School of
Graduate Studies


Each academic year graduate programs nominate students for three School of Graduate Studies awards. Each award comes with a monetary prize.

About Our Awards

Every year graduate program faculty are asked to nominate graduate students in three categories. The call for nominations is sent to graduate faculty in the Fall, and awardees are honored in the Spring. Each of the three awards comes with a monetary prize.

School of Graduate Studies Awards

Superior Teaching 

This award is nominated by faculty to recognize outstanding Teaching Assistants. Each academic unit can nominate one student, and that nomination indicates the high regard faculty has for the student’s teaching talent. The winner receives a monetary prize and a certificate.

Distinguished Thesis Award

This award recognizes distinguished scholarship and research at the Master’s level. Each School offering Master’s degrees with a thesis option is allowed to nominate one thesis into the competition. There is no application for students – this award is nominated by faculty. The winner receives a monetary prize and a certificate.

Outstanding Dissertation Award

This award, established in 1980, recognizes outstanding scholarship and accomplishment at the doctoral level. Academic units offering doctoral degrees may enter one dissertation from each degree program (or each participating discipline) into the competition. There is no application for students – this award is nominated by faculty. The winner receives a monetary prize and a certificate.

Additional Award

Three-Minute Thesis Competition

The Three-Minute Thesis is an international competition, with monetary prizes designed to sharpen students’ abilities to communicate research in an exciting and meaningful way to an educated non-expert audience. It can be described as the combination of an elevator speech and a TED talk.

The most recent competition was held on March 14, 2019. COVID-19 protocol prevented this event from happening for a few years, but we plan to host the competition again in Spring 2024.

Competition rules
  • A single static PowerPoint slide is permitted. No slide transitions, animations or movement or any descriptions are allowed. The slide is to be presented from the beginning of the oration.
  • No additional electronic media (e.g., sound and video files) are permitted.
  • No additional props (e.g., costumes, musical instruments, laboratory equipment) are permitted.
  • Presentations are limited to three minutes maximum, and competitors exceeding three minutes are disqualified.
  • Presentations are to be spoken word (no poems, raps or songs).
  • Presentations are to commence from the stage.
  • Presentations are considered to have commenced when a presenter starts their presentation through either movement or speech.
  • The decision of the adjudicating panel is final.
  • Titles must be brief and non-technical. 
    • Can the eyes of a plant help feed the world?
    • Why death matters
    • Gut bugs are responsible for digestion

Award Winners

Outstanding Dissertation Awardee

  • Dr. Bahaa Mustafa, Pharmaceutical Science and Chemistry
    • Advisor: Dr. Kun Cheng
    • Dissertation: “Discovery of Anti-CD47 Peptides for Cancer Immunotherapy and CD47-Mimicking Peptides That Inhibit Phagocytic Clearance of Nanoparticles”

Distinguished Master’s Thesis Awardee

  • Emma Blankenship, History
    • Advisor: Dr. Matthew Osborn
    • Thesis: “Trilobites and the Culture of Wonder in Antebellum America”

Outstanding Dissertation Awardee

  • Dr. Sumitra Dey, Electrical & Computer Engineering and Physics
    • Advisor: Dr. Ahmed Hassan
    • Dissertation: “Novel Electromagnetic Scattering Models for Nano-Composites and Nano-Sensor Applications”

Superior Teaching Awardees

  • Ashley Pendleton
  • Rylan Sampson
  • Dylan Ward

Superior Teaching Awardees

  • Paula Hayward, History Department
  • Matthew McCoy, Mathematics and Statistics Department
  • Nicolas Shump, English Department
  • Lacie Eades, Conservatory

Distinguished Master’s Thesis Awardee

  • Ryan Weaver, Mechanical Engineering
    • Advisor: Dr. Sarvenaz Sobhansarbandi
    • Thesis: “Heat Transfer Enhancement of Phase Change Materials for Thermal Energy Storage Systems”

Outstanding Dissertation Awardee

  • Dr. Hao Liu, Pharmaceutical Science and Chemistry
    • Advisor: Dr. Kun Cheng
    • Dissertation: “Evaluation of the Anti-Fibrotic Activity of PCBP2siRNA in Primary Hepatic Stellate Cells and Discovery of Anti-PD-L1 Peptide and Nanobody for Immunotherapy” 

2018-19 Three-Minute Thesis campus winner

  • Danielle Thomas, School of Pharmacy
    • Danielle represented UMKC at the Midwest Association of Graduate Schools regional Three-Minute Thesis competition in St. Louis, MO on March 22, 2019. She did an outstanding job, advancing to the final round (top 8) out of more than 40 regional competitors.