) is a research communication competition developed by The University of Queensland, Australia, and is now held at hundreds of universities around the world. This exercise will challenge you to present your master's or doctoral research in just three minutes to a non-specialist audience. As you prepare for the competition, you’ll decide on the most important points in your research, find an interesting way to convey them, then deliver them in a clear, concise, and confident manner.  

Questions? Contact Francesca Giani at

Prizes Awarded

First PlaceSecond PlacePeople's Choice Award
  • Presentations are limited to three minutes; competitors exceeding three minutes will be disqualified.
  • Competitors will present their research to a panel of judges.
  • Design one static slide to be displayed throughout the presentation. All slides must be submitted as a pdf image (1024x768 pixels).
  • No slide transitions, animations, or ‘movement’ are allowed.
  • Presentations are to be spoken word (e.g., no poems, raps, or songs).
  • No additional electronic media (e.g., sound and video files) are permitted.
  • No additional props (e.g., laser pointers, costumes, musical instruments, or laboratory equipment) are permitted.
  • Presentations are considered to have commenced when a competitor starts their presentation through either movement or speech.
  • Decision of judging panel is final.

Preparing Your Single Static Slide for 3MT®

When deciding what to include on the slide to accompany your presentation, let the phrase "less is more" be your guide.

  • Your slide should be clear and concise. Remember, the judges are concentrating on you and your presentation—three minutes offers very little time to focus on an overly-detailed slide.
  • Choose quality images, and if you include text, be certain the font is clear and easy to read.
  • Create a draft of your slide. Show it to your friends/relatives and ask them to describe what they see. Their objective responses will help you create the most effective slide to enhance your winning presentation.

Preliminary Rounds and Final Competition

  • Preliminary rounds of the competition will be held January 30, February 1, and 2, 2024. Competitors will present their research to a panel of judges live at Zarrow Hall. Prerecorded video entries will not be accepted. Preliminary rounds are closed to the public.
  • Finalists selected will present their three-minute presentation with slide to a panel of judges on Friday, February 23, 2024 beginning at 1:30 p.m. in the Kerr Auditorium of the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History. Finals will be open to the public. Live-streaming will also be available. Be sure and register for access to live-streaming at the link above.
  • Prize winners will be announced at a reception immediately following the competition in the Plestocene Plaza of the Sam Noble Museum. Everyone is invited to attend the reception. The decision of the judging panel is final.
  • Cash prizes will be awarded.
  • First Place - $2000
  • Runner-up - $1500
  • People's Choice Award - $1000
  • The OU-Norman Graduate College will invite the winner to compete in Spring 2024 (April 4-6) in the 3MT® Competition as part of the annual meeting of the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools. Additional details will be forthcoming.


January 5, 2024Deadline for registration.
January 12, 2024Deadline to submit single static slide, release, and final title of presentation.
January 30, 2024Preliminary competitions will be held from 9:00-11:30 a.m. and/or 1:00-4:00 p.m.
February 1, 2024Preliminary competitions will be held from 9:00-11:30 a.m. and/or 1:00-4:00 p.m.
February 2, 2024Preliminary competitions will be held from 9:00-11:30 a.m. and/or 1:00-4:00 p.m.
February 9, 2024Finalists will be chosen to present at the final 3MT competition.
February 23, 2024Final 3MT Competition begins at 1:30 p.m. in the Robert S. Kerr Auditorium of the Sam Noble Museum
The First Place, Runner-Up, and People's Choice Award winners will be announced immediately after the judges conclude their deliberations at the reception in the W.R. Howell Pleistocene Plaza of the Sam Noble Museum.
Additional details will be forthcoming.
April 4-6, 2024The winner of the OU 3MT Competition is invited to compete in the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools (MAGS) 3MT Competition, as part of the MAGS annual meeting. More details will be forthcoming soon.


Each year, the OU Graduate College sponsors Graduate & Postdoc Research and Scholarly Activity Day, an event offering graduate students and postdocs from all disciplines the opportunity to exhibit their research through poster presentations. This competition provides OU graduate students and postdocs with a professional development opportunity to present research and engage with peers and mentors.  


This year, the event will take place in the Buskuhl Gallery in Gibbs College of Architecture, Gould Hall, from 1 to 4 p.m. on Friday, March 1.


Apply to Present

Prizes Awarded*

First PlaceSecond PlaceAll Presenters
$1,500$1,0001 Free T-Shirt

*Graduate students can choose to take their prize money as a scholarship to their bursar account or as research/scholarly activity support funds transferred to their academic unit. Postdocs will receive their prize money as research/scholarly activity support funds transferred to their administrative unit.

Student presenting research about architecture and mycellium.

Tayana Ghosh
Master of Science in Architecture


The OU Graduate College sponsors the Design A Shelf Contest as a way to celebrate the talent and innovation of OU graduate students!


Four winners will each receive a $500 scholarship!


Check back on this web page for updates. Contact Francesca Giani at if you have any questions.

Register Here

Currently enrolled graduate students are invited to submit a proposal for ONE of the four shelves in this display case by March 31, 2023. The proposal should include the following:

  • the title of your display shelf;
  • a description of your display shelf, written for a general audience, and how the items represent your research topic and/or creative activity (125-word maximum);
  • a list of the items to be displayed on the shelf;
  • text for up to three labels (maximum 30 words each) that will be included on the shelf; and
  • one image of the display as you envision the items appearing on the shelf.
  • Does the display promote graduate students’ research and/or creative activities?
  • Does the selection of the items clearly communicate the topic?
  • Is the presentation of the items visually appealing?
  • Does the presentation highlight the contribution graduate education makes to society’s national and global future?
  • Does the display promote graduate students’ research and/or creative activities?
  • Does the selection of the items clearly communicate the topic?
  • Is the presentation of the items visually appealing?
  • Does the presentation highlight the contribution graduate education makes to society’s national and global future?
  • All graduate students who are enrolled by the online entry deadline are eligible to submit a proposal.
  • Register and submit your proposal to the OU Graduate College. 
  • Items in the winning proposals must be available for display from one academic year - spring to fall.
  • The display case contains four shelves that are approximately 32.5 inches wide, 14.25 inches deep, and 19 inches tall. LED lights line the left and right sides of the case. The case has a glass door that locks. Students are encouraged to view the case before submitting a proposal.
  • For a high-value or rare item, displaying a digital image of the item is preferred.
  • Bizzell library staff will assist with the installation of the winning displays. They will create the labels and signage and will provide pedestals and mounts for items as needed.


This year's winners of Design a Shelf are Norma Lilia Ruiz Cruz (master’s), from Price College of Business, with Patterns and CodingDebra Worley (doctoral), from Educational Leadership, Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy, with The Evolution of Distance LearningTiffany Legg (doctoral), from Geology, School of Geosciences, with Inorganic Carbon in the Critical Zone; and Alene Basmadjian (master’s), from Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, Gallogly College of Engineering, with Degenerative Design in Additive Manufacturing for Lightweight Structures



Looking for an award prospect? The OU Graduate College seeking photographs taken by you that capture moments of natural daily graduate student life. Contest winners will receive a $100 prize and judges will select up to 10 photos to be used in marketing materials. Whether it's a heartfelt student interaction, your peers celebrating a success, or the truth of studying as your animal vies for your attention, your photos have the power to tell stories and inspire. Don't miss this opportunity to show your perspective and showcase your talent!

For more information, visit the official contest page to learn more about rules, guidelines, and how to submit your photos.


The Graduate College wants to recognize students who have received national awards for the hard work they've done throughout their academic careers and time here at the University of Oklahoma.


headshot of Justin Lund

Justin Lund

2019 Graduate Student of the Year


About the American Indian Graduate Center
Throughout its 50-year history, the American Indian Graduate Center has empowered over 16,000 students from over 500 Tribes in all 50 states by providing scholarship dollars and support services for undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. To learn more, visit

OU doctoral student Justin Lund was recently selected as the American Indian Graduate Center’s 2019 Graduate Student of the Year. Lund, a member of the Navajo Nation who will be eligible to graduate in May 2021 with his Ph.D. in anthropology, was chosen because of his commitment to education, leadership and service to his tribal communities.

“Being selected as the American Indian Graduate Center Graduate Student of the Year is a huge honor,” Lund said. “I know the pool of students I was compared to was amazing, and this recognition confirms that my goals of being a good community member, relative and scholar are all on the right track.”  

Through anthropology, Lund believes he will be able to contribute to the Native American community in a meaningful way.

“American anthropology often has had a focus on Native American cultures and histories,” he said. “One of the biggest problems of the past was that Native Americans were used as research objects. It is paramount to the future of this field that Native Americans participate in the production of this knowledge. The future will see Native Nations participating in science in ways that are relevant and impactful to their own communities.”

Before pursuing his doctorate, Lund earned his bachelor of science in anthropology and a minor in global health from Arizona State University and a master’s degree in anthropology from OU. During his six years at OU, he has been involved in a variety of research projects, including the development of a microbiome to analyze how student stress might change the microbial communities in the participants’ gastrointestinal tracts over time.

Lund has been part of a research consortium of tribal partnerships since its formation – called the Center on the Ethics of Indigenous Genomics Research – which published several manuscripts on the use of deliberation methods to engage tribal communities across the nation to elicit Indigenous perspectives on genomics.

“The work completed with the Center on the Ethics of Indigenous Genomics Research is centered on community-based methods for research that work to represent and uplift Native voice,” he said.

Most recently, he assisted research scientist Dr. Jessica Blanchard in developing the Genetics and Ethics Program for Native American students at OU. The program helps to connect Native American students to Indigenous student groups, researchers, mentors and programs to facilitate their future professional success, while also engaging in topics meaningful to them.

“All of this work has taken me around the world to places I never imagined going and meeting people from all walks of life,” he said. “I’m very grateful for the opportunities I have had and to the American Indian Graduate Center for this honor.”


Headshot of Montrai Spikes

Montrai Spikes

Biology Graduate Student

The premier outlet for scientific research in the US, Science Magazine, is publishing an essay by Graduate student Montrai Spikes of the University of Oklahoma Biology Department. The essay is entitled “The pressure to assimilate” and will appear in the “Working Life” column of Science Magazine. (Vol 368 issue 6497).

Montrai is African American and his essay details his experiences as an underrepresented teaching assistant educating predominantly white students. Specifically, he discusses how society’s perception of professionalism is unjustly intertwined with the dominant culture. Given our current political climate, the essay is not only highly topical but merits consideration by all our community and beyond. Publishing in Science Magazine is an incredible accomplishment.

Montrai is a Ph. D. candidate in the Biology Department. He studies the evolution of mate choice in livebearing fishes. His research efforts recently sent him to Potsdam, Germany on a Fulbright fellowship. In addition to his research, he serves as co-chair of the Biology Department’s Diversity Inclusion and Equity committee, vice president to the Biology Graduate Student Association, and on the executive committee on the STEM Inclusion Council. 


View the Article


Jennifer Johnson

Jennifer Johnson

Ph.D. student in Educational Studies  

Jennifer Johnson was awarded the Dissertation Fellowship Program which seeks to encourage a new generation of scholars from a wide range of disciplines and professional fields to undertake research relevant to the improvement of education. These fellowships support individuals whose dissertations show potential for bringing fresh and constructive perspectives to the history, theory, analysis, or practice of formal or informal education anywhere in the world.

Jennifer Johnson is an enrolled citizen of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma and is also of Sac & Fox descent. She is a Ph.D. student in the Educational Studies Program in the Educational Leadership & Policy Studies department at the University of Oklahoma. Her entire career has been in service to Tribal Nations and communities. Jennifer earned a B.A. in Elementary Education and a Masters of Education in Curriculum & Instruction with an emphasis in Language and Literacy from Arizona State University. She was an elementary school teacher on reservations in Arizona and Florida. Jennifer later worked for her Tribal Nation as a part of a team that developed and implemented Maskoke language revitalization and documentation efforts. Her dissertation focus is on the History of Education within the Seminole Nation.


View the Article


Headshot of Colton Ross

Colton Ross

Ph.D. student in Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering

Colton Ross is a graduate student in the School of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering working in the Biomechanics and Biomaterials Design Laboratory, and he just received a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship to pursue his Ph.D.

Colton’s undergraduate and thesis research work were focused on mechanically characterizing heart valve tissues. Moving into his Ph.D., Colton wants to take his previous work and translate it to the field of computational modeling, considering either multi-scale or design-based approaches. Through his dissertation work, Colton hopes to take steps towards an impact on the clinic, providing the tools for refining heart valve therapies.

“This fellowship was a surprise, and I am extremely thankful for the opportunity. I can’t wait to see what the next few years holds, and I really hope to make a push to establish the foundation for a bridge between the academic research and the clinical sectors,” Colton said. He added, “I’m also delighted to be able to grow more as a person and a researcher through a Ph.D., really preparing me for my dream career performing cutting-edge research in a national laboratory.”


Headshot of Morgan Schneider

Morgan Schneider

Ph.D. student in the School of Meteorology

Morgan Schneider, a graduate student with the Advanced Radar Research Center and the School of Meteorology, received a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship to pursue her Ph.D. 

"I've always wanted to study supercell dynamics and tornadogenesis, so having this fellowship gives me the opportunity to study those things alongside my current research, which I also enjoy, without affecting my advisor's grant," Schneider said.  "I am so excited to start my dream career of studying tornadoes - this is something I've wanted to do since I was a small kid!"

Schneider's current research involves studying how debris affects tornado wind measurements. Her goal is to develop and test methods to develop more accurate measurements of tornado intensity.

"Combined with the future research I want to do, which is using radar to study how and why tornadoes form, I hope that my research can someday be used to improve tornado warning accuracy and ultimately save lives," Schneider said.


The Graduate Dean's Distinguished Thesis Prizes are awarded to thesis-based master's students exhibiting outstanding performance. Students are nominated for the award. Award areas are comprised of three academic specialties: science and engineering, social sciences, education and the professions, and the humanities and fine arts.

Sally Wiser | Sociology

Sally is a first year Sociology PhD student studying crime and gender. In her short time since arriving at OU in 2020, Sally has accomplished many tasks including founding a graduate student organization with the purpose of encouraging camaraderie and support amongst sociology graduate students and obtaining her MA in Sociology with a 4.0 GPA (2022). In addition to winning the Graduate Dean’s Distinguished Thesis Prize (2023), she was also a finalist in the 2022 Three-Minute Thesis competition and recipient of a 2022 Grasmick-Riddle Summer Research Fellowship. In her spare time, Sally volunteers for The Welcoming Project, a nonprofit aimed to encourage businesses, healthcare providers, and schools to display LGBTQ+ welcoming signs, and raises her newborn daughter.

Caden Testa | History of Science, Technology, & Medicine

Caden C. Testa earned his M.A. from OU’s Department of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine in 2021. His research interests include the politics of Lamarckian evolutionary theory, French public health and hygiene, and the role of the biological sciences in social reform efforts. Caden has presented his research at the Midwest Junto (2021) and the CHSG Friday Harbor Conference (2021), and his paper “Species Transformation and Social Reform: The Role of the Will in Jean-Baptiste Lamarck’s Transformist Theory” is forthcoming in the Journal of the History of Biology (Vol. 56, no. 1). In addition, he serves as a Graduate Research Assistant (2021–) for the IsisCB, a bibliography and open access discovery service for the history of science, and is an Editorial Assistant on the upcoming IsisCB special issue on pandemics in history. He also serves as a Graduate Research Assistant on Evolution in Victorian Britain, a primary source collection forthcoming from Routledge and edited by Piers J. Hale and Meegan Kennedy.

Andrea Tavera Paredes | Civil Engineering and Environmental Science

I first came to OU as an exchange student in 2018, and I was able to develop such strong relationships with professors and students, that I decided to come back to get my master’s in 2019. Of course, those relationships where only the cherry on top of how amazing OU is as a University; the people, the events, the campus, the opportunities, the student associations, the squirrels... there’s just nothing quite like it anywhere else.

While getting my master’s I built new amazing relationships with my coworkers, other students, my professors, particularly with my thesis committee members, and it’s because of the things that I learned from them that I am the woman I am today, and I am where I am today, working for a top engineering company in the U.S. Little 18-year-old Andrea in Colombia would have never believed such things were possible.


Initiated by the OU Office of the Provost in spring 1990, the Graduate Teaching Assistant Award recognizes and rewards outstanding performance by graduate students. Departments submit nominees to the OU Graduate College. Prize recipients are determined by selection committees.

Luis Felipe Flores Garzon


Luis Felipe Flores Garzon | Humanities & Fine Arts

Felipe Flores is a second year Ph.D. student in Planning, Design and Construction at the University of Oklahoma (OU). Since his arrival at OU in Fall 2021, he has taught three classes at the C. Gibbs College of Architecture: Design Studio 1Resilient Futures (Elective), Telesis: The Architecture Student Journal (Elective). In addition to his responsibilities as an educator, he has participated in a national mentorship program (Stacked Mentorship Program), a research conference (National Conference for Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education) and a fellowship (Center for Peace and Development at OU). These efforts were recognized by the Architectural Research Centers Consortium (ARCC), in 2022 when he was awarded with the King Medal. Moreover, he has participated in an exhibition (Muscogee (Creek) Tribal Towns Futurity Exhibit), two symposiums (Resilient Futures and Youth Perspectives on Climate Change) and two competitions (NOMA Student Design Competition and Tiny House International Design Competition) with the cooperation of students inside and outside the OU community. As a person of color and a graduate teaching assistant serving the OU community, he views these efforts as the synthesis of his main goal as an educator: to use design as a tool that celebrates diversity; and, in doing so, to create a more inclusive, equitable and caring society.



Savannah Morris

Savannah Chase Morris

Chemistry and Biochemistry

Savannah Chase Morris | Science and Engineering

Savannah Morris is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Biochemistry in the West lab at OU. She earned her Bachelor's of Science in Agriculture (BSAG) in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Oklahoma State University. At OU, her research focuses on the protein signaling pathways that regulate sporulation in the human pathogen Clostridioides difficile. Savannah has held several positions of responsibility, including serving as a graduate student panelist for the ETCS test for four years, and being the secretary of the Society for Chemical and Biochemical Researchers for a year. Savannah has also been recognized for her achievements, receiving awards such as the Provost Certification of Distinction in Teaching for Fall 2019 and 2020, the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Award in 2022, and the DFCAS Dissertation Finishing Fellowship for Spring 2023. Additionally, she has presented 3 poster presentations at conferences and has published 2 papers in 2022. 

Previous Winners

Donovan Linsey


Donovan Linsey | Humanities & Fine Arts

Donovan Linsey is a Master of Architecture candidate in the Division of Architecture. Beginning in the Fall of 2020, he has been involved in the first-year undergraduate architecture curriculum and design studio courses as part of his graduate teaching assistant position. Donovan served as an instructor for a Design I studio course in the Fall semester of 2021 and is currently serving as an instructor for a Design II studio course during the Spring semester of 2022. Mentoring architecture students has been a passion of his ever since he began architecture school as an undergraduate student. In addition to being a graduate teaching assistant, Donovan’s current research as a Master of Architecture candidate examines safety rest areas and welcome centers on the US Interstate highways. His research on these building typologies will culminate in a final design project for his Master of Architecture degree. As a student, Donovan’s design studio work at The University of Oklahoma has been showcased in The American Institute of Architects (AIA) National Emerging Professionals Exhibit 2020. Donovan is also involved in the local architecture community in Central Oklahoma serving on the Board of Directors for AIA Central Oklahoma Chapter as the Associate AIA Director.

Sarah Heiniger

Department of Educational Psychology

Sarah Heiniger | Social Science, Education, & Professions

Sarah Heiniger is a second year Special Education program doctoral student in the Department of Educational Psychology. In addition to pursuing graduate courses focused on research, she also works as a graduate research and teaching assistant and in the field as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst to support children and teens diagnosed with Autism. Since beginning the program at the University of Oklahoma, Sarah has served on several research teams, has published 4 peer reviewed articles, 2 book chapters, and presented at both national and local conferences. Her primary research interest is supervision in the field of behavior analysis (both supervising direct service staff and training pre-service behavior analysts) and as a result, she teaches the supervision course in OU’s ABA program and is currently conducting a grant funded student/faculty research project on the state of supervision in the broader field. Sarah is also an active member of behavior analytic and special education professional organizations.

Adam Baker

Civil Engineering

Adam Baker | Science and Engineering

I came to Oklahoma to work as a petroleum engineer following my graduation from Louisiana State University in 2017 with a B.S. in Petroleum Engineering. However, after a few years I decided to change career paths and applied to the University of Oklahoma for a Master's in Civil Engineering. I was accepted and began my studies in Fall 2020. At this time Dr. Kianoosh Hatami invited me to help him teach his Statics class as a Graduate Teaching Assistant. With the pandemic in full swing, and COVID policies restricting classroom sizes, I was responsible for leading an entire class section lecture on my own. During my first semester, I became closely acquainted with Dr. Jin-Song Pei. She was impressed with me while taking her Structural Analysis class and invited me to work as a Graduate Teaching Assistant for her. I accepted her offer and served as the lead GTA for her Mechanics of Materials and Structural Analysis courses over the subsequent three semesters. I was able to maintain a perfect 4.0 GPA in my own coursework during this time as well.

During the summer of 2021 I had the opportunity to intern with HNTB, a civil engineering consultant firm. I worked as an intern engineer in HNTB’s bridge design group in their Oklahoma City office. Following this, I accepted an offer to return to HNTB as a full-time bridge engineer after my graduation from OU in May 2022.

Headshot of Steven M. Adams
Steven M. Adams

School of Geosciences


I am from Evansville, a town in southern Indiana. After high school I joined the United States Marine Corps. I spent 6 years in the Marine Corps. First at an aircraft squadron in North Carolina, then I spent 3 years working as an embassy guard. I left the Marines and completed an undergraduate degree in Geology at Indiana University before coming to the University of Oklahoma for graduate studies. As a master’s student I studied the formation of dust particles by wind-blown desert sediments by building a chamber to create a small dune that experienced storm winds. For my PhD studies I am investigating dust formation from wind-blown sediments on Mars with a new chamber I’ve designed and built. My other work investigates dust formation from glacial abrasion and its effects on climate and the biosphere. I have been a teaching assistant most semesters since attending OU, including summers where I help instruct students at our geology field camp.

Headshot of David Dinh
David Dinh

Department of Microbiology and Plant Biology


David Dinh is currently a microbiology Ph.D. candidate in the Karr Lab. Before coming to OU, David received his bachelor's in human biology from UC San Diego and went on to earn his master's from Cal State Fullerton in biology. His master's thesis focused on a manganese-oxidizing protein from a marine bacterium. Since he arrived at OU, David has been studying enzymes involved in substrate metabolism and energy production in a model syntroph. Additionally, he has received the Provost's Certificate of Distinction in Teaching for Fall 2016, the MPBIO’s Grad Student Teaching Excellence Award, and the Robberson and Wethington Scholarship for Prestige Training for the RapiData course in macromolecular X-ray crystallography.  

Social Sciences, Education, and the Profession

Headshot of Kelsey Richels
Kelsey Richels

Department of Psychology


Kelsey Richels is a Ph.D. candidate in Industrial/Organizational (I/O) Psychology in the Department of Psychology. Her research examines the impact of emotional variability on performance and well-being. Since starting at OU, Kelsey has taught a variety of courses, including Research Methods, Statistics, I/O Psychology, and Psychology of Leadership. She developed and taught a new online course in Motivation and helped develop a new online Career Exploration course, which included creating online video tutorials for leveraging the U.S. Department of Labor’s online occupational database (O*Net). In 2017, she was awarded the Provost’s Certificate of Distinction in Teaching. In addition, Kelsey has served as a research advisor on a senior honors thesis and an Ethics instructor for the Graduate College. Kelsey is a member of the Society for Industrial/Organizational Psychology visibility committee, a volunteer producer for the Society’s Conversation Series podcast, and interns at the consulting firm Colarelli, Meyer, & Associates (CMA).

Science and Engineering

Headshot of Jordan Christian
Jordan Christian

School of Meteorology

Jordan Christian is a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Meteorology. His research is focused on advancing the knowledge of flash drought development on scales spanning local to global. He has also served as a TA in the School of Meteorology for a variety of meteorology courses over the past four years and co-developed a new graduate-level course in the Hydrology and Water Security program entitled Hydroclimatology. As a student, Jordan has published seven authored and coauthored refereed journal articles, earned a 1st-place student oral presentation award at a national scientific conference, was an invited oral presenter at an international drought conference, and received the Bullard Dissertation Fellowship award.

Humanities and Fine Arts

Headshot of Christa St. John
Christa St. John

School of Dance


Since becoming a Graduate student at OU, Christa has served as ballet master for the Oklahoma Festival Ballet and ballet master and choreographer for OU Opera Theatre. She was the ballet master for the children’s cast in Willam F. Christensen’s The Nutcracker. She also choreographed for the full-length production of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel with OU Opera Theatre, OU Symphony Orchestra, and Oklahoma Festival Ballet. She will choreograph Bizet’s opera The Pearl Fishers for OU in fall, 2020. Christa recently developed a choreographic work that integrates animation technology and original electronic music with ballet. Additionally, she will serve as Associate Coordinator for the OU Summer Dance Intensive Program for young dance students. Christa is the instructor for Ballet for non-majors and Understanding Dance: a general education lecture course. In addition to her GA duties, Christa teaches and assists with Dance for Parkinson’s Disease classes. Dance for PD is a community outreach program hosted by the School of Dance at OU. She received Dance for PD certification from Mark Morris Dance Group in Brooklyn, NY. Additionally, Christa has presented lecture-demonstrations to bring dance to local public schools.

Social Sciences, Education, and the Profession

Headshot of Stephen Foster
Stephen Foster

Department of Psychology


I have been quite fortunate during my time here at the University of Oklahoma. In 2017, I received my Master’s degree in Psychology, and will be beginning my final year of my PhD program in Social Psychology this coming Fall. I have taught many courses, including Social Psychology, Introductory Statistics, and others. I have also been able to collect data throughout my time here on various psychological projects, which have been presented at conferences each year of my program- I am currently in the process of sending out many of these studies for publication. Finally, I have been fortunate enough to mentor many undergraduate students. With these students, I have aided in developing projects for Honor’s theses, poster presentations at various conferences, and oral presentations at the Honor’s undergraduate research conference. I am truly honored to be receiving this award as recognition for some of my work.

Science and Engineering

Headshot of Tommy Bounds
Tommy Bounds

School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science

Tommy Bounds is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the department of Civil Engineering. His research program focuses on innovations in bridge design in Oklahoma. Tommy served as a TA for the department while completing his master’s degree in 2013 in Civil Engineering with a focus in geotechnical engineering. Before being accepted into the Ph.D. program in 2017, Tommy worked for an engineering consulting firm in Edmond, Oklahoma as a licensed professional engineer. In 2017 Tommy received the Dolese Teaching Fellowship and co-taught the civil engineering capstone class and the soil mechanics lab as part of the fellowship. After the fellowship ended he taught foundation engineering and the soil mechanics lab once more. He is currently working on his dissertation that will focus on the deformation behavior of soil under roadway embankments.

Humanities and Fine Arts

Headshot of Hannah Johnson
Hannah Johnson

Department of Modern Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics


Hannah Johnson is a Ph.D candidate in French Literature in the Department of Modern Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics. Her research explores the intersections of literary myth, body studies, and gender identity in twentieth-century French theatre, specifically that of André Gide, Albert Camus, and Jean Genet. She has presented her research at regional, national, and international conferences, including but not limited to the SCMLA and the International Colloquium on Twentieth- and Twenty-First-Century French and Francophone Studies. She has taught beginning and intermediate French for over six years and has been recognized as an outstanding instructor by the Provost’s Distinction for Excellence in Teaching (2015, 2017) and the OU Award for Excellence in Teaching for French Teaching Assistants (2017). She has also held several leadership roles, including at OU (as President of Kappa Gamma Epsilon) and in the academy at large (as the graduate representative to the SCMLA Executive Council).

For a full list of previous winners, you may view our GTA Award Winners spreadsheet.


View Past Winners


Inititated by the OU Office of the Provost in spring 1990, the Provost's Dissertation and Thesis Award recognizes and rewards outstanding performance by graduate students. Departments submit nominees to the OU Graduate College. Prize recipients are determined by selection committees.

Reza Alizadeh | Industrial and Systems Engineering

Reza Alizadeh is a visiting assistant professor of data analytics at the Collins college of business. Reza plans to pursue his academic career as a thought-leader professor in complex cyber-physical-social systems management. His research contributes to the theoretical research in machine learning and data analytics and provides managerial insights for sustainable energy, supply chain, production, and healthcare practitioners and policymakers. His excitement lies in educating the next generation's thought-leader business professionals, managers, and leaders. He has taught data analytics, operations management, operations research, and statistics. He has published over 20 journal papers in peer-reviewed journals of Energy Economics, Advanced Engineering Informatics, Research in Engineering Design, and Intelligent Manufacturing. He is also an editorial board member for the Journal of AIMS Environmental Science and the International Journal of Sustainable Society. His research interests include creating and applying machine learning and optimization methods in the green supply chain and clean energy network design. He has also worked as a project manager in a construction company, a supply chain specialist in a car manufacturing company, and an R&D engineer in a startup company where he registered two patents.

Sara Wilson Laws | English

Since becoming a graduate student at OU, Sara's work has been accepted for publication by editors of the book collection Poet in Place and Time: Essays on Joanne Kyger and by the Hualin International Journal of Buddhist Studies, where her essay "Buddhist Worldmaking in the American Midcentury" is forthcoming. She has presented her work at various conferences, including the Modern Language Association Annual Conference, the American Literature Association Conference, and the East Asian Buddhist Worldmaking International Conference, co-hosted by the Frogbear Project at the University of British Columbia and Harvard University CAMLab. Sara was also a Co-Director of the Mark Allen Everett Poetry Series at OU. During her time as a graduate student, Sara taught literature and writing classes at the University of Oklahoma, Beijing Normal University, and American University. Upon graduation, Sara accepted a position as Assistant Professor in the Department of Focused Inquiry at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Aparna Bamzai-Dodson | Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability

I completed my doctorate in the OU Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability, working full-time while concurrently pursuing my degree. I work for a network of regional centers that fund and produce climate impacts and adaptation science, information, and tools to support on-the-ground resource management plans and decisions. It has not always been easy to balance work, school, and my personal life, and there were times when I felt overwhelmed and contemplated withdrawing from the program. However, my job allowed me to see firsthand the need for scholarship on moving theory to practice and I persevered. This award is particularly meaningful to me; it reassures me that my research has value and that my sacrifices have resulted in the creation of something consequential. I am deeply appreciative of this recognition and am committed to keep working to make our planet resilient to the coming changes.

Social Sciences, Education, and the Profession

Headshot of Sarina Rinehart
Sarina Rinehart

Department of Political Science


Sarina now serves as the Executive Director or Data Governance at the Oklahoma State Department of Education and has published five peer-reviewed publications centered on American Politics, representation, and electoral politics.

Science and Engineering

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Lin Guo



Humanities and Fine Arts

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Eve Sada

School of Music - Choral Conducting


Eve Georges Sada is an Assyrian scholar born and raised in Iraq. Eve completed both her Master’s degree in Music Education (2010) and a Doctor of Musical Arts in Choral Conducting (2021) at the University of Oklahoma. Her research examined the earliest surviving chants and hymns composed by the Church of the East theologians and poets between the fourth and seventh centuries such as Mar Aprem (Ephrem) and Mar Narsai. Eve provided examples of the chants in Syriac with English translations for the main celebrated Feasts of the Church. She

discussed the main five genres of the Church of the East hymnody of Soghyāthā, Madrāshe, Tešbḥatha, `Onyatha, and Memre and investigated the earliest known church women’s choirs. Before coming to Oklahoma, Eve worked as a Full-Time Lecturer in Music at The University of Jordan (JU) in Amman, Jordan (2011-2016) while also serving as an Assistant Dean for The School of Arts and Design at JU. Before starting her DMA degree, Eve published articles in music education and vocal physiology.

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Younes Mahdavi

History of Science, Technology, and Medicine (HSTM)


I attended the University of Oklahoma for a Ph.D. degree in the history of science after I had received my master's in the same field in Tehran. However, the academic life at the University of Oklahoma was so much different from what I had experienced before. There is much to say about my academic life at OU, but let me take the opportunity to briefly explain some of my achievements in the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine department. First, the most important progress in my intellectual career happened when I was introduced to multiple historical approaches taught and practiced by the department faculty. The historical methodology promoted in the department broadened my understanding of history in general and the history of science in particular in a way that I had every confidence in doing my doctoral research project on a topic of my enthusiasm. The other significant characteristic of the department was its focus on historical topics of diverse geographical and temporal areas, mainly on cultural and social aspects of the history of science. In the end, I keenly express my delight that I have attended the University of Oklahoma and the History of Science department.

Social Sciences, Education, and the Profession

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Dr. Ryan Miller

Department of Health and Exercise Science
Age-Related Changes in Muscular Strength, Power, Endurance, and Quality in Recreationally Active Women Aged 20 to 89 Years


I earned my PhD in Exercise Physiology at the Department of Health and Exercise Science, University of Oklahoma, under the mentorship of Dr. Michael G. Bemben. My dissertation examined age-related changes in muscle strength across the adult female lifespan. During my time at OU, I was very fortunate to be part of the Neuromuscular Laboratory led by Dr. Bemben. Under Dr. Bemben’s mentorship, our lab published several manuscripts, presented data at regional and international conferences, secured numerous internal and external funding mechanisms, and received the Provost’s Certificate of Distinction for Outstanding Graduate Assistant Teaching across multiple semesters. In July 2020, I joined the Department of Internal Medicine – Section on Geriatric Medicine at the Wake Forest School of Medicine as a postdoctoral research fellow. My research focuses on providing meaningful contributions towards the identification, prevention, and treatment of physical disability and musculoskeletal disorders in older adults.

Science and Engineering

Headshot of Dr. Lily S. Pfeifer
Dr. Lily S. Pfeifer

School of Geosciences
Permian loess and equatorial glaciation in eastern equatorial Pangea


Lily is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the School of Geosciences. She completed both her Master’s degree (2014) and PhD (2020) in Geology at the University of Oklahoma, working briefly in the energy industry between. Her graduate research with advisor Dr. Lynn Soreghan involved the study of sedimentary basins in Europe and the western U.S. to reconstruct the interplay between the paleoclimatic, tectonic, and sedimentary processes that prevailed millions of years ago. Lily enjoys mentoring others who have a passion for geology and field work, and through her experience helping to direct an annual NSF-funded program for undergraduate students (part of her PhD work) she gained invaluable perspective in pedagogy, including techniques to enhance inclusion and equity in the field and classroom. Towards the end of her PhD, Lily had the privilege of teaching The Earth System to Science Education majors at OU! She is absolutely honored and humbled by the receipt of this award!

Humanities and Fine Arts

Headshot of Dr. Mark Boxell
Dr. Mark Boxell

Department of History
Red Soil, White Oil: Petroleum and White Supremacy in the Progressive-Era United States


I was a doctoral student in the history department from 2016 to 2020. My dissertation research won awards from the Western History Association, the Organization of American Historians, the Business History Conference, and the Briscoe Center at the University of Texas. I was also awarded a Bullard Dissertation Completion Prize by the OU Graduate College in 2020.

Social Sciences, Education, and the Profession

Headshot of Dr. Japneet Kaur
Dr. Japneet Kaur

Department of Health and Exercise Science

Racial/Ethnic Differences in Bone Status, Muscle Function, and Fat Mass, in Young and Middle-Aged Premenopausal Women Belonging to Caucasian, East-Asian, and South-Asian Backgrounds


I received my PhD at the Department of Health and Exercise Science, University of Oklahoma, under the mentorship of Dr. Michael G. Bemben.  My dissertation focused on the assessment of bone strength and quality, muscle function, and fat mass in women of Caucasian, East-Asian and South-Asian descents.  During my time at OU, I co-authored 7 papers, peer-reviewed papers for scientific journals, presented at various conferences related to my field, mentored 4 undergraduate students, and was the recipient of awards and scholarships such as the graduate college research and travel grants, Early Investigator Award (meeting at Indiana School of Medicine, IUPUI), and the American Kinesiology Association Doctoral Scholar Award.  I am now working as a postdoctoral researcher at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minneapolis, with my research focused on understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms resulting in bone loss due to aging and other chronic diseases.

Science and Engineering

Headshot of Dr. Xu Lu
Dr. Xu Lu

School of Meteorology

Improving High-Resolution Tropical Cyclone Prediction using a Cycled, GSI-Based Hybrid Ensemble-Variational Data Assimilation System for HWRF with Vortex Scale Observations


Dr. Xu Lu joined the School of Meteorology (SoM), University of Oklahoma as a graduate student supervised by Prof. Xuguang Wang since Fall 2014.  He completed his Ph.D. in Meteorology from OU in 2019.  During his graduate study at OU, Dr. Lu achieved two travel awards and one best student presentation award from the American Meteorological Society (AMS), received the 2018 Douglas Lilly Award for the best Ph.D. manuscript from SoM, and was the first author of four peer-reviewed journal articles. Xu's dissertation research has directly contributed to improving the US real time hurricane prediction.  Xu Lu is now conducting research to advance the science and technique of data assimilation to further improve hurricane prediction in collaboration with Prof. Wang and other scientists in OU Multi-scale data Assimilation and Predictability (MAP) Laboratory.

Humanities and Fine Arts

Headshot of Dr. Lee Fithian
Dr. Lee Fithian

College of Engineering

Active Building Facades to Mitigate Urban Street Pollution


Dr. Lee Fithian’s research and teaching efforts focus on the application of biological and ecological models to architectural design. She builds connections between interdisciplinary research and architectural design to conserve and regenerate air and water in urban and suburban environments. As a tenured Associate Professor in the Gibbs College of Architecture, Dr. Fithian’s studios carry a strong focus on the technical development and integration of analytical and aesthetic visualizations in order to develop sustainable and resilient urban built environments. Dr. Fithian earned her PhD in the College of Engineering while working full-time and while being a single mother. She gives credit to the University of Oklahoma, her committee, and her family for their full support in attaining this academic achievement.

Science and Engineering

Headshot of Dr. Anand Balu Nellippallil
Dr. Anand Balu Nellippallil

School of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering

The Integrated Realization of Materials, Products and Associated Manufacturing Processes


Anand Balu Nellippallil received his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering working with Professors Farrokh Mistree and Janet K. Allen in the Systems Realization Laboratory at the University of Oklahoma in September 2018. Since November 2018, he holds a Research Engineer II position at the Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems (CAVS) in Mississippi State University. His current research interests are focused on the integrated realization of engineered materials, products and associated manufacturing processes. During his academic period at OU, Anand has received several scholarships and awards, namely the Gallogly College of Engineering Dissertation Excellence Award, the Frank Chuck Mechanical Engineering Scholarships (2016 and 2017) and a Paper of Distinction from ASME DAC division. From his Ph.D., Anand has co-authored 7 journal articles and 7 conference papers. An agreement to publish a research monograph anchored in Anand’s Ph.D. dissertation has been signed with Springer; the tentative title being: Architecting Robust Co-Design of Materials, Products, and Manufacturing Processes.

Humanities and Fine Arts

Dr. Nisrine Slitine El Mghari
Dr. Nisrine Slitine El Mghari

Department of Modern Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics

La ville marocaine: une quête du vécu, de la mémoire, et des tiers lieux dans le roman du XXe et XXIe siècles


Nisrine Slitine El Mghari earned her Ph.D. in December 2018. She worked under the supervision of Dr. Michael Winston. She was awarded the Bullard Dissertation Completion Fellowship in Fall 2018. Her dissertation focuses on representations of the city in contemporary Moroccan Francophone and Arabophone literatures. In particular, her work examines the different social, historical, and political forces that have shaped urban spaces, and it draws on critical and theoretical fields related to colonial and postcolonial studies, cultural memory studies, and gender studies. She is currently a Lecturer in French at the University of Oklahoma and in Fall 2019, she will join the University of Kentucky as Assistant Professor of French and Francophone studies and Arabic Studies. As a Graduate Teaching Assistant, she won the 2016 Provost’s Graduate Teaching Assistant Award, representing the academic area of the Humanities and Fine Arts, as well as the Provost’s Certificate of Distinction in Teaching several times. She also received the 2017 and 2018 South Central Modern Language Association Graduate Student Research Grant. She published a book review in World Literature Today (January 2018), an interview also in WLT with the renowned Moroccan author Youssouf Amine Elalamy (January 2019), and an electronic monograph through the National Association of African American Studies & Affiliates (2019). She also has a translation of the French author, poet, and literary critic Annie Le Brun with Karl Pollin forthcoming through WLT.

For a full list of previous winners, you may view our Ph.D. Dissertation Award Winners spreadsheet.


View Past Winners



Over one hundred of the University of Oklahoma's finest graduate students receive funding for their degree programs through OU's prestigious fellowship awards. These fellowships are funded through generous contributions from private donors, sponsoring corporations, the federal government, the OU Foundation, and various OU colleges and departments.


Jason Poudrier is the University of Oklahoma's newest Tillman Scholar. He is pursuing a Ph.D. in Instructional Leadership and Academic Curriculum with a concentration in English Education.

Read Jason's Bio

Past Tillman Scholars include Emily Junkins (pursuing Ph.D. in Microbiology) and Ashley LaRue (M.A. International Relations, 2017).