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Students awarded Doctoral Dissertation Prize

The OU Library building

Students awarded Doctoral Dissertation Prize


June 1, 2023 // 12:00 PM CST

The Office of the Provost has awarded three graduate students for outstanding performance in their respective programs. This year’s recipients of the Doctoral Dissertation Prize are Reza Alizadeh, Aparna Bamzai-Dodson, and Sara Wilson Laws.

The Doctoral Dissertation Prize was introduced by the Provost’s office in spring 1990. Academic departments submit nominations to the OU StudeGraduate College, and the winners are determined by selection committees. The prize is awarded each year to one student who has demonstrated exemplary research in one of the following three categories: Science and Engineering; Social Sciences, Education, and the Professions; and Humanities and Fine Arts.

Reza Alizadeh received the award in the Science and Engineering category. He earned his doctoral degree in Industrial & Systems Engineering in 2022. Alizadeh is currently a visiting assistant professor of data analytics at the Collins College of Business. Reza plans to pursue his academic career as a thought-leader professor in complex cyber-physical-social systems management. His research contributes to the theoretical research in machine learning and data analytics and provides managerial insights for sustainable energy, supply chain, production, and healthcare practitioners and policymakers.

He has published over 20 journal papers in peer-reviewed journals of Energy Economics, Advanced Engineering Informatics, Research in Engineering Design, and Intelligent Manufacturing. He is also an editorial board member for the Journal of AIMS Environmental Science and the International Journal of Sustainable Society. His research interests include creating and applying machine learning and optimization methods in the green supply chain and clean energy network design.

Aparna Bamzai-Dodson received the award in the Social Sciences, Education, and the Professions category. Aparna completed her doctorate in the OU Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability, working full-time while concurrently pursuing her degree. She currently works for a network of regional centers that funds and produces climate impacts and adaptation science, information, and tools to support on-the-ground resource management plans and decisions. She said it has not always been easy to balance work, school, and her personal life, and there were times when she felt overwhelmed and contemplated withdrawing from the Geography and Environmental Sustainability program.

However, Aparna’s job allowed her to see firsthand the need for scholarship on moving theory to practice, and she persevered. This award is particularly meaningful to her. She said it reassures her that her research has value and that her sacrifices have resulted in the creation of something consequential

Sara Wilson Laws received the award in the Humanities and Fine Arts category. Sara was a Co-Director of the Mark Allen Everett Poetry Series at OU. During her time as a graduate student, she taught literature and writing classes at the University of Oklahoma, Beijing Normal University, and American University. Upon graduation, Sara accepted a position as Assistant Professor in the Department of Focused Inquiry at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Since becoming a graduate student at OU, Sara’s work has been accepted for publication by editors of the book collection, Poet in Place and Time: Essays on Joanne Kyger and by the Hualin International Journal of Buddhist Studies, where her essay, “Buddhist Worldmaking in the American Midcentury,” is forthcoming. She presented her work at various conferences, including the Modern Language Associate Annual Conference, the American Literature Association Conference, and the East Asian Buddhist Worldmaking International Conference, co-hosted by the Frogbear Project at the University of British Columbia and Harvard University CAMLab.