The University Record, May 20, 1997

5 students honored for outstanding dissertations

By Rebecca A. Doyle


Five scholars who received doctoral degrees in 1996 were recently honored for their dissertation work and spoke about the dissertation process at a ceremony at the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies. The five were chosen from 24 nominees for the high quality of their scholarship and the significance and interest of their findings.

"The dissertation is the moment when one takes on a personal professional voice in one's scholarly work," Rackham Dean Nancy Cantor said in introducing the scholars. "That can be a little risky." Cantor described her own feelings of doubt in presenting her research and the process of branching out from mentors and instructors to present her own work.

Those feelings of doubt are one common thread among many that all candidates feel when they take that step away from being a student to becoming a scholar and author in their own right, Cantor said.

Dissertation award winners and their research are:

Amy Ai, "Psychosocial Adjustment and Health Care Practices Following Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Surgery." Ai researched and wrote about the psychsociological factors resulting from pre- and postoperative experiences heart patients had within the medical system, but also considered religion, employment and family of the patient in correlation to convalescence.

Luis Ocatvio Garza-Rios Eychenne, "Development of a Design Methodology for Mooring Systems Based on Catastrophe Theory." Eychenne presented a methodology to understand the dynamics of very complex nonlinear systems, such as that of an oil supertanker that needs to be moored so that it will remain stationary in the face of random wave and wind changes. Eychenne presented a comprehensive analytical derivation of the behavior boundaries of such systems. His method reveals stable, unstable, quasi-periodic and chaotic behavior regions that can be derived for any number of lines and design variables. Naval architecture programs worldwide are incorporating methods and theories he developed into their graduate courses.

Xuedong Hu, "Quantum Fluctuations in Condensed Matter Systems: Squeezed States in Phonons and Josephson Junction." Hu's main achievement is the development of a detailed theory of the quantum mechanical coherent and squeezed (suppressed quantum noise) states of phonons. "His thesis is not so much a closed chapter in some special research area as a mine of ideas and techniques to be explored in future work," wrote Andreas Eisenbach, research fellow in electrical engineering and computer science, of Hu's research.

Mary McGuire, "Disciplining the State: Organized Civil Servants, State Formation and Citizenship in the United States and Germany, 1880-1925." McGuire compared very dissimilar paradigms of modern government---the authoritarian Keiserreich Germany and the Democratic United States---and says that it is precisely the difference between the two that make her claim that postal worker agitation had a similar impact on both states most clear. Her work compares efforts of postal workers in both countries to negotiate salaries, pensions and promotion requirements, and she says those engagements between worker and state helped redefine the state as not merely an employer, "but as an agency less and less able to articulate itself with strong and monolithic authority."

David Moser, "Abstract Thinking and Thought in Early Chinese and Classical
Greek." Moser compared classical texts of Plato and Aristotle to Chinese philosophical traditions of the same period for the expression of abstract ideas such as beauty, goodness and truth. "One fascinating implication of Moser's research is his critique of cultural and linguistic triumphalism in the argument that the classical Greek's markings for abstractions, and the ancient Chinese's relative lack of these features, helps to explain why and how science developed in Western thought and lagged in Asia," wrote James Aikman and Kathleen O'Connor for the Society of Fellows in reviewing Moser's work.

The awards program is co-sponsored by University Microfilms International and the Graduate School.