Dissertations and Theses Year-in-Review, 2023-24

Today is Commencement Day for the Graduate Center, which means it’s time for the Library’s celebration of all of the dissertations, theses, and capstone projects that were deposited this academic year.

Our concern, of course, is with preserving and making accessible the original research contributions that our students have created in their academic pursuits. The creation of new knowledge, whether through advancements in science or new explorations of the human condition, is the bedrock of graduate study and these culminating works represent an enormous achievement. The Graduate Center sits at the crossroads of CUNY’s research enterprise and our students—today’s graduates—are at the forefront of initiatives that re-energize our studies, revolutionize our methods, and sustain our communities.

The Mina Rees Library accepted 482 new graduate works into our collection this year: 340 doctoral dissertations, 10 doctoral capstone projects, 90 master’s theses, and 42 master’s capstone projects. Among these achievements were the first three graduates from the M.S. Program in Astrophysics. This year, I was joined in the Dissertation Office by Alice Kallman, our adjunct  librarian, who helped students navigate the format requirements, reviewed manuscripts, and shared in the joy of getting to tell students they are done.

The Ph.D. Program in Psychology continued to lead in number of doctoral dissertations deposited (48), followed by Biology (21), English (20), and a tie between Anthropology (18), Biochemistry (18) and Chemistry (18). For the master’s programs, the M.A. Program in Liberal Studies again tops the list with 37 theses and capstones deposited, followed by Data Analysis and Visualization (19), Political Science (16), Cognitive Neuroscience (15), and Digital Humanities (13).

In a year when dissertations made national headlines for all the wrong reasons, the majority of our graduates (60%) continued to make their dissertations immediately available to the public, while 40% chose to temporarily withhold access by embargoing their work. The stakes of being a public scholar have seemingly never been so high, but our students are committed to getting their research out into the world.

Our graduates conduct research that will help accelerate the discovery of therapeutics for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS. They advance the design of nanotechnology for use in cancer research and precision medicine that will impact patient treatment and outcomes. They also spend years of their lives in the field, constructing gripping narratives of lived experience, such as those by Christian Pacheco-Gómez (Ph.D., Anthropology, September ‘24) in “Border Confinement and Assistance Markets in Tijuana: Mexican Deportees’ Experiences of Labor and Violence Between Mexico and the United States,” and Amir Reicher (Ph.D., Anthropology, September ‘24) in “Between Two Messiahs: An Ethnography of Settler-Colonizers in the West Bank.”

There are so many extraordinary meditations crafted by our graduates, and it’s impossible to give them all justice here. Please, read and explore them all. You might encounter Erin Lilli (Ph.D., Psychology, February ‘24) tackling New York City gentrification in “Staying Power: The Struggle for Space and Place in Crown Heights, Brooklyn,” or Javier Otero Pena (Ph.D., Psychology, February ‘24) who examines the physical and social environment of parks and their neighborhoods in “Park Use, Urban Environmental Justice, and Place Attachment in Parks in Low-Income Neighborhoods in New York City.”

Ecology and biodiversity are frequent topics of exploration for this year’s graduates: Rachel Joakim (Ph.D., Biology, February ‘24) investigates parasite pathogenicity in “Avian Symbionts of Sulawesi: Identifying and Correlating Malaria Parasites and the Microbiome in Communities of Endemic Avian Hosts,” while Christopher Ryan (Ph.D., Earth & Environmental Sciences, February ‘24) looks at ecological impacts of changes to land use in “Towards Sociobiogeochemistry: Critical Perspectives on Anthropogenic Alterations to Soil Nitrogen Chemistry via U.S. Urban and Suburban Development.”

We have graduate works ranging from intimate partner violence and vicarious trauma to the cultural and political itineraries of sonic media in Kurdistan; from restorative justice and accountability to the auditory system of vocal toadfish; from decolonial education to blindness in 19th century opera. In seemingly every area, our graduates are conducting groundbreaking research and making new contributions to public knowledge.

Now, the milestones:

Longest Dissertation:Take Back The Power: The Fall and Rise and Fall of New York City’s Transport Workers Union Local 100, 1975–2009” (Marc Kagan, Ph.D., Sociology, September ‘23) receives this distinction, coming in at 709 pages.

Shortest Dissertation: Soundness and Completeness Results for the Logic of Evidence Aggregation and its Probability Semantics” (Eoin Moore, Ph.D., Mathematics, September ‘23) at just 71 pages.

Longest Title: Centrality Effects on Heavy-Flavor Quark Production and Invariant Yield in PHENIX Proton—Gold Collisions at Center-of-Mass Energy 200 GeV, and Assembly, Testing, Calibration, and Installation of the sPHENIX Hadronic Calorimeters” (Daniel Richford, Ph.D., Physics, September ‘23)

Shortest Title: Wuwei Praxis” (Zachary Gelnawrubin, M.A., Liberal Studies, June ‘24)

This year, we saw unprecedented levels of protest and unimaginable acts of repression on college campuses, and for a moment our city felt like the epicenter of all that had gone wrong with universities and public life in America. And yet, we continue to find inspiration and grounding from the educators and scholars among us. At the Graduate Center, when we speak of being student-centered, it means supporting their research and scholarship, their teaching, and their learning. It means centering their voices and hearing their demands as they explore, advance, falter, and begin again; it means working with them to bring positive social change as they reimagine our world. That’s the CUNY dream.

Congratulations, Class of 2024!

About the Author

Roxanne Shirazi is assistant professor and dissertation research librarian at the CUNY Graduate Center, where she also serves as project director for the CUNY Digital History Archive and oversees the college’s institutional archives.