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University of Minnesota

Cream of the crop

May 17, 2010

Graduates tossing their mortarboards.

Recipients of Doctoral Dissertation Fellowships will soon join the ranks of tomorrow's leaders.
Candidate photos by Patrick O'Leary

The varied discoveries of four outstanding doctoral candidates

More than 60 University of Minnesota doctoral candidates recently talked about their discoveries to scores of visitors at an annual showcase of research by recipients of Doctoral Dissertation Fellowships. 

Here we present the four candidates in their own words—printed and taped—with links to three scholarly publications they have written or contributed to. 

Rachael B. Kulick: Giving Birth at Home in the United States and the Netherlands


Headshot of Rachael Kulick.

In the United States, only about one percent of births are home births, and in some states it is illegal for a midwife to attend a woman at home. In the Netherlands, birth at home is part of the mainstream health care system (about 30 percent of all births), midwifery is fully institutionalized, and expectant mothers routinely consider home birth. Here I examine how women, midwives, and societies "achieve" birth at home. I analyze practices surrounding home birth, social institutions that shape it, and cultural assumptions that support and/or undermine it, with the goal of giving U.S. women a strong home birth option.

Mark Hoffman: Rethinking the Politics of Immigration: Colonial Governance in the New World Order

Headshot of Mark Hoffman.

My analysis of contemporary immigration policies and practices reveals that while money and commodities seem to move freely in an apparently "borderless world," immigrant workers from former European colonies face an array of legal and coercive restrictions on their movement that function to exclude them from domains of citizenship. Through a comparative analysis of the United States and France, I examine how contemporary practices of immigration management developed from colonial modes of governance and how these colonial foundations shape a racially exclusionary politics of national citizenship.

Read a publication.

Phebe Veronica Jatau: Complications and Complexities in the Schooling Experiences of Young Northern Nigerian Women Living in Zaria

Headshot of Phebe Veronica Jatau.

My work addresses high school dropout rates among northern Nigerian women and the gender gap and inequities that pervade the educational system. Schooling often suffers as a result of the grave impact of social inequity and the disregard of religious, cultural, and ethnic differences. These extracurricular factors, along with the dominance of English language instruction, shape the women's identities and strongly affect their aptitude for school. I recommend replacing the current practice of one-size-fits-all schooling with a humane education that meets these women's needs, interests, views, and values. Correction to video: The figure of 7.3 million school dropouts applies to all of Nigeria, but the situation is worse in northern Nigeria.

Read a publication.

William Ratcliff: Cooperation and Conflict in the Legume-rhizobium Symbiosis

Headshot of William Ratcliff.

Rhizobia are soil bacteria capable of making nitrogen fertilizer inside the roots of legume plants. While many strains of rhizobia are beneficial to legumes, some rhizobia "cheat," producing less fertilizer and growing more as a result. Legumes are thought to control the spread of cheaters by punishing them, but the global distribution of cheaters suggests that punishment is ineffective. In my thesis I identify key mechanisms that allow cheating rhizobia to succeed despite plant punishment. The successful completion of this research may allow us to sustainably improve agricultural yields, and it helps solve a major theoretical question in evolutionary biology.

Read a publication.

Tags: College of Liberal Arts, College of Biological Sciences, College of Education and Human Development


View the complete list of presenters at the 2010 Doctoral Dissertation Research Showcase.

Doctoral Dissertation Fellowships are given by the University of Minnesota Graduate School.

Related Links

College of Biological Sciences

College of Education and Human Development

College of Liberal Arts