Winners of 2020 CGS/ProQuest® Distinguished Dissertation Awards Announced
    January 26, 2021



    Contacts: Katherine Hazelrigg  (202) 461-3888 /  and Gilia Smith, ProQuest (734) 707-2691 |


    Washington, DC The Council of Graduate Schools / ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Awards, the nation’s most prestigious honors for doctoral dissertations, were presented to Akhil Rao and Caroline Trippel during the Council’s award ceremony held as a post-meeting event of the virtual CGS 60th Annual Meeting. Dr. Rao received his PhD in economics from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2019; Dr. Trippel completed her PhD in computer science/computer architecture from Princeton University in 2019.


    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 educational technology and content – including 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 of recognition, a $2,000 honorarium, and a travel stipend to attend the awards ceremony.


    “Over the past 39 years, the Distinguished Dissertation Award winners have consistently demonstrated the significant impact young scholars have in their disciplines and the broader graduate education community,” said CGS President Suzanne T. Ortega. “The 2020 honorees, Dr. Rao and Dr. Trippel, continue this tradition through their innovative research and noteworthy contributions to their respective fields. Their work embodies the value and impact of graduate education to the world and merits recognition.”


    “We are honored to sponsor and recognize these scholars, whose work in their fields will make contributions to future research in years to come,” said Angela D’Agostino, VP of Dissertations at ProQuest. “We celebrate their immense achievements and offer well wishes for their future successes. In support of their aspirations, we are pleased to include their research with ProQuest where it can be referenced and expanded upon by other researchers around the world.”


    Dr. Rao received the 2020 Award in Social Sciences for his dissertation, The Economics of Orbit Use: Theory, Policy, and Measurement. Rao’s work investigates, “the nature of orbit-use externalities, classify existing policies, identify a category of optimal policies, consider the extent to which technological advances can mitigate orbital externalities, and calculate the time path of an optimal satellite tax and the gains from implementing it.” Dr. Rao is currently an assistant professor of economics at Middlebury College.


    The 2020 Award in Mathematics, Physical Sciences, & Engineering was presented to Dr. Trippel for her dissertation, Concurrency and Security Verification in Heterogeneous Parallel Systems. Trippel’s work, “combines hardware systems architecture approaches with formal methods techniques to support the specification, analysis, and verification of implementation-aware event ordering scenarios. The specific goal here is enabling automatic synthesis of implementation-aware programs capable of violating correctness or security guarantees when such programs exist.” Dr. Trippel is currently an assistant professor of computer science and electrical engineering at Stanford University.


    This year several outstanding scholars received honorable mentions: Anna Grummon (nominated by the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill) and Cristina Gauthier Hernández (nominated by Michigan State University) for the Award in Social Sciences; and Daniel Gilman (nominated by the University of California, Los Angeles) and Kaveh Matinkhoo (nominated by the University of British Columbia) for the Award in Mathematics, Physical Sciences, and Engineering.


    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.


    About ProQuest (

    ProQuest supports the important work in the world’s research and learning communities. The company curates six centuries of content – the world’s largest collection of journals, ebooks, primary sources, dissertations, news, and video – and builds powerful workflow solutions to help libraries acquire and grow collections that inspire extraordinary outcomes. ProQuest products and services are used in academic, K-12, public, corporate and government libraries in 150 countries.


    Along with its companies and affiliates Ex Libris, Alexander Street, and Bowker, ProQuest helps its customers achieve better research, better learning and better insights. For more information, visit our ProQuest and Extraordinary Stories blogs, and follow us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.


    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.  
    CGS is an authority on global trends in graduate education and a leader in the international graduate community. Our resources and meetings on global issues help members internationalize their campuses, develop sustainable collaborations, and prepare their students for a global future.