T21RS PhD Thesis Award

T21RS Award Program for Outstanding PhD thesis

Goal of the Award Program for Outstanding Ph.D. Thesis

The goal of the Award Program for Outstanding Ph.D. Thesis is to stimulate young T21RS members to carry out high-level research and to recognize their merit with financial support and the possibility to present their results during the T21RS meeting that will take place in the year following the application deadline. The calls for the awards are biennial.

The Dissertation award program 2021 is named “Annette Karmiloff-Smith and Michael Harpold Dissertation Award Program” in order to honor both distinguished scientists passionately involved in Down syndrome research and member of T21RS.


Present call

Annette Karmiloff-Smith and Michael Harpold Dissertation Award 2021

Competition for outstanding PhD theses.
Application deadline:  CLOSED

Prizes will be awarded for up to 2 outstanding doctoral dissertations. Each recipient will receive an honorarium of Euro 1000. The topic of the dissertation must be in the field of Down syndrome.


Participation in the 2021 competition is limited to candidates who obtained the PhD during the period January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2021. Applicants must be members of T21RS at least six months before the Thesis defense and when the prize is awarded (www.t21rs.org/register).

Candidates should attend the award ceremony held at the biennial T21RS International Conference, and should write an article about their Thesis for the T21RS bulletin.

Required documentation
  • Documentation accompanying the application must be submitted exclusively in an email to education@T21RS.org and in Cc to sandra.guidi3@unibo.it in PDF format and must be written in English.

The candidates must state their current title and provide full mailing address, email and telephone numbers.

Candidates must also include:

  1. Dissertation Summary Page
  2. A short description of the dissertation research and its conclusions, written by the nominee. Format requirements: up to 2 double-spaced pages with 12-point font, each page bearing the nominee’s name and page number. Minimal appendices containing nontextual material, such as charts or tables, may be included in addition to the 2 pages.
  3. Brief (3-page) curriculum vitae highlighting
    1. education
    2. honors and publications
  4. Documentation from the University attesting completion of all requirements for a PhD.
  5. A reference letter from the dissertation advisor. The dissertation advisor must be member of T21RS at the time of submission (https://www.t21rs.org/login/).  The letter should comment on:
    1. the originality and importance of the research
    2. the potential for significant contribution to the field of Down syndrome research
  6. A copy of the full dissertation (PDF format).
Evaluation committee

Members of the evaluation committee will be the members of the Awards Committee of T21RS. In compliance with the Trisomy 21 Research Society’s conflict of interest policy, participation on the evaluation committee is forbidden for members whose laboratory colleagues will apply in the PhD thesis award. The decision of the Committee shall be final, with no possible appeal. If the Committee will assign a number of prizes lower than the number foreseen, or none if the theses will be considered not particularly outstanding, the prize may be vacant. Authors of awarded dissertations will be notified by May 1, 2022. Registration will be waived for the next T21RS meeting following the award and the winners will be asked to present their main findings at that meeting.

Evaluation criteria

The main criteria for evaluation of doctoral theses are:

Choice of subject and research problem: the doctoral dissertation must present well-founded, new knowledge, demonstrate innovative approaches and can also open up an entirely new branch of research. The doctoral dissertation must be appropriately defined. Aims, problem-setting, and research questions must be formulated so that they can be answered in a meaningful way.

Conceptual clarity and theoretical mastery of the subject: the work must be conceptually clear and the author must master the underlying theories and be able to conceptualize the research problem. Definitions and conceptualizations must be clearly expressed.

Research methods: the methods must be properly motivated and appropriate, with respect to the research problem. A consistent application of the research methods is considered a merit. A thorough mastery and insightful use of the research methods are considered the rewards of the work.

Material and source criticism: the material must be of a qualitatively high standard and quantitatively adequate with regard to the research problem and the research method. The source material is critically analyzed and reliably accounted for by means of correct citations and references.

Presentation of the results: the research results must be presented clearly and logically. The analysis must be consistent and well-founded. The presentation of the results must correspond with the aim and problem-setting.

Conclusions: the conclusions must be systematic, well-founded and drawn from the aim, research problem, material and method.

The work as a whole and linguistic form: the doctoral dissertation must be logically organized, the language must be clearly articulated and the graphic layout must be clean and easy to follow. The text must be consistent and logical, focusing on the essential. The argument must be made logically. The author must show proof of critical thinking, originality and independence.

The publication (as a scientific original paper) of the results shown in Thesis will be considered an added value.

Past calls

Annette Karmiloff-Smith Dissertation Award Program Year 2019 Competition For Outstanding PhD Thesis
  • Eligibility. Participation in the 2019 competition was open only to candidates who obtained their PhD title during the period January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2019.
  • Application Deadline: June 30, 2020.
  • Number of applicants: 9  (1 from Mexico, 1 from Brazil, 1 from USA, rest from Europe)
  • Winners (in alphabetical order): Andrea Giacomini and Rosalyn Hithersay.

The winners were invited to present their data during the T21RS virtual meeting  (June 8-10, 2021):

  • Andrea Giacomini (Present position: Regional Sales Manager STARLAB, Italy): “Pharmacotherapies targeted to neurogenesis in order to rescue cognitive performance in Down syndrome”
  • Rosalyn Hithersay (Present position: Postdoctoral researcher, Karolinska Insitutet, Stockholm, Sweeden): “Exploring executive functioning and frontal cortical activity using functional near-infrared spectroscopy”
Annette Karmiloff-Smith Dissertation Award Program Year 2017 Competition For Outstanding PhD Thesis
  • Eligibility. Participation in the 2017 competition was open only to candidates who obtained their PhD title during the period January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2017.
  • Application Deadline: June 30, 2018.
  • Number of applicants: Five
  • Winners (in alphabetical order): Nadine Aziz and Eric D. Hamlett.

The winners were invited to present their data during the 3nd T21RS meeting in Barcelona (June 6-9, 2019):

  • Nadine Aziz (Present position: Postdoctoral Associate, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, USA): “Histological, cellular, and molecular abnormalities in forebrain and spinal cord of three distinct mouse models of Down syndrome” (https://open.bu.edu/handle/2144/23413)
  • Eric D. Hamlett (Present position: Research Assistant Professor, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, USA): “Investigations at the crossroads of Down syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease”
Annette Karmiloff-Smith Dissertation Award Program Year 2015 Competition For Outstanding PhD Thesis
  • Eligibility. Participation in the 2015 competition was open only to candidates who obtained their PhD title during the period January 1, 2014 to December 31, 2015.
  • Application Deadline: June 30, 2016.
  • Number of applicants: five.
  • Winners (in alphabetical order): Florencia Iulita and Fiorenza Stagni.

The winners were invited to present their data during the 2nd T21RS meeting in Chicago (June 7-11, 2017):

  • Florencia Iulita: “Studying Alzheimer’s Disease Pre-clinical Stages: Insights from Down Syndrome and Transgenic Animal Models”.
  • Fiorenza Stagni: “Pharmacological rescue of dendritic pathology in the Ts65Dn mouse model of Down syndrome”.