Thomas Jefferson Award

Honoring Dissertation Excellence

2020-2021 Thomas Jefferson Award Recipient

Rachel Kae Spooner

PhD in IGPBS - Neuroscience

View a complete list of all previous award winners.

The Thomas Jefferson Ingenuity Award recognizes one PhD student who has shown unmatched creativity and ingenuity in completing the research requirements of their doctoral dissertation. It is presented at the Spring Graduate Studies Convocation Ceremony.

The award was created in November of 1994 in honor of Cecil L. Wittson, MD, Harry W. McFadden, MD, Robert D. Sparks, MD, Neal A. Vanselow, MD, James V. Griesen, PhD, Charles E. Andrew, MD, William O. Berndt, PhD, and Carol A. Aschenbrener, MD, each of whom served as UNMC Chancellor.


For the purpose of selecting the award recipient, a broad and encompassing definition should be applied to "creativity and ingenuity," from making a discovery at a molecular level to improving the quality of life for a physically and/or mentally ill patient. The award may not be given during the academic cycle if, in the Selection Committee's opinion, none of the nominations are meritorious enough.


Any PhD student eligible to walk in the December or May commencement ceremonies held during a single academic year can receive the award. For example, August 2016, December 2016 and May 2017 graduates were eligible for the 2016-2017 Thomas Jefferson Award.

Nomination Process

Each UNMC Graduate Program Director may nominate one individual for consideration during the annual award cycle.