Winners of 2015 CGS/ProQuest® Distinguished Dissertation Awards Announced
    December 3, 2015

    Julia Kent, Council of Graduate Schools                                               

    (202) 461-3874                                                                         


    Beth Dempsey, ProQuest

    (248) 349-7810                           


    Awards recognize outstanding research by graduates in the fields of Biological & Life Sciences and Humanities & Fine Arts


    Washington, DC The Council of Graduate Schools / ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Awards, the nation’s most prestigious honors for doctoral dissertations, were presented to Jeongmin Choi and Timo Schaefer at an awards ceremony during the Council’s 55th Annual Meeting. Dr. Choi completed her PhD in 2014 at University of Missouri, in Plant Science, and Dr. Schaefer received his PhD in 2015 from Indiana University, in History.


    Bestowed annually since 1982, the awards recognize recent doctoral recipients who have already made unusually significant and original contributions to their fields. ProQuest, an international leader in dissertation archiving, discovery, and access, sponsors the awards and an independent committee from the Council of Graduate Schools selects the winners. Two awards are given each year, rotating among four general areas of scholarship. The winners receive a certificate, a $2,000 honorarium, and funds for travel to the awards ceremony.


    “The Distinguished Dissertation Awards demonstrate the dramatic impact young scholars have on their fields,” said CGS President Suzanne T. Ortega. “It’s a testament to the vitality and value of graduate education when recently minted PhDs contribute and expand upon knowledge to raise the level of understanding in their fields.”


    Austin McLean, director, ProQuest Scholarly Communication and Dissertations Publishing said, “ProQuest has devoted decades to improving both discovery of and access to dissertations because of the vital roles they play in advancing knowledge. We’re delighted to honor the excellent examples Dr. Choi and Dr. Schaefer have provided of the fresh perspectives and innovative thinking that are found in graduate works.”​


    The 2015 Award in the Biological and Life Sciences was presented to Dr. Choi for her dissertation, “Identification of an extracellular adenosine 5’–triphosphate receptor in Arabidopsis thaliana.” Recent research demonstrates Adenosine 5’-triphosphate (ATP) plays an important role in plant growth, development, and stress responses. This project focuses on the enigmatic mechanism of extracellular ATP recognition in plants. Choi describes “a mutant screen that identified a key molecular component involved in extracellular ATP recognition in Arabidopsisthaliana. The gene identified by isolation of an ATP-insensitive mutant was termed DORN1 (Does not respond to Nucleotides 1).” She argues that DORN1 is “essential for perception of extracellular ATP and likely plays a variety of roles in plant stress responses.” Dr. Choi is currently a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Cambridge.



    [From left: Suzanne T. Ortega, CGS; Jeongmin Choi, winner, 2015 ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award; Marlene Coles, ProQuest]


    Dr. Schaefer received the 2015 Award in Humanities and Fine Arts for his dissertation, “The Social Origins of Justice: Mexico in the Age of Utopian Failure, 1821-1870.”  His project is a “comparative study of legal-institution building in indigenous towns, mestizo towns, and estate (hacienda) settlements in post-independence Mexico.” Schaefer argues that “struggles over the shape of Mexico’s post-colonial justice system turned on different conceptions of the appropriate place of labor in social life.” He concludes that “the historical failure of liberalism in nineteenth-century Mexico was linked to the defeat of a civic imagination that had conceived of labor not as the subordinate or alienated pole in an antagonistic property relation but as the constitutive and ordering power of all social life.” Dr. Schaefer is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of History at the University of British Columbia.



    [From left: Suzanne T. Ortega, CGS; Timo Schaefer, winner, 2015 ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award; Marlene Coles, ProQuest]


    More information about the CGS / ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award is available at or at

    About the Council of Graduate Schools (

    The Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) is an organization of approximately 500 institutions of higher education in the United States and Canada engaged in graduate education, research, and the preparation of candidates for advanced degrees. The organization’s mission is to improve and advance graduate education, which it accomplishes through advocacy in the federal policy arena, research, and the development and dissemination of best practices.

      * Based on data from the 2013 CGS/GRE Survey of Graduate Enrollment and Degrees


    About ProQuest (

    ProQuest connects people with vetted, reliable information. Key to serious research, the company’s products are a gateway to the world’s knowledge including dissertations, governmental and cultural archives, news, historical collections and ebooks. ProQuest technologies serve users across the critical points in research, helping them discover, access, share, create and manage information.


    The company’s cloud-based technologies offer flexible solutions for librarians, students and researchers through the ProQuest®, Bowker®, Dialog®, ebrary® and EBL® businesses – and notable research tools such as the Summon® discovery service, the ProQuest Flow™ collaboration platform, the Pivot™ research development tool and the Intota™ library services platform. The company is headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with offices around the world.


    CGS is the leading source of information, data analysis, and trends in graduate education. Our benchmarking data help member institutions to assess performance in key areas, make informed decisions, and develop plans that are suited to their goals.
    CGS Best Practice initiatives address common challenges in graduate education by supporting institutional innovations and sharing effective practices with the graduate community. Our programs have provided millions of dollars of support for improvement and innovation projects at member institutions.
    As the national voice for graduate education, CGS serves as a resource on issues regarding graduate education, research, and scholarship. CGS collaborates with other national stakeholders to advance the graduate education community in the policy and advocacy arenas.  
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