Brown University

Skip to Navigation

Awards Recognize Four Outstanding Dissertations

May 5, 2017

Nicosia Shakes, Africana StudiesNicosia Shakes, Africana StudiesThe 2017 Joukowsky Family Foundation Outstanding Dissertation Awards go to Nicosia Machelle Shakes, Matthew Hirakawa, Kenneth Ascher, and Liise Lehtsalu, as they receive their doctoral degrees from Brown University on May 28. The prizes recognize superior achievements in research by students completing the doctoral degree. This year, the research topics range from Africana theatre activism to intra-species variation, birational geometry, and monastic houses for women in early modern Italy.

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.

Nicosia Shakes, Africana Studies, receives the prize for Africana Women’s Theatre as Activism: A Study of Sistren Theatre Collective, Jamaica and the Mothertongue Project, South Africa. Based on extensive ethnographic research, Shakes employs the concepts of “Africana feminisms” and “activist aesthetics” to analyze how the two organizations' productions transgress interlocking systems of gender, racial, sexual, and economic domination. With a focus on two public performances that advocate for sexual and reproductive rights, she argues that Sistren and The Mothertongue exemplify the inseparable links between theatrical performance and women’s activism, as well as feminist theory and feminist practice in Africa, the African Diaspora, and globally. Matthew Hirakawa, PathobiologyMatthew Hirakawa, Pathobiology

The dissertation by Hirakawa, Pathobiology, advances knowledge of the reproduction of a pathogen that causes fungal infections in humans. The work, entitled Intra-Species Variation and Parasexual Reproduction in Candida albicans, shows how the species adapts and suggests the importance of considering natural variation and sexual reproduction when assessing the potential for disease and drug resistance.

Kenneth Ascher, MathematicsKenneth Ascher, MathematicsAscher, Mathematics, is recognized for his dissertation titled Higher Dimensional Birational Geometry: Moduli and Arithmetic. The research is the fruit of a series of collaborations that resulted in diverse published papers, ranging from generalizing foundational results for pairs and advances concerning moduli of elliptic surfaces.

Liise Lehtsalu, HistoryLiise Lehtsalu, HistoryLehtsalu, History, receives this award for her dissertation titled Negotiated Lives: Third Order Women Religious and Their Communities in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Italy. Her study reveals that open monastic houses that offered a respectable way of life for women outside marriage or the enclosed convent were not eradicated by Roman Catholic decrees in early modern Italy, as previously thought. She further establishes that the women residing in these houses contributed to the education and care of local laywomen and to urban society.

Thomas A. Lewis, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, will present the awards at the Graduate School’s Doctoral Commencement Ceremony on Sunday, May 28, at 10:15 am on Simmons Quad.