Winifred and Louis Lancaster announce annual dissertation award winners

by Kyle Crocco, Writing Peer
Wednesday, May 31, 2017 11:52 AM

Congratulations to Lynnette Arnold from Linguistics and Kevin Johnson from Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology who have been announced as the 2017 recipients of the Winifred and Louis Lancaster Annual Dissertation Award.

Each year, the Lancaster Annual Dissertation Award committee selects two dissertations that they believe will have a significant impact on their respective fields. This year the awards honored dissertations were in the fields of Humanities & the Arts and the Biological & Life Sciences.

Lynnette’s and Kevin’s dissertations will also be entered into a national competition sponsored by the Council of Graduate Schools. After entering the competition, Lynnette and Kevin will receive a check for $1,000 and a plaque honoring their accomplishment.

Research and Inspiration

Lynnette ArnoldFor the Humanities, Lynnette’s dissertation, “Communicative Care across Borders: Language, Materiality, and Affect in Transnational Family Life,” focuses on the pervasiveness of migration in our contemporary world. In her work, she draws from diverse disciplines (linguistics, anthropology, communications) to study families whose lives transect national borders between El Salvador and the US.

Lynnette explained, “My dissertation research was really inspired by my personal experience of learning language and culture in rural El Salvador. As a 19-year-old, I traveled to El Salvador for the first time, where I learned the Spanish language at the same time as I learned the life ways of the rural Salvadoran village. I was intrigued by the careful dance of greetings, farewells, and other routine forms of everyday talk through which individuals constructed and cemented the social ties upon which their survival often depended in times of financial hardship or natural disaster.”

Kevin JohnsonKevin’s dissertation “Investigating the Molecular Response of the Marine Calcifying Pteropod, Limacina Helicina, to Ocean Acidification and Ocean Warming” seeks to understand how marine organisms respond to changes in ocean acidification and warming due to increases in global carbon dioxide. Kevin explained, “As a molecular ecologist, I wanted to describe the molecular resources pteropods have to defend themselves against ocean acidification.” 

His inspiration to study ocean life started young, Kevin said: “I have been fascinated with science my entire life. Some of my earliest memories are of my parents taking my sisters and me through the tide pools in Monterey, CA, where we would find invertebrates for my father's high-school biology class.”

Future Plans

Lynnette is currently a Lecturer in Linguistic Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She said, “I have been teaching classes on topics such as Language and Racism and Language and Migration and have enjoyed helping my students learn how a scholarly understanding of language sheds light on pressing current issues in the world.” In fall 2017, she will begin a new two-year appointment as a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at Brown University.

As for Kevin, he will move on to Louisiana State University in fall 2017. There he will be working with Dr. Morgan Kelly on the local adaptation in oysters as part of his 2017 NSF postdoctoral fellowship in Biology.