Scholars of Excellence
Outstanding Thesis & Dissertation Award
The Outstanding Thesis and Dissertation (OTD) Award recognizes graduate alumni whose research exemplifies the highest quality. The award recognizes those USF graduates who have demonstrated exceptional performance and whose thesis or dissertation has resulted in a significant impact to the discipline at the national level.
2023 Outstanding Dissertation Award Recipients
Yi-Jie Zhu (Geosciences Geography, Environmental Science and Policy)
Inland Tropical Cyclone Intensity Decay in the Continental United States
Major Professor: Jennifer Collins, Ph.D.
Yijie’s research at USF examines the spatial-temporal pattern of hurricane post-landfall intensity variations in the continental United States. The proposed method to quantify the longevity of inland destructive winds highlights the impact of post-landfall hurricanes, especially under a changing climate. The results brought global attention to the importance of inland-moving storms.
[This] dissertation provides an overview of historical inland-moving tropical cyclones, which could also benefit (re)insurance companies and emergency management agencies to better serve local communities that are prone to the potential inland-moving tropical cyclone risks.
MacLean Hall (Molecular Biosciences)
Utilizing neoantigen-specific CD4+ T cells and immune checkpoint modulation to advance adoptive cell therapy with tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes for metastatic melanoma patients
Major Professor: Shari Pilon-Thomas, Ph.D.
The results of this dissertation have demonstrated that neoantigen-specific CD4+ Tumor-Infiltrating Lymphoctyes (TIL) and combination immune checkpoint modulation each may have therapeutic utility in the setting of Adoptive Cell Therapy (ACT) for metastatic melanoma patients. These studies substantially contribute to the knowledge in the TIL therapy field concerning the ability to shape and enrich for antigen-specific T cells, the breadth and depth of the neoantigen-specific TIL repertoire, and the functional potential and limitations of these TIL.
We find that increased access to therapeutically relevant antigen specific T cells, especially CD4+ TIL, has the potential to provide additional clinical benefit, although further work investigating the impact of neoantigen-specific cellular or genomic profiles, antigen expression, and the tumor microenvironment is warranted. Resistance to immunotherapy and in particular ACT is an increasing challenge, although translational studies that include access to patient specimens provide invaluable insight into strategies to overcome these mechanisms.
Overall, the optimal ACT regimen with TIL will likely incorporate multiple advances such as those presented here in order to ultimately provide improved therapeutic efficacy for patients with cancer.
Keval Doshi (Electrical Engineering)
Video Anomaly Detection: Practical Challenges for Learning Algorithms
Major Professor: Yasin Yilmaz, Ph.D.
The technological innovation in (my) research lies in its ability to revolutionize video anomaly detection by making it more data-efficient, adaptable, and conducive to real-time decision-making. These advancements have the potential to significantly improve the effectiveness and practicality of video surveillance systems in addressing modern security challenges…
Similar to the video anomaly detection problem, harmful or unregulated content represents only a minute fraction of the vast volume of videos circulating on these video streaming platforms, making manual detection an extremely time-consuming endeavor. Extending the research proposed in my dissertation offers the potential to significantly reduce the manpower required for the identification of regulated content. By automating the content regulation process, my research not only safeguards customers from encountering violent, explicit, or potentially traumatic material but also eases the burden on individuals tasked with content moderation.
2023 Outstanding Thesis Award Recipient
Amanda Connella (Criminology)
The Invisible Victims of Commercial Sexual Exploitation: Boys and Their Barriers to Access to Services
Major Professor: Joan A. Reid, Ph.D.
While there has been a large body of research conducted on girl victims of commercial sexual exploitation, boy victims are often left out of the conversation. From the few studies that have been conducted on this topic, boys and young male victims of commercial sexual exploitation may have gender specific barriers that result in boys being overlooked by service providers and researchers.
Using survey data from key providers that work in programs that serve commercially sexually exploited boys, my thesis fills this hole in the literature by providing insight on the gender specific barriers that boy victims face.
In my thesis I propose three barriers, drawn from feminist criminology and critical masculinity theories, that I believe may help explain why boys are forgotten when talking about Commercial Sexual Exploitation (CSE) victims. These barriers are: hegemonic masculinity, male victimization myths, and homophobic beliefs. Additionally, my thesis aims to highlight the lack of programs available for boys and suggests that the same barriers that prevent boys from being identified as victims may also be to blame for the lack of programs for boys.
Past Outstanding Thesis and Dissertation Award Winners
Elizabeth Hintz, Ph.D.
Title: Explicating the Process of Communicative Disenfranchisement for Women with Chronic
Overlapping Pain Conditions (COPCs)
Ausmita Sarker, Ph.D.
|Computer Science and Engineering||Dissertation|
|Title: Secure Hardware Constructions for Fault Detection of Lattice-based Post-quantum Cryptosystems
Major Professor: Mehran Mozaffari Kermani, Ph.D.
Shangqing Zhao, Ph.D.
|Title: Data-Oriented Approaches towards Mobile, Network and Secure Systems
Major Professor: Zhuo Lu, Ph.D.
|Michelle Guitard||Marine Science||Dissertation|
|Title: Ocean Forcing of Quaternary East Antarctic Ice Sheet Evolution: An Ice-Proximal Sedimentary Perspective|
|Sheikh Ariful Islam||Computer Science||Dissertation|
|Title: Behavioral and RT-Level Synthesis of Secure Nano VLSI Digital ASIC Designs|
|Title: The Power of Non-Compliant Logos: A New Materialist Approach to Comic Studies|
|Sarah Schmid||Integrative Biology||Thesis|
|Title: Novel CO2 Transporters from Autotrophic Bacteria from Extreme Environments|
|Kadriye Merve Dogan||Mechanical Engineering||Dissertation|
|Title: Stable Adaptive Control Systems in the Presence of Unmodeled and Actuator|
|Title: Development and Application of Computational Models for Biochemical Systems|
|Zeinab Motawe||Molecular Pharmacology & Physiology||Dissertation|
|Title: Functional Significance of Endothelial Sigma-1 Receptors in Vascular Reactivity and Barrier Function|
|Title: 9/11 Then and Now: How the Performance of Memorial Rhetoric by Presidents Changes to Construct Hero|
|Mengqiu Wang||Marine Science||Dissertation|
|Title: Spatial and Temporal Distributions of Pelagic Sargassum in the Intra-Americas Sea and Atlantic Ocean|
|Brent Kuenzi||Cancer Chemical Biology||Dissertation|
|Title: Off-Target Based Drug Repurposing Using Systems Pharmacology|
|Kim Miender||Music Education||Dissertation|
|Title: The Effects of a Self-Regulated Learning Music Practice Strategy Curriculum on Music Performance, Self-Regulation, Self-Efficacy, and Cognition|
|Title: A Fundamental Investigation into Low Thermal Conductivity P-Type Chalcogenides and Skutterudites with Potential Thermoelectric Applications|
|Title: Computational Discovery of Energetic Polynitrogen Compounds at High Pressure|
|Renee Fleeman||Cell Biology, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology||Dissertation|
|Title: Discovering Antibacterial and Anti-Resistance Agents Targeting Multi-Drug Resistant ESKAPE Pathogens|
|Kimberly French||Psychology (Industrial-Organizational)||Dissertation|
|Title: Episodic Work-Family Conflict and Strain: A Dynamic Perspective|
|Amanda Palmer||Psychology (Clinical)||Thesis|
|Title: Parsing the Influences of Nicotine and Expectancies on the Acute Effects of E-cigarettes: A Balanced Placebo Experiment|
|Ashley Basiorka||Cancer Biology||Dissertation|
|Title: Changing the Pathobiological Paradigm in Myelodysplastic Syndromes: The NLRP3 Inflammasome Drives the MDS Phenotype|
|Jeremy Cohen||Integrative Biology||Dissertation|
|Title: Climate Change Drives Outbreaks of Emerging Infectious Disease and Phenological Shifts|
|Title: Significance of PTEN Phosphorylation and its Nuclear Function in Lung Cancer|
|Jacqueline L. Fries||Chemistry||Dissertation|
|Title: Chemical Investigation of Antarctic Marine Organisms & Their Role in Modern Drug Discovery|
|Nikita La Cruz||Geosciences||Thesis|
|Title: Schreibersite: Synthesis, Characterization and Corrosion and Possible Implications for Origin of Life|
|Title: Investigation of Low Thermal Conductivity Materials with Potential for Thermoelectric Applications|
|JungA (Alexa) Woo||Molecular Medicine||Dissertation|
|Title: Role of the Slingshot-Cofilin and RanBP9 Pathways in Alzheimer's Disease Pathogenesis|
|Aaron Craig||Curriculum & Instruction||Dissertation|
|Title: National Investigation of Pre-Activity Health Screening Procedures in Fitness Facilities: Perspectives from American College of Sports Medicine Certified Health Fitness Specialists|
|Jayita Das||Electrical Engineering||Dissertation|
|Title: Auxiliary Roles in STT-MRAM Memory|
|Jianing Fu||Cancer Biology||Dissertation|
|Title: Targeting T-bet for Prevention of Graft-Versus-Host Disease and Leukemia Relapse after Allogeneic Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation|
|Robert Hardy||Marine Science||Thesis|
|Title: Assessments of Surface-Pelagic Drift Communities and Behavior of Early Juvenile Sea Turtles in the Northern Gulf of Mexico|
|Brian Barnes||Marine Science||Dissertation|
|Title: The Combined Effects of Light and Temperature on Coral Bleaching: A Case Study of the Florida Reef Tract Using Satellite Data|
|Taegan McMahon||Integrative Biology||Dissertation|
|Title: Effects of Pesticides and the Pathogenic Chytrid Fungus on Aquatic Organisms with an Emphasis on their Role in Amphibian Declines|
|Darrell Nicholson||Creative Writing||Thesis|
|Hillary Seifert||Molecular Pharmacology||Dissertation|
|Title: The Inflammatory Response Initiated by the Spleen to Ischemic Stroke|
|Title: Theory and Modeling of Graphene and Single Molecule Devices|
|Title: Embodying Social Practice: Dynamically Co-constituting Social Agency|
|TItle: Synthesis and Physical Properties of Group 14 Intermetallic Clathrates|
|Title: Split City Blues|
|Julia Galkiewicz||Marine Science||Dissertation|
|Title: Microbial Ecology and Functional Genomics of Deep-Water Coral-Associated Microbes|
|Cristina Mazza||Geography, Environment, & Planning||Thesis|
|Title: The Influence of Meteorological Parameters on Rainfall and Severe Weather in Pinellas County, FL|
|Cecelia Padros||Applied Anthropology||Dissertation|
|Title: The Participation of NGOs in Healthcare: The Case of Pediatric Cancer Treatment in Argentina|
|Adrian Popescu||Applied Physics||Dissertation|
|Title: Carbon Nanotubes Interactions: Theory and Applications|
|Huijuan Chen||Chemical Engineering||Dissertation|
|Title: The Conversion of Low-Grade Heat into Power Using Supercritical Rankine Cycles|
|Jason Lewis||Applied Physics||Dissertation|
|Title: Device Physics of Solution Processable Solar Cells|
|Javier Pulecio||Electrical Engineering||Dissertation|
|Title: Field-Coupled Nano-Magnetic Logic Systems|
|Matthew Tucker||Public Health||Dissertation|
|Title: Phenotypic and Genotypic Analysis of In Vitro Selected Artemisinin Resistant Plasmodium falciparum|
|Koutstav Bhattacharya||Computer Science & Engineering||Dissertation|
|Title: Architectures and Algorithms for Mitigation of Soft Errors in Nanoscale VLSI Circuits|
|Michael Conroy||Applied Physics||Dissertation|
|Title: Density Functional Theory Studies of Energetic Materials|
|Sabrina Hughes||Art History||Thesis|
|Title: Empty Streets in the Capital of Modernity: Formation of Lieux de Mémoire in Parisian Street Photography From Daguerre to Atget|
|Title: Surface-Bonded Sol-Gel Sorbents for On-Line Hyphenation of Capillary Microextraction with High-Performance Liquid Chromatography|
|Matt Beekman||Applied Physics||Dissertation|
|Title: Fundamental Investigations on Open-Framework Intermetallic Materials of Group 14|
|Title: Air Toxics and Equity: A Geographic Analysis of Environmental Health Risks in Florida|
|Vishnu Nanduri||Industrial Engineering||Dissertation|
|Title: Generation Capacity Expansion in Restructured Energy Markets|
|Praveen Sekhar||Electrical Engineering||Dissertation|
|Title: Nanomanufacturing of Silica Nanowires: Synthesis, Characterization and Applications|
|Shayam Aravamudhan||Electrical Engineering||Thesis|
|Title: Development of Micro/Nanosensor Elements and Packaging Techniques for Oceanography|
|Upavan Gupta||Computer Science & Engineering||Dissertation|
|Title: Utilitarian Approaches for Multi-Metric Optimization in VLSI Circuit Design and Spatial Cluster|
|Rebecca Kinkade Davis||Cancer Biology||Dissertation|
|Title: Rb-Raf-1 Interaction as a Therapeutic Target for Proliferative|
|Luca Lai||Applied Anthropology||Dissertation|
|Title: The Interplay of Economics, Climatic and Cultural Change Investigated Through Isotopic Analyses of Bone Tissue: The Case of Sardinia 4000-1900 BC|