July 28, 2014

Malik earns outstanding dissertation honor

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale is honoring a recently graduated doctoral student for the high quality of her dissertation.

Shivani Malik has won the 2013 Richard and Donna Falvo Outstanding Dissertation Award, which recognizes and promotes outstanding research by doctoral students. Malik, who earned her doctorate in molecular biology, microbiology and biochemistry, is working in a post-doctorate position at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Her dissertation is titled “Regulatory Mechanisms of Transcription and Associated DNA Repair” and can be viewed here.

Susan Ford, interim dean of the Graduate School, said the honor is the most prestigious awarded by the school and a top honor at the university, as well. The award is for the previous year.

“A dissertation is really the culmination of original, independent research and represents a true contribution to the chosen field of the doctoral student,” Ford said. “In some cases, a dissertation can represent the largest, single research project a researcher might do in their entire career, as their time later also may be taken up with service, teaching and research.

“A dissertation is meant to represent their ability to design and complete independent research in their fields. So it’s a substantial achievement to even complete a dissertation and even more so to win an award like this one,” Ford said.

Each doctoral program on campus is allowed to nominate just one dissertation for the award each year, Ford said. Programs do not always nominate even one dissertation, conserving their nominations only for work that its leaders see as truly outstanding.

A committee made up of 10 faculty members from across the spectrum of disciplines then chooses the most outstanding dissertation.

“In Dr. Malik’s case, it was clear that her dissertation was clearly the most outstanding,” Ford said. Those recommending Malik for the honor noted the dissertation reflected “a wide breadth of research” that “contributes significantly to the in depth understanding of the molecular mechanisms of chromatin and transcription regulation.” They also noted the research could hold keys for gene therapies in the future.

Richard Falvo, a former acting dean of the graduate school, and Donna Falvo, a former university faculty member in the College of Education and Human Services, endowed the award, which provides a certificate and $1,000 award for the recipient.