Announcing the winners of the Exceptional Research Award
We’re delighted to announce the winners of the 2022 Exceptional Research Award by Effective Thesis. The award is given annually for the best thesis, dissertation or capstone paper that has great potential to significantly improve the world. Submissions were scored in quality, novelty and the progress they make towards solving a pressing global problem through a double blind review process.
By awarding this prize, Effective Thesis aims to recognise and encourage ambitious students who aim to utilise the power of well-targeted research to significantly improve the world. Read more about the award here.
Existential Risk and Pandemic Preparedness Spending – Thomas Houlden
Pandemics may pose an existential threat, however this possibility is often neglected in the cost-benefit analyses of interventions designed to mitigate the risk of pandemics. This thesis evaluates society’s willingness to pay for the mitigation of existential risks from pandemics, and provides a framework that can be applied to evaluate the policy-relevance of other existential risks. A reviewer described the complexity and quality of the work as ‘significantly above what I would expect from the undergraduate level.’
Quadratic Funding Under Incomplete Information – Luis Mota Freitas
This thesis explores the properties and limitations of the quadratic funding mechanism, a public goods provision mechanism that has been considered in contexts such as global public goods provision and donor coordination. This thesis shows that quadratic funding is not efficient under incomplete information, and proposes and uses two numeric measures to calculate the size of this mechanism’s inefficiency in a variety of situations. A reviewer praised the professional style of the research, the timeliness of the topic choice and that the thesis identifies an important drawback of the quadratic funding mechanism.
This research is related to our research direction profile on global priorities research.
Rethinking Burlington Area Food Programming for New Americans – Anitra Conover
This study identifies avenues for improving food security within America’s resettled refugee communities. It aims to bridge institutional knowledge gaps among service providers, food distributors, and case managers. The study finds that foraging and fishing programs are promising ways to address food insecurity amongst New Americans, and malnutrition treatment in these communities is often overlooked.
A reviewer praised the execution of and emphasis on both contextual and conceptual review, writing ‘the thesis may contribute towards work that influences policy decisions. Taking a top-down, bottom-up, and middle-out approach to understanding food as a spatial process is a novel contribution to the field.’
This research is related to our profile on global health and wellbeing.
Toward global governance of solar radiation management – Niklas Lehmann
Solar geoengineering is a potentially dangerous means of attempting to control the climate that many countries have the technological capability to deploy. If used in an uncoordinated or irresponsible way, it could undermine international cooperation and increase the risk of conflict. This thesis examines the potential for an international treaty on solar geoengineering to promote peace and stability.
A reviewer wrote, ‘I thought this was a truly exceptional thesis. The student reviews and makes a substantial contribution to the neglected and important issue of geoengineering governance.'
Decellularized cabbage leaves: a scaffold-based in vitro adipose tissue model – Maddalena Bracchi
In this thesis the author tests savoy cabbage and black cabbage as potential scaffolds for 3D in vitro models to study adipogenesis and adipocyte differentiation.
A reviewer described this thesis as 'beautiful, rigorous work,' writing, 'finding effective and scalable scaffolds for cultivated meat production is not a neglected niche, but it remains a challenge in this industry...All in all, this work could potentially provide a basis for the production of novel cultivated meat products or lead to the development of more sophisticated scaffolds.'
Intervention Development: Calibrating Content of a Family Planning Radio Campaign to the Context in Kano State, Nigeria – Lia Boldt
Maternal deaths and health burdens from unintended pregnancies are a large-scale problem in low- and middle-income countries. This thesis provides recommendations for improving the radio campaigns of Family Empowerment Media – a non-profit working to facilitate use of and access to effective contraceptives – in Kano State, Nigeria. A reviewer praised the research for addressing a large-scale problem, aiming to solve a bottleneck in scaling up an evidence-based solution to that problem, and offering analysis that could be used to tailor previously evaluated campaigns to the local context.
This thesis relates to our research direction on global development policy.
Inorganic carbon outwelling from a Mediterranean seagrass meadow using radium isotope tracers – Claudia Majtenyi Hill
Seagrass meadows populate near-shore waters all over the world and are known for their ability to sequester large amounts of carbon. They have therefore been recognised as an important tool in the fight against climate change. However, in order for these schemes to be effective, it is vital that carbon dynamics are understood. This thesis aims to address this research gap, and provides some of the first estimates for dissolved inorganic carbon outwelling from a Mediterranean seagrass meadow using naturally-occurring radium isotopes.
A reviewer wrote, 'this is an exceptional submission...the thesis makes a valuable and practical contribution in furthering scientific knowledge on outwelling, which has consequences for climate change dynamics.'
Low-Cost Soil Moisture Measurement And Parsimonious Crop Modelling To Assist Agricultural Water Management – Soham Adla
Creating resilient food systems to feed the increasing global population is an urgent challenge. This dissertation presents a framework and open-source tool to quantify farm performance, testing this in Kanpur, India, and develops best practices to improve efficient agricultural water use by using low-cost hardware and software.
A reviewer described the thesis as having ‘the potential to make a significant contribution to agricultural water management, contributing to food security and climate change adaptation' and 'clearly among the more potentially impactful theses in the area of agricultural engineering.’
Fairness in the distribution of scarce healthcare resources - a hybrid approach – James Hart
This research addresses how considerations of fairness can be incorporated into decision-making, specifically when deciding how to distribute scarce healthcare resources. The research outlines a hybrid approach between two major theories of fairness, with the aim of creating tools to help institutions incorporate notions of fairness consistently and coherently when deciding how to distribute resources. A reviewer wrote, ‘This is a clear, interesting, and insightful essay’ and praised the easy to follow and compelling analysis.
This thesis relates to our research direction on global priorities research.
The Impact of Monetary Poverty Alleviation Programs on Children’s and Adolescents’ Mental Health: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Across Low-, Middle-, and High-Income Countries – Mirela Zaneva
This research examines the evidence concerning whether monetary poverty alleviation programs, such as cash transfers, improve mental health outcomes for children and adolescents. It finds evidence for a positive effect, in particular the meta-analysis indicates reductions in internalizing symptoms after receiving a cash transfer. A reviewer described the research as a ‘systematic review and meta-analysis of high quality and rigor...that contributes to the evidence base in Global Health and Wellbeing.’ It provides further support for the importance of considering multi-dimensional benefits of cash transfers, and for improving the targeting and types of securities provided.
This research relates to our research direction on applied mental health research.