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.

2022 Outstanding Dissertation Award Recipients

Elizabeth Hintz

Elizabeth Hintz, Ph.D. (Communication)
Explicating the Process of Communicative Disenfranchisement for Women with Chronic Overlapping Pain Conditions (COPCs)
Major Professor: Steven R. Wilson, Ph.D.

Research Summary

"Elizabeth Hintz (Ph.D. University of South Florida) is an Assistant Professor of Health Communication at the University of Connecticut. Elizabeth’s research examines how individuals managing complex, stigmatized, and poorly understood health conditions experience and navigate challenging conversations with partners, family members, and medical providers."


Ausmita Sarker

Ausmita Sarker, Ph.D. (Computer Science and Engineering)
Secure Hardware Constructions for Fault Detection of Lattice-based Post-quantum Cryptosystems
Major Professor: Mehran Mozaffari Kermani, Ph.D.

Research Summary

"Ausmita Sarker, Ph.D. is an applied scientist at IBM incorporation. It is predicted that quantum computers will replace current computers in no time, which in turn will break the current data encryption algorithms, exposing sensitive information on both personal and national levels. Ausmita's dissertation proposed hardware architectures that countermeasures against malicious attacks, protecting data during such quantum era. Her proposed architectures in this dissertation can also detect device malfunctions, which are crucial to proper functionalities of sensitive medical applications, e.g., pacemakers, ring heart rate monitors, and Bluetooth-based ECG monitors."


Shangqing Zhao

Shangqing Zhao, Ph.D. (Electrical Engineering)
Data-Oriented Approaches towards Mobile, Network and Secure Systems
Major Professor: Zhuo Lu, Ph.D.

Research Summary

"With advances in mobile technology, computing capabilities, and different wireless networks, the amount of data generated has increased tremendously. The data explosion broadens our horizons when seeking new approaches in the next-generation wireless network and security designs. Therefore, my research is mainly focused on novel system design, mobile and network security. I am also equally focused on data-driven designs for communication, network, and secure systems. Currently, I am interested in the development and applications of human-like neural networks."


2022 Outstanding Thesis Award Recipient

Ruchitha Chinthala

Ruchitha Chinthala, M.S. (Computer Science and Engineering)
An Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) Approach for Remote Assessment of Head and Neck Cancer Patients
Co-Major Professors: Srinivas Katkoori, Ph.D. and Carmen S. Rodriguez, Ph.D.

Research Summary

"Head and neck cancer patients are currently evaluated in-person for trismus and shoulder dysfunction by doctors and their rehabilitation team during scheduled appointments. In between these appointments, the patient's condition may deteriorate, and/or determining progress and compliance with the rehabilitation plan may need to be monitored. Thus, there is an acute need for remote and automated monitoring for early detection of complications, lack of progress, and for the emergence of other problems or symptoms. In this interdisciplinary research, for the first time, we propose an IoMT (Internet-of-Medical-Things) application, namely, Automatic Measurement of Trismus and Shoulder Dysfunction (AMTSD), for such remote and accurate monitoring.  Specific to trismus and shoulder dysfunction, on a daily basis, patients can use a desktop/laptop with a standard camera to automatically record their lower jaw extension and shoulder range of motion. The collected data is stored in HIPPA compliant server and is accessible to the care team to follow the patient's progress. "


Past Outstanding Thesis and Dissertation Award Winners


Name Major Type
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 
Stephanie Phillips English Dissertation
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


Name Major Type
Kadriye Merve Dogan Mechanical Engineering Dissertation
Title: Stable Adaptive Control Systems in the Presence of Unmodeled and Actuator
Fiona Kearns Chemistry Dissertation
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
Kristen Grafton English Thesis
Title: 9/11 Then and Now: How the Performance of Memorial Rhetoric by Presidents Changes to Construct Hero


Name Major Type
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
Dean Hobbis Physics Thesis
Title: A Fundamental Investigation into Low Thermal Conductivity P-Type Chalcogenides and Skutterudites with Potential Thermoelectric Applications


Name Major Type
Brad Steele Physics Dissertation
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 


Name Major Type
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
Prerna Malaney Pathology Dissertation
Title: Significance of PTEN Phosphorylation and its Nuclear Function in Lung Cancer


Name Major Type
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
Kaya Wei Physics Dissertation
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


Name Major Type
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


Name Major Type
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
Title: Waterborne
Hillary Seifert Molecular Pharmacology Dissertation
Title: The Inflammatory Response Initiated by the Spleen to Ischemic Stroke


Name Major Type
Lyudmyla Adamska Physics


Title: Theory and Modeling of Graphene and Single Molecule Devices
Brian Dunst Philosophy Dissertation
Title: Embodying Social Practice: Dynamically Co-constituting Social Agency
Stefce Stefanoski Physics Dissertation
TItle: Synthesis and Physical Properties of Group 14 Intermetallic Clathrates
Claire Stephens English Thesis
Title: Split City Blues


Name Major Type
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


Name Major Type
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


Name Major Type
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
Scott Segro Chemistry Dissertation
Title: Surface-Bonded Sol-Gel Sorbents for On-Line Hyphenation of Capillary Microextraction with High-Performance Liquid Chromatography


Name Major Type
Matt Beekman Applied Physics Dissertation
Title: Fundamental Investigations on Open-Framework Intermetallic Materials of Group 14
Angela Gilbert Geography Thesis
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


Name Major Type
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