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Awards Recognize Four Outstanding Dissertations

The 2018 Joukowsky Family Foundation Outstanding Dissertation Awards go to Megan Cole, David Mittelman, Maria Hwang and Sameer Iyer as they receive their doctoral degrees from Brown University on May 27. The prizes recognize superior achievements in research by students completing the doctoral degree. This year the research topics range from Medicare expansion and how skepticism is addressed in several Brazilian novels to the temporary labor migration of Filipina sex workers and the mathematical underpinnings of boundary layers in applied math.

Supported through the generosity of the Joukowsky Family Foundation, up to four awards are made, with one from each of the four main areas: the humanities and the life, physical and social sciences.

Megan Cole
Megan Cole, Health Services Research, receives the prize for her dissertation, The Impact of Medicaid Expansion on Community Health Centers: Effects on Health Insurance Coverage, Quality of Care, and Patient Volume. Her research focuses on Medicaid and safety-net populations, and how state and federal health reform efforts affect health care coverage, quality, and equity for these populations. Cole’s research has critically important policy implications for millions of low-income patients across the U.S.

“Her dissertation used innovative and sophisticated methods to examine several aspects of how health care reform impacted quality of care and health care disparities in community health centers nationally,” says Ira B. Wilson, Professor and Chair of the Health, Services and Policy department.

All chapters of Cole’s dissertation have been published or accepted for publication in Health Affairs, Medical Care and the Journal of General Internal Medicine. The first chapter of her dissertation was published in Health Affairs, the highest impact and most widely read journal in the field of health policy and health services, and was widely covered in the lay press, including the Washington Post, The Week, and Vox.com. Published in 2017, it has already been cited 15 times.

“I am really thrilled to receive this award. I think that receiving this award not only elevates these important issues, but it further motivates my research as I move forward in my career,” says Cole.

Cole is currently conducting research and teaching as an assistant professor at Boston University in the Department of Health, Law, Policy and Management in the School of Public Health.

David M. Mittelman
Mittelman’s dissertation analyzes the issue of skepticism in the novels from three celebrated writers of Brazilian literature, J.M. Machado de Assis, João Guimarães Rosa and Clarice Lispector. He is graduating with a PhD in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies.

By showing the differences in how the authors address skepticism in their writing, his research explores both literary and philosophical dimensions of the suspension of judgment. His dissertation is entitled, Skepticism and the Limits of Knowledge in Modern Brazilian Narrative.

“His analysis is meticulous and thorough, perceptive and enlightening, in such a way that even the reader not familiar with the problem of skepticism or Brazilian literature becomes quickly engulfed in the narrative,” says Professor of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies, Onésimo T. Almeida.

Mittelman has already published an original study on one of the authors he studied, Clarice Lispector in the journal,Transmodernity and a second on author João Guimarães Rosa in the Rocky Mountain Review.

“I'm thrilled to receive this recognition of my work, but really the honor is shared with all the people who supported and helped me along the way,” says Mittelman.

Mittelman was a Deans’ Faculty Fellow this past spring and taught a course on The Future of the Past: 21st-century Fiction from the Portuguese-Speaking World. His future plans include enlarging his dissertation into a postdoctoral project or book by exploring additional Brazilian works on skepticism.

Maria Hwang
Hwang’s dissertation is entitled Shadow Migration and Gendered Illegality: The Temporary Labor Migration of Filipina Sex Workers in Asia. She is graduating with her PhD in American Studies.

Her research is based on intensive ethnographic research in Hong Kong with independent sex workers from the Philippines who circulate in global and international cities across Asia, including Hong Kong, Singapore, Macau, and Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia).

She defines a new type of migrant group called ‘shadow migrants’, who travel legally to work temporarily in cities with open border policies with the migrant’s country of origin. They maintain a valid legal immigration status but become “illegal” workers by working in a shadow economy.

The impact of her research is international in scope. Her findings address migrant workers’ transient mobility and how their experiences are shaped by labor sending and receiving states’ migration policies and United States global anti-trafficking campaign.

“Maria exemplifies the qualities of a feminist global ethnographer—deeply engaged, theoretically astute, humble, and aware of her positionality as a researcher,” says Assistant Professor of American Studies, Elena Shih, who is a member of her dissertation committee.

Hwang has published two articles from her dissertation in the journals Signs and Women's Studies Quarterly and is developing her dissertation into a book manuscriptShe is currently working as the Henry Luce Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship in Southeast Asian Studies at Rice University.

Sameer Iyer
Iyer is a student of applied math and studies partial differential equations, specifically those equations that govern fluid flows, known as the Navier-Stokes equations. He has been interested to understand the vanishing viscosity limit of these equations in the presence of obstacles. The main part of this dissertation concerns the Prandtl boundary theory. His dissertation is entitled, Boundary Layers for 2-D Stationary Navier-Stokes Flows over a Moving Boundary.

He has made strides, along with others, to understand more about the mathematical underpinnings of the phenomena of boundary layers, which were first introduced by Ludwig Prandtl in the early 1900's. In his dissertation, Iyer expands on an approach initiated by his advisor and others, which contains nearly 400 pages of careful, detailed, and technically complex calculations.

His first results show the persistence of Prandtl layer expansion excluding so called ‘boundary layer detachment’, a phenomenon observed in some fluid experiments.

“Sameer has demonstrated an exceptional level of originality, imagination, persistence and independence, analytical power and vision, as well as versatility,” says his advisor Yan Guo, Professor and Chair of Applied Mathematics.

Several parts of his research have been published as single author papers in leading mathematical journals and have been recognized through invitations to talk at several universities.

Iyer plans to submit further portions of his dissertation to several mathematics journals. He will start an NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Department of Mathematics at Princeton University this July.

Thomas A. Lewis, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, will present the awards at the Graduate School’s Doctoral Commencement Ceremony on Sunday, May 27, at 10:15 am on Simmons Quad.