MAGS/ProQuest Distinguished Masters Thesis Awards


The Executive Committee of the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools (MAGS) is soliciting nominations for the 2017 MAGS/ProQuest Distinguished Master’s Thesis Awards. The awards are to recognize and reward distinguished scholarship and research at the master’s level.

For the 2017 cycle, MAGS is seeking nominations for the Distinguished Thesis Awards in the two broad categories of Social Sciences and Mathematics, Physical Sciences, and Engineering.  In the following year, the two broad categories will be Biological/Life Sciences and Humanities.

The Guidelines for the 2017 MAGS Distinguished Masters Thesis Awards are:

Each member institution may submit one nomination for the award in each of the two categories (i.e. each institution can nominate a total of 2 theses). Each nomination requires the written endorsement of the Dean of the Graduate School or equivalent official. The institution selection process is the responsibility of that individual.

To be considered, a thesis must contain original work that makes an unusually significant contribution to the discipline. It must be in a format that conforms to accepted disciplinary standards, and it must have been accepted as final by the degree-granting institution. Theses submitted electronically will normally be in pdf format; hyperlinks to additional materials may be included but must be verified prior to submission. Any institution wishing to submit a thesis in another electronic format should consult with the chair of the MAGS Outstanding Thesis Committee prior to doing so.

Nominations will be accepted in the disciplines of Social Sciences and Mathematics, Physical Sciences, and Engineering. Original works accepted by an institution “in lieu of thesis” (such as musical compositions, published books, works of art, computer software, etc.) may not be nominated.

The effective date of degree award, or the completion of master’s degree requirements, must fall in the period of July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2016, inclusive, for each nominee selected. Such degree award or completion is to be confirmed by the institution’s graduate dean or other administrative officer responsible for doctoral degree programs.Since the intent of the competition is to recognize scholarship by students who are pursuing their first graduate research degree, individuals who received a Ph.D. (or comparable research degree) in any discipline prior to the writing of the master’s thesis are not eligible. However, recipients of a first professional degree awarded prior to the writing of the thesis may be nominated.

The nomination consists of the following electronic submissions:

  • The nomination form, the abstract of the nominated thesis, and the thesis must be submitted electronically to Jill Toft at by October 28, 2016. Please use as the subject heading “MAGS Thesis.” The abstract, describing the research and its significance, must not exceed 300 words and must contain the title of the thesis and the name of the author, but not the name of the nominating institution.
  • Letters from the faculty mentor and (or) the Dean of the Graduate School or equivalent may accompany the nomination.
  • Those institutions unable to submit their nominated thesis electronically may send one photocopy of the thesis to the review committee by surface mail carrier. This document will NOT be returned to the institution. The deadline for receipt of the photocopied thesis will be October 28, 2016.
  • Materials submitted by surface mail should be sent to:

Jill Toft on behalf of Scott Herness, PhD
The Ohio State University
250 University Hall
230 N. Oval Mall
Columbus, OH 43210

Each recipient of a MAGS Distinguished Master’s Thesis Award will receive a $750 honorarium. In addition, up to $500 will be available to each recipient for travel expenses to attend the Annual Meeting, April 5-7 at the Omni Severin Hotel in Indianapolis, Indiana. It is expected that the winner’s institution will cover any travel expenses which exceed the $500 provided by MAGS for the awardee to attend the meeting to receive the award. The faculty mentor or thesis advisor will also be invited to attend the presentation ceremony, but their expenses will not be covered.

Questions may be directed to Jill Toft by email at or by telephone at 614-292-9490.


Past MAGS/ProQuest Distinguished Thesis Award Recipients




Biological and Life Sciences  Nicholas Borcherding, University of Iowa
“Non-canonical WNT signaling in breast cancer initiation and progression.”
 Borcherding_Image Nick Borcherding is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps. After his service, he attended Iowa State University (Ames, IA) for a Bachelors of Science in nutritional science, graduating summa cum laude in 2012. He enrolled in the Masters of Science Pathology program at the University of Iowa (Iowa City, IA) and joined the lab of Dr. Weizhou Zhang, where he researched the role of noncanonical WNT signaling in breast cancer. After graduating in 2014, Nick entered the combined MD/PhD Medical Scientist Training Program at the University of Iowa and is currently a second year student. He will be entering the graduate phase of his training this summer and will expand on his M.S. work with Dr. Weizhou Zhang on the paracrine regulation of breast cancer initiation and progression. After his training, Nick would like to continue researching through residency and hopes to find a position in academic medicine.


Humanities Saul Meyerson-Knox, University of Cincinnati
““African Blues”: The Sound and History of a Transatlantic Discourse”
Saul Meyerson-Knox Bio pic Saul completed a Master of Music degree with a double major in Music History and Classical Guitar Performance at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music in 2013. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Guilford College (NC) in 2007. At CCM Saul focused on Ethnomusicology and used his thesis to explore connections between the American Blues and West African music. Saul currently teaches guitar through UC’s Communiversity Program as well as various private music studios, and is an active performer throughout the Cincinnati area.




Physical Sciences Gavin A. D’Souza, University of Cincinnati
“Influence of Serial Coronary Stenoses on Diagnostic Parameters: An In-vitro Study with Numerical Validation
Gavin D’Souza earned his Bachelor of Engineering degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Mumbai, India, in 2011. Subsequently, he enrolled into the Master’s program at the University of Cincinnati (UC), OH, in 2011 and graduated with a Master of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering in 2014 under the mentorship of Dr. Rupak Banerjee. Currently, Gavin is a first-year PhD candidate in the Mechanical Engineering program at UC and continues to be a member of Dr. Banerjee’s Transport in Engineering and Medicine lab.While pursuing his Master’s degree at UC, Gavin worked as a Teaching Assistant and Research Assistant in the field of cardiovascular diagnostics. He gained additional experience in medical device research and regulatory science during his appointment to the Research Participation Program at the US Food and Drug Administration, MD, in 2012. Post-graduation, Gavin received the University Research Council’s Graduate Research Fellowship in 2014 to conduct cardiovascular research. His research has led to three peer-reviewed journal publications and three conference presentations. He received two Best Student Paper awards for his presentations at international level conferences. Currently, he is a Graduate Research Assistant at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and works on enhancing pediatric patient care using engineering principles and medical imaging techniques. While pursuing his doctoral degree, Gavin also serves as a member of the Verification and Validation in Computational Modeling of Medical Devices (V&V 40) CFD sub-committee, comprising of the FDA, industry and academia.

After the completion of his PhD, Gavin plans to pursue a career as a researcher in the medical device industry.


Social Sciences Christina E. Holbein, Loyola University of Chicago
“Towards Observational Measurement Of Social Competence In Youth With Chronic Health Conditions: Development Of Peer Interaction Scales For Youth With Spina Bifida”




Biological and Life Sciences  Kaylia Duncan, Department of Pathology, University of Iowa
“Dynamics of Tumor Progression and Therapy Response in IL-6 and MYC-Driven Plasma Cell Malignancy
 Kaylia  A native of the southern Caribbean multi-island territory of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Kaylia Duncan graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology from Fisk University (Nashville, TN) in 2010. She subsequently enrolled in the Masters of Science Pathology program at the University of Iowa (Iowa City, IA) and joined the lab of Dr. Siegfried Janz until graduating in May 2013. Currently, Kaylia is a first year Ph.D. student in the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Iowa. She recently joined the lab of Dr. Robert Cornell whose work include developmental genetics utilizing the zebra fish as a model. After her Ph.D. training Kaylia is interested in pursuing a postdoctoral fellowship in either an academic or industrial environment.


Humanities Anna Lynch, Department of Religious Studies, University of Iowa
“Early Lutheran Education in the Late Reformation in Mecklenburg”
Anna Lynch MAGS photo Anna Lynch received her BA in History (2011) from Augustana College in South Dakota and her MA in Religious Studies (2013) from the University of Iowa. Her thesis was titled, Early Lutheran Education in the Late Reformation in Mecklenburg. In January of 2014 she began working as a clerk at a law firm in Iowa City, IA. She hopes to begin a PhD program in the near future. Her long-term academic interests involve the historical account of the Lutheran reformation in Germany from a social and theological perspective.




Master’s Thesis from a Doctoral Institution Ryan T. Schwier, Public History, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis
“According to the Custom of the Country”: Indian Marriage, Property Rights, and Legal Testimony in the Jurisdictional Formation of Indiana Settler Society, 1717-1897”
Ryan-Schwier After completing his undergraduate studies in history at Indiana University Bloomington, Ryan earned his master’s degrees in library and information science (2004) and public history (2011) from Indiana University Indianapolis.  In his professional capacity, Ryan served as an academic law librarian from 2006 to 2012, providing research instruction and reference services to students, faculty, and staff at the IU-Robert H. McKinney School of Law. His teaching experience includes presentations on U.S. constitutional history, legal research, and academic ethics. He has published on a broad range of topics including Native American land rights, Indiana Supreme Court justices, historical consulting, and the preservation of Indiana’s historic public libraries. His scholarly interests include the history of Indigenous-settler relations in colonial North America, international and comparative legal history, American Indian law and policy, civil rights and historical justice, and the use of historical narratives in promoting inter-cultural dialogue, conflict resolution, and peace building.Ryan is currently a first-year student at the Indiana University-Robert H. McKinney School of Law. He is the recipient of the Dan and Marilyn Quayle Scholarship and a member of Phi Alpha Delta International. His practice area interests include immigration, civil rights, mediation, and environmental law.


Master’s Thesis from a Master’s Institution Amirhossein Arzani, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Illinois Insitute of Technology
“Validation and Characterization of Turbulence in an Aortic Coarctation”
Amirhossein-Arzani Amirhossein Arzani received his BS in Mechanical engineering (2010) from Isfahan University of Technology in Iran, and his MS from Illinois Institute of Technology (2012). He is currently a PhD student and a research assistant working with Shawn Shadden. His main research area is cardiovascular fluid mechanics, with emphasis on understanding physics of blood flow by dynamical systems methods.Future: Amirhossein will be transferring to University of California Berkeley with his advisor to pursuit the rest of his PhD. He is looking forward to finding an academic faculty position in the future.