Baylor University Doctoral Candidates are Recognized for Outstanding Dissertations

April 20, 2015

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Media contact: Terry Goodrich, (254) 710-3321

WACO, Texas (April 20, 2015) – Three Baylor University doctoral students - Brandon Martinez, V.H. Satheeshkumar and Logan Gage - received Outstanding Dissertation Awards from the Baylor University Graduate School, recognizing their exceptional scholarship, research and writing.

The Outstanding Dissertation Award was founded three years ago by a group of graduate faculty and students in order to foster and recognize graduate research.

“The Outstanding Dissertation Awards in general, and these three projects in particular, represent the exceptional quality of research and scholarship accomplished by our graduate students,” said Chris Rios, Ph.D., assistant dean for graduate studies. “Baylor students and alumni are already well known for their success in sport, business, medicine, ministry and many other fields. They are less well known, but equally accomplished, as researchers in subjects ranging from race relations to theories of knowledge to black holes.”

This year, the variety of doctoral dissertations was such that the award was expanded to three categories, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), Humanities and Social Science.

Each winner received a certificate and a check for $1,000.

Brandon Martinez, a doctoral candidate in the department of sociology, was recognized for his dissertation titled “The Intersection of Race and Religion in the United States.”

“Martinez’s dissertation is the first to examine the racial dynamics of predominantly white congregations on a rational scale,” said Carson Mencken, Ph.D, director of graduate studies and professor of sociology. “It employs advanced quantitative methodologies that are rarely used in the sociology of religion, but that have significant promise to revolutionize how our models are estimated.”

Martinez’s research interests include race and ethnicity, the sociology of religion, discrimination, inequality and political sociology. His dissertation examines how the intersection of race and religion influences the social world. Since coming to Baylor, Martinez has had eight published or accepted publications, with another five under review. Next year, he will serve as an assistant professor of sociology at Providence College in Rhode Island.

“I am truly grateful to receive this award and for my scholarship to be recognized by the graduate school,” Martinez said. “It is an honor for my dissertation to be selected by the various graduate program directors who serve on the committee. Receiving this award validates the importance of studying race and religion and will motivate me to continue to expand upon this line of research throughout my academic career.”

V.H. Satheeshkumar, a doctoral candidate in the department of physics, was recognized for his dissertation, “Aspects of Black Holes in Gravitational Theories with Broken Lorentz and Diffeomorphism Symmetries.”

His dissertation studies singularities, the formation of black holes by gravitational collapse and the global structure of space-time. Satheeshkumar’s research has helped in understanding some key aspects of the Horava-Lifshitz theory of quantum gravity and exposed the difference between it and Einstein’s theory of space-time continuum.

“I consider my work to be important, and that’s why I invest my life in it,” said Satheeshkumar. “But that doesn’t mean everyone should care for it. Therefore, it’s gratifying and humbling if it gets recognized. It also makes me more responsible and puts positive pressure on me to do something better. I hope I live up to the expectations of those who made this decision.”

Satheeshkumar has written eight publications, five of which stem from his dissertation research. He received an Honorable Mention in the international 2013 Essay Competition of the Gravity Research Foundation for his co-authored paper, “The Fate of Lorentz Frame in the Vicinity of Black Hole Singularity.” Past winners include three Nobel laureates. This summer, Satheeshkumar will begin a postdoctoral position at Rio de Janeiro State University.

Logan Gage, a doctoral candidate in the department of philosophy, wrote a dissertation titled “Objectivity and Subjectivity in Epistemology: A Defense of the Phenomenal Conception of Evidence.”

“Many people think that evidence for our beliefs must consist in physical evidence,” Gage said. “Some have thought that if this is true, then there simply can’t be evidence for God’s existence. My dissertation is an attempt to figure out what evidence consists in. This question is motivated in part by an attempt to see if we can indeed have evidentially grounded belief in God.”

Gage’s areas of interest include epistemology, philosophy of religion, meta and normative ethics, philosophy of science, history of philosophy and Aquinas. He has been featured in numerous publications. Gage currently serves as the assistant professor of philosophy at the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio.

“Graduate school is like a race with a sprint (or dissertation) at the end,” Gage said. “I already knew that I had a job waiting for me, but I truly wanted to finish my five years at Baylor well. Winning this award let me know that I did just that – I didn’t just limp across the finish line.”

For more information about Baylor University’s Graduate School, click here.

by Ashton Brown, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having “high research activity” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.