The University Record, May 10 , 1999

Four receive Distinguished Dissertation Awards

By Rebecca Doyle

Michele Berger (second from right) and Heather Burrows (second from left) were honored for their 1998 doctoral dissertations. Graduate School Dean Earl Lewis (left) and William E. Savage (right), director of dissertation publishing at UMI, congratulated the recipients. Timur J. Linde and Ian F. McNeely also were honored for their dissertations, but could not attend the ceremony. Photo by Bob Kalmbach
Four alumni were honored for their doctoral dissertations at a ceremony April 29. Timur J. Linde, Heather L. Burrows, Michele T. Berger and Ian F. McNeely received this year’s Distinguished Dissertation awards. All received their Ph.D.s in 1998.

Linde, who received his degree in aerospace engineering, completed his dissertation on the heliosphere, the area around the sun that can be recognized by solar properties, such as its magnetic field. Linde compiled information about the sun and the heliosphere based on extensive observation that had previously been completed. From that he constructed a computational model to solve a set of non-linear equations that yielded the first comprehensive large-scale model of the magnetohydrodynamics of the heliosphere. His dissertation was titled “A Three-Dimensional Adaptive Multifluid MHD Model of the Heliosphere.”

“Linde’s approach to the problem of modeling heliospheric plasma dynamics is rigorous,” wrote Linda C. Ivany for the Michigan Society of Fellows. “His adept manipulation of complex mathematical and computational models is impressive, and his work demonstrated a sophisticated understanding of the physics that govern the behavior of the system.”

In addition, Ivany praised Linde’s writing as “remarkably understandable, engaging and elegant. Not only is his writing scholarly and insightful, but he also manages to communicate his fascination and excitement with his chosen field. He weaves literary and historical accounts of the sun throughout the introductory and concluding chapters in a refreshing and compelling way.”

Burrows, who received her degree in cellular and molecular biology, was honored for “Anterior Pituitary Products Involved in Pituitary Organogenesis and the Mammalian Stress Response.” The pituitary gland manages ovulation, lactation, contractions, fertility and desire and regulates the thyroid gland, growth rates, bone structure, mood swings and liver function–all in an organ the size of a pea.

“Burrows’ mentors and evaluators have evaluated her not only as Œcareful’ and Œbrilliant,’ not only as 'innovative’ and driven,’ but something more compelling than these,” wrote Mark E. Siddall for the Society of Fellows, “something that rarely is the hallmark of a biomedical researcher. Above all, Heather Burrows is widely regarded as Œdramatic,’ and appropriately so.

“Burrows has created a foundation upon which others can only borrow hereafter. In her work there is a rare integration of causality, conveyance and raw manifestation. Knowing all of this together is, in a sense, to better know ourselves.”

Berger, who received her degree in political science, titled her dissertation “Workable Sisterhood: A Study of the Political Participation of Stigmatized Women with HIV/AIDS.” In it, she studies the public voice and political agenda that women who contract HIV/AIDS develop as they redefine their lives after diagnosis.

“Berger’s graceful qualitative research methodology goes well beyond a mere summary of her subjects’ perspectives,” wrote Laura Swartzbaugh for the Society of Fellows. “Instead, she meticulously elucidates the motivations and context for their political development by including their own articulations of their political identities as activists, advocates and helpers.

“Berger challenges many assumptions regarding the motivations for and means by which people enter the political arena. In so doing, this dissertation ultimately demands a rethinking of political identity as a whole.”

McNeely, who received his degree in history, titled his dissertation “Writing, Citizenship and the Making of Civil Society in Germany, 1780–1840.” In it, he has rewritten the history of the changing social status of the municipal scribe class in Germany between 1780 and 1840.

“This masterful dissertation confronts the relevant cluster of macro-historical questions about citizenship and social change through a highly original micro-historical lens: an archival reconstruction of the changing fortunes of the Schreiber, or municipal scribe class, in the southwest German duchy of Württenberg in the years between 1780 and 1840,” wrote Paul A. Anderson when recommending McNeely for the award.

“McNeely’s findings allow him to confront with historical specificity the social and political processes referred to in current multidisciplinary theorizations of civil society and the public sphere.”

The Distinguished Dissertation Award is given in recognition of the most exceptional scholarly work produced by doctoral students nominated in 1998 after completion of their theses. The program is sponsored by the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies, the U-M Society of Fellows and UMI.