MAGS/ProQuest Distinguished Master’s Thesis Awards

The purpose of the annual MAGS/ProQuest Distinguished Master’s Thesis Awards is to recognize and reward distinguished scholarship and research at the master’s level.

The 2023 MAGS/ProQuest Distinguished Master’s Thesis Awards will recognize excellence in the disciplines of Social Sciences, and Mathematics, Physical Sciences, and Engineering. The awards will be recognized at the MAGS 79th Annual Meeting in Chicago, IL, to be held at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Chicago – Magnificent Mile, March 29-31, 2023.

Winners of the award each received a $750 honorarium, plus up to $500 toward travel expenses to attend the MAGS meeting.

Click HERE to download the The Guidelines for the 2023 MAGS/ProQuest Distinguished Master’s Thesis Awards. Click HERE to start the nomination process through our Google Form. The deadline is November 1, 2022.

For questions about the nomination process, please contact Thesis Committee Chair Pieter deHart at thesis @ mags-net. org.

MAGS/ProQuest Distinguished Thesis Award Recipients


Biological and Life Sciences

Ravneet Kaur


Oklahoma State University

“Juniperus Virginiana (Eastern Red Cedar): Investigating the Determinants of Abundance and Potential Use in Bioproducts Industry in Oklahoma”

Ravneet Kaur received her bachelor’s in Agricultural Sciences majoring in Soil Science and Agroforestry from Punjab Agricultural University, India. She received her MS in Forestry from Oklahoma State University under the guidance of Dr. Omkar Joshi. Her master’s thesis focused on investigating the ecological and socio-economic determinants of eastern redcedar’s (Juniperus virginiana) encroachment in the southern Great Plains of the United States. Additionally, this study performed an economic-impact analysis in conjunction with spatial analysis to understand the impacts of the introduction of new redcedar-based bioproducts industries on the economy of Oklahoma. Currently, Ravneet is working as the Senior GIS and Analytics Forester with the New York City Parks Department, where she joined as an Urban Forester in 2019. Her ongoing research focuses on the coastal adaptation of urban street trees in New York City, and she plans to advance her career in sustainable resource management and policymaking.

Lydia Bechtel-Edmonson

Musicology and Vocal Performance

University of Missouri-Kansas City

“Beyond Prima Donna: Pauline Viardot’s Collaboration on Meyerbeer’s Le prophète, Gounod’s Sapho, and Berlioz’s Arrangement of Orphée”

Dr. Lydia Bechtel-Edmonson currently serves as Assistant Instructional Professor of Voice and Music History at Pittsburg State University. She earned her DMA in Vocal Performance and MM in Musicology at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, while serving as a Graduate Teaching Assistant in Voice. As a performer, Bechtel has performed a number of operatic roles with companies in the U.S. and abroad. Equally committed to scholarly endeavors, Dr. Bechtel presented her research at the 2018 CMS National Conference in Vancouver, “Pauline Viardot’s Transcriptions of Chopin’s Mazurkas: A Study in Artistry,” and presented a poster at the 2019 ATMI National Conference in Louisville, “Projects for the Digital Age: Using Public Musicology and the Digital Humanities to Develop Student Research.” In 2019 she earned the prestigious P.E.O. Scholar Award, which allowed her to complete research on Pauline Viardot at the Harvard Houghton Library, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, and Mediathèque Hector Berlioz. Her musicology thesis research on Viardot was recognized by the National Opera Association as the winner of their Scholarly Paper Competition in 2020. Dr. Bechtel received her MM in Vocal Performance from Colorado State University where she served as a Graduate Teaching Assistant, teaching both Applied Voice and Music Theory Fundamentals. She earned her BM in Vocal Performance summa cum laude from Oklahoma State University.


Social and Behavioral Sciences

Benny Witkovsky


University of Wisconsin-Madison

“The Local Periphery: Small Cities and The Politics of Exclusion”

Benny Witkovsky is a doctoral student in Sociology at University of Wisconsin-Madison. He received his BA from Vassar College in 2012 and completed his MS in Sociology at UW in 2019. Focusing on political life in one small city in Wisconsin, Benny’s Master’s Thesis examines how recent partisan swings build on longstanding patterns of inequality and exclusion in local government. His dissertation, currently in progress, expands this research, deploying ethnographic and historical methods to explore how nonpartisan local politics and partisan state and federal politics interact in small cities across Wisconsin. Other research projects include an examination of the politics of prison proliferation in rural America with the Justice Lab at UW, a study of elder activists in rural Wisconsin, and an analysis of the growing political divide between adjacent rural and urban communities. Additionally, Benny has worked as an evaluator on community based research projects with the Madison Police Department and the Legacy Community Alliance for Health.
Mathematics, Physical Sciences, and Engineering

Richard Gross

Software Engineering

Grand Valley State University

“Algorithm for Geodetic Positioning Based on Angle-Of-Arrival of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcasts”

Richard Gross served eight years in the United States Marine Corps as an avionics technician, responsible for the repair of communication and navigation equipment on various military aircraft. After separating from the Marine Corps, he accepted a field service position at Smiths Aerospace (now GE Aviation Systems), and simultaneously began his professional and academic career. As a non-traditional student balancing the demands of raising a family, increasing career responsibilities, and academic goals, Richard received his Associate in Science degree from Grand Rapids Community College, and both a Bachelor of Science in Engineering and Master of Science in Engineering from Grand Valley State University. Richard is now a Senior Embedded Software Development Engineer at GE Aviation Systems where his primary focus is aircraft navigation and guidance.


Biological/Life Sciences

Alicia Heil

Integrated Biosciences

University of Minnesota – Duluth

“Defining a model for anterior neural tube closure in the developing zebrafish embryo”

Alicia Heil received her Bachelors of Science in Cell and Molecular Biology at the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2013. After working as a research technician for a short period of time, she enrolled in the Integrated Biosciences program at the University of Minnesota and joined the lab of Dr. Jennifer Liang. Her research focused using microscopy and molecular techniques to define a model for neural tube development in zebrafish. Currently, Alicia is a laboratory manager in the Biology Department at the University of Minnesota Duluth, specializing in molecular, genetics, and developmental biology.

Tais Xavier Carvalho

Portuguese and Comparative Literature

Indiana University

“We Can Use Them to Create a Braid. And Dream of a Change” – Politics, Identity, and Culture in Ana Maria Machado’s and Ondjaki’s Children’s Literature

Tais Xavier Carvalho
Tais Xavier Carvalho, born and raised in Brasília, Brazil, received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English Language and Literature from Universidade de Brasília (UnB) in 2016 and her M.A. in Lusophone Literature from Indiana University in 2018. She is currently a Ph.D. student in the Portuguese Program in Indiana University pursuing a minor in Comparative Literature. During her studies at IU she developed an interest in children’s literature and wrote her master’s thesis, “We Can Use Them to Create a Braid. And Dream of a Change” – Politics, Identity, and Culture in Ana Maria Machado’s and Ondjaki’s Children’s Literature, under the supervision of Dr. Luciana Namorato. The work analyzes the connection between Brazilian and Angolan political issues and children’s books written by Ana Maria Machado and Ondjaki and was selected for the University Graduate School Distinguished Master’s Thesis Award. For her Ph.D., Taís intends to keep doing research related to children’s literature written in Brazil during the military dictatorship.