Yale 2005 Ph.D. Wins Distinguished Dissertation Award

Elissa A. Hallem

The nation’s most prestigious honor for doctoral dissertations in biology and life sciences, the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS)/UMI Distinguished Dissertation Award, was presented during the CGS Annual Meeting in Palm Springs, CA to Elissa A. Hallem, a graduate of the Yale University Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology.

Hallem’s dissertation on olfactory neurobiology, “The Role of Odorant Receptors in Odor Coding,” presents research that could form the basis of new biological controls against disease-carrying insects and agricultural pests. She was nominated by Yale University, where she completed her doctorate in 2005. She is continuing her work in a postdoctoral position at the California Institute of Technology.

“Elissa was an extraordinary student, immensely talented and exceptionally motivated, and I’m delighted to see her honored in this way,” said her mentor John Carlson, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology (MCDB) at Yale. “Elissa showed amazing problem-solving ability and enormous dedication to her work. She has mature judgment and a keen intuition for how biological systems work. She has a wonderful future ahead of her.”

The chair of her department, Sterling Professor Thomas Pollard, said, “With her hard work and creativity, Elissa has set a great example for all our graduate students.” Her thesis work also earned other prestigious national awards — the 2005 Larry Sandler Award for the most outstanding Ph.D. dissertation in an area of Drosophila research, and a 2005 Harold M. Weintraub Graduate Student Award.

“We’re especially proud when a graduate student wins such a prestigious award,” added Jon Butler, Dean of the Yale Graduate School. “It’s simply thrilling to see this vibrant talent receive such glowing praise.”

Now in its 24th year, the award recognizes doctoral scholars who contribute exceptionally to their fields. ProQuest’s UMI, the nation’s dissertation publisher, sponsors the award and the Council of Graduate Schools selects the winners. Two awards are given each year, rotating among four general areas of scholarship.

This year’s other award, in the humanities, was given to Thomas N. Szigorich of the University of New Mexico who completed his dissertation on “militant piety” in early Islam at the University of California, Santa Barbara earlier this year.

“The exciting thing about each year’s body of doctoral work is that it represents the leading edge of academic scholarship across disciplines,” said UMI Director of Dissertations Publishing, Cathleen May. “These two dissertations are extraordinary examples of how relevant doctoral work is to our society.”

The Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) is an organization of over 450 institutions of higher education engaged in graduate education, research and the preparation of candidates for advanced degrees. CGS member institutions award 90 percent of the doctoral degrees and over 75 percent of the master’s degrees in the United States. UMI®, a division of ProQuest Information and Learning, was created in 1938 to safeguard threatened scholarly resources, and is been the dedicated steward of significant collections, including graduate works.

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Media Contact

Janet Rettig Emanuel: janet.emanuel@yale.edu, 203-432-2157