Campus Life

2023 Distinguished Dissertation Award Winners Announced

Doctoral students are honored for making a significant contribution to their field of study.
By David Yanez, Texas A&M University Graduate & Professional School April 24, 2023

(l-r) Bryton Praslicka, Namgyun Kim, Hunter Plummer and Emilie Baker
(l-r) Bryton Praslicka, Namgyun Kim, Hunter Plummer and Emilie Baker

Texas A&M University Graduate & Professional School


Each spring Texas A&M University’s Graduate and Professional School recognizes four doctoral students or recent graduates with Distinguished Dissertation Awards. These awards honor current or former students whose dissertations make a significant, impactful contribution to their field of study.

Awards are given in four categories: Biological and Life Sciences; Humanities and Fine Arts; Mathematics, Physical Sciences and Engineering; and Social Sciences. Each award comes with a commemorative plaque and a $1,000 prize.

Recipients of doctoral degrees between summer 2022 and spring 2023 were eligible for this year’s awards, sponsored by the Carol J. Cantrell Endowment, the George W. Kunze Endowment and the Mobil Aggies Graduate Endowment.

Mathematics, Physical Sciences and Engineering

Bryton Praslicka, who is set to graduate in May 2023 with a Ph.D. in electrical engineering, is the winner in the Mathematics, Physical Sciences and Engineering category for his dissertation, “Multi-physics Modeling and Optimization of Advanced Electric Machinery and Magnetic Gear Development,” which focuses on rapid modeling and optimization approaches to design novel electromagnetic rotating machines and non-contact speed reducers. Praslicka’s research will be applied to the design of electric powertrains that advance the capabilities of electric air, ground and space vehicles. He has published his findings in several of the top journals in his field, including the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Transactions on Industry Applications and the Journal of Emerging and Selected Topics in Power Electronics, among others.

Social Sciences

Dr. Namgyun Kim, an August 2022 graduate in construction science, is the winner in the Social Sciences category. Kim’s dissertation, “Curbing Construction Workers’ Risk Habituation to Workplace Hazards: Observing Habituated Behaviors and Providing Interventions in a Virtual Reality Environment,” focuses on using virtual reality to improve safety in the workplace. Kim’s research is aimed at quantifying and curbing desensitization to risk among construction workers to enhance safety across various high-risk industries. He published his findings in several top journals in multidisciplinary science and engineering, including Advanced Engineering Informatics and iScience.

Humanities and Fine Arts

Dr. Hunter Plummer, an August 2022 graduate in English, is the winner in the Humanities and Fine Arts category. Plummer’s dissertation, “Public Spaces / Private Lives: Fictionalizing the Female Journalist, 1880-1946,” researches the fictional depiction of the newspaperwoman’s physical movement, writing, and personal relationships to show how this liminal figure affected and responded to social questions surrounding gender and publicity culture. Using feminist geography, public sphere theory and historical scholarship, Plummer argues that researching this genre enables greater understanding of the ways real women in journalism exerted themselves in hostile spaces and how their communities truly felt about the cultural shifts they embody. His research can be found in The Henry James Review and forthcoming in The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era.

Biological and Life Sciences

Dr. Emilie Baker, a December 2022 graduate in animal breeding, is the winner in the Biological Sciences and Life Sciences category. Her dissertation, “DNA Methylation in a Prenatally Stressed Brahman Heifers,” researches the effect of prenatal transportation stress on genetic protein production processes that increase the risk of disease among tropically adapted beef cattle. Baker’s research contributed to original findings on the mechanisms through which stress-induced changes in performance may occur. The results of her research have been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals, including Frontiers in Genetics and Biology.

National Distinguished Dissertation Nominees

Texas A&M will nominate the dissertations of Baker and Plummer for the 2023 Distinguished Dissertation Award national competition sponsored by the Council of Graduate Schools (GCS) and ProQuest. Annually, GCS selects outstanding dissertations in two categories. This year, dissertations in the biological and life sciences, and humanities and fine arts are eligible for top prizes.

Dr. Fuhui Tong, interim associate provost and dean of the Graduate and Professional School commended this year’s Distinguished Dissertation Award winners for their achievement. “Congratulations to this year’s awardees,” Tong said. “Their outstanding research contributes to innovation, addresses challenging problems, makes the world safer and advances our knowledge about the human condition. They are brilliant scholars and very deserving of this honor. We are proud of all of them for the way they will continue to positively represent Texas A&M and we wish Emilie and Hunter the best of luck at the national CGS/ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award competition.”

Media contact: Rob Dixon,

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