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Two engineering professors named endowed chairs

Mitch and Carla Norville, Hai Yao, President Clements, Amy Landis, Carolyn and Thomas Hash

Professors Amy Landis and Hai Yao were honored as endowed chairs this past fall in a ceremony where they received endowed chair medallions.

Landis, a nationally respected researcher who came to Clemson in 2015 from Arizona State University, is the Thomas F. Hash SmartState Endowed Chair in Sustainable Development. She coordinates the SmartState Center of Economic Excellence in Sustainable Development, whose researchers are developing technology to collect massive amounts of data that can be deployed to measure everything from water quality in rivers to traffic flow on highways. They hope the data will give policymakers the information they need to manage development sustainably as a growing population and climate change make the task more difficult.

Landis’ hiring was made possible through a $2 million gift from Thomas F. Hash ’69 and matching contribution from the SmartState program, which provides dollar-for-dollar state funding through the S.C. Education Lottery. Hash graduated from Clemson with a degree in mechanical engineering and served as president of Bechtel Systems and Infrastructure before retiring.

Yao, who oversees the Clemson-MUSC Bioengineering Program, is the new Ernest R. Norville Endowed Chair in Biomedical Engineering, based at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. An expert in disorders of the jaw’s temporomandibular joint, commonly known as TMJ, Yao and his team create computer models that predict dynamic changes within the jaw, helping answer critical questions about its pathophysiology for developing new diagnosis and treatment strategies. He also heads up the South Carolina Translational Research Improving Musculoskeletal Health, or SC-TRIMH, which brings together Clemson and MUSC researchers with Greenville Health System clinicians to create models for virtual clinical trials.

The Ernest R. Norville Chair is the result of a $1.5 million gift from Mitch and Carla Norville. Mitch Norville received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1980, and the endowed chair is named after his father. Mitch Norville retired as chief operating officer of Boston Properties and is the owner of Atlantic South Development Inc.

Coming Home to Clemson

The weather was clear the week of Homecoming 2016 as students spent the week constructing floats for the theme of “Coming Home to Clemson.” While floats were going up, another group of students, faculty and volunteers were on the other end of Bowman Field, building Clemson’s 23rd Habitat for Humanity house built since 1997 and providing a local family with affordable housing.

 

Bacteria strain named by Clemson students

Clemson University microbiology major Hayley Hassler, a junior from Hartsville, S.C., works with a petri dish containing Legionella clemsonensis, a strand of bacteria named after the University.

The Clemson family has gained a new namesake: Legionella clemsonensis, a novel strain of the Legionella bacteria, the most common cause of waterborne bacterial outbreaks in the United States.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gave the honor of naming L. clemsonensis to students in a collaborative research group called CU and the CDC, which includes students from Clemson’s Creative Inquiry (CI) program for undergraduate students and officials in the CDC Legionella lab.

The newly named strain of Legionella was part of a batch of 68 strains the CDC sent to Clemson students to analyze. “While we knew they were Legionella, they didn’t match up to anything in the current database of bacterial species. It’s like knowing their last name but not their first names,” said Tamara McNealy, an associate professor of biological sciences who forged the collaboration with Claressa Lucas, director of the CDC Legionella lab, to characterize unknown Legionella strains.

Undergraduates in the CI group — Joseph Painter, Kyle Toth, Kasey Remillard, Rayphael Hardy and Scott Howard — sequenced two genes at the Clemson University Genomics Institute to identify the species or to find out if they were novel. “One of the strains Joseph was assigned turned out to be novel or not significantly matching anything in the database,” McNealy said.

A second wave of students, including Hayley Hassler, a junior, and Allie Palmer, a master’s student in McNealy’s lab, along with Vince Richards, an assistant professor in the biological sciences department, worked to validate that L. clemsonensis does indeed fall separately from the other known Legionella strains.

A sample of the Legionella clemsonensis bacteria under a ultraviolet light. The bacteria can be seen as small glowing dots in the 12-o-clock area of the petri dish.

“My experience in this CI has really allowed me to explore areas of microbiology that I wouldn’t have been exposed to otherwise,” Hassler said. “Thanks to Dr. McNealy and Dr. Richards I now have a real passion for studying infectious diseases and microbial genomics.”

According to the CDC, L. clemsonensis was originally isolated from a patient in Ohio. Preliminary analysis showed it was not L. pneumophila, the most commonly identified pathogen in the group, and that it didn’t fall into any known grouping, McNealy said. Another feature that set this strain apart: When hit with ultraviolet light, many Legionella strains fluoresce blue, red or yellow, but L. clemsonensis fluoresced green.

If Legionella is inhaled by someone who is elderly or immunocompromised it could lead to a treatable form of pneumonia. The bacteria live in biofilms of all manmade water systems and are found in freshwater lakes, streams and rivers. Around 4,000 to 5,000 cases of waterborne bacterial outbreaks are reported annually in the U.S., an estimate that is probably low, McNealy said.

Clemson specialist installing weather stations to help farmers conserve water

Clemson irrigation specialist Jose Payero is installing weather stations and soil-moisture sensors at farms across South Carolina and developing the online platform that will allow farmers to use the collected data to conserve water and energy.

Payero received a $75,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to install weather stations at farms in each county of the state. He aims to arm farmers with data that will allow them to make more informed irrigation decisions based on rain forecasts, soil type and crop yield expectations. The sensors and weather stations connect wirelessly to transmitters that will send data to a password-protected website Payero is developing for farmer access. Data from the sensors also could be sent to an automated irrigation system Payero is developing that would activate if soil moisture dips below desired levels.

Over-irrigation can be costly and cause soil erosion, chemical runoff and nutrient leaching, while under-irrigation stresses crops and reduces yield. Periods of drought, meanwhile, have made water availability scarcer, while persuading more farmers to invest in irrigation systems, said Payero, who works at the University’s Edisto Research and Education Center (REC) in Blackville.

“Water is one of our most important issues going forward,” he said. “The population is growing. The demand for food is rising. But we are not making more land, so we need to make our land more productive while protecting our water resources.

“It is not unreasonable to expect that society will continue to demand farmers produce more crops with less water, especially in areas where water resources are scarce and where competition is increasing between irrigation and alternative water users like environmental, municipal and industrial use,” Payero said. “Farmers will only be able to respond to this challenge if they are equipped with the knowledge and the tools to make better water management decisions.”

Bamberg County farmer Richard Rentz approached Payero at a field day in the fall at the Edisto REC to request installation of a weather station on his property. “Right now, we’re just shooting in the dark on our irrigation,” said Rentz, who irrigates roughly 150 acres of a 700-acre farm. “I’d like to save a little water, save a little power and save some money. It’s a significant expense.”

The Edisto REC is developing and demonstrating a variety of new technologies aimed at conserving water and other farm inputs, like fertilizers, to both increase crop yields and minimize the effect of production practices on the environment. These technologies include irrigation scheduling using weather data, irrigation automation, sensor-based irrigation, subsurface drip irrigation and variable-rate irrigation. Application of these technologies could save the state an estimated $7 million annually just in pumping costs while significantly reducing water application.

“Dr. Payero’s project is a critical piece of research for agriculture and water-use management. Water for irrigation is an extremely important component of South Carolina’s agriculture industry, especially in the eastern portion of the state,” said Jeffery Allen, director of the S.C. Water Resources Center. “Using these sensors and data-collection stations will help us understand how water moves through these systems and how farmers can best manage their crops now and into the future.”

 

Professor, students receive Fulbright awards

Rick St. Peter

Two recent graduates and an assistant professor of theater are teaching and learning in Europe this year, thanks to the Fulbright Program.

Rick St. PeterAssistant professor Richard St. Peter has been named a Fulbright Scholar as a visiting professor at the University of Craiova in Romania. Throughout the 2016-17 academic year he is teaching contemporary American and British theater as well as Shakespeare performance.

St. Peter hopes his time in Romania will blaze a trail for students who want to study abroad. “We want to provide as many opportunities as possible for our students to go abroad during their time at Clemson,” he said. “It just seems like that’s becoming more and more of a priority for universities. The world is getting smaller and smaller. And there is the opportunity for our students to see that the theater is a global marketplace. Ultimately, they’re going to be able to work anywhere.”

Courtney Fink ’16 and Jenna Kohles ’15 are also in Europe for the 2016-17 academic year as part of the Fulbright Student Program.

Courtney Fink

Fink, of Orland Park, Illinois, graduated with a degree in history, a minor in Spanish and a degree in secondary education. She will be a teaching assistant at the Institute of Secondary Education Manuel Fraga Iribarne in Spain. Her main job will be to prepare students for the model U.N. program.

Kohles, of Cary, North Carolina, earned her degree in wildlife and fisheries biology. She will use her Fulbright grant to begin a master’s program in biology with a focus in ecology, evolution and behavior at the University of Konstanz and Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Germany. Her research will explore the social lives of a common bat species, which will help predict how bat colonies can persist through emerging environmental stresses such as climate change, habitat destruction and disease.

Jenna Kohles

In existence since 1946, the Fulbright Program, sponsored by the U.S. government, is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.

Former astronaut Mae Jemison speaks on campus

Former NASA astronaut Mae C. Jemison gave the keynote address in Clemson’s opening convocation in August. Jemison, the first African-American woman to travel to space, flew aboard the space shuttle Endeavour in September 1992. Jemison described her life growing up in Chicago in the 1960s, saying that as a girl she could see unlimited possibilities for herself through the turbulence of those times. “All around me was this world that was filled with ideas and actions and choices that would change the course of human history, and I wanted to be a part of it. I always assumed I would go into space.”

A new dog in town

After nearly seven years of service, Clemson’s bomb-sniffing dog, Doc, has retired.

Doc began his work at Clemson in 2010, aiding the Clemson University Police Department (CUPD) in their efforts to keep campus safe. The black Labrador retriever has investigated bomb threats at Clemson and also helped sweep such major venues as Memorial Stadium before events. The CUPD was one of the first University police departments in the region to acquire a bomb-sniffing dog.

Doc and his handler, officer Zachary Owen, worked long hours to ensure student and visitor safety at Clemson. The pair typically spent 12 hours at Memorial Stadium each game day, with Doc sniffing out the stadium and continuing to monitor for threats. Doc’s final task before retiring was to sweep the area at a Clemson baseball game against Florida State.

Now there’s a new dog in town. After a rigorous 12-week training program, Woodrow, a 2-year-old chocolate Labrador retriever, has taken over Doc’s duties. He got an opportunity to show his skills during his training, when Owen hid a fake bomb in the stadium. Woodrow searched enthusiastically, sniffing thoroughly until he caught a whiff of the acidic scent. Once the dog located the trigger scent, he sat down in what is known as a passive alert. The reward for detecting the target is a tennis ball and a game of fetch with Owen.

Woodrow has big paws to fill, but he’s on the job, keeping Clemson safe.

Clemson’s footprint expands in the Lowcountry

It’s a warm, humid morning in Charleston and the call of seagulls has finally replaced the sound of bulldozers and blowtorches. In just over nine months, architects and construction workers erected a building that is more than just a pretty face.

The state-of-the-art 75,000-square-foot facility, an iconic glass and metal structure located on the waterfront of Charleston’s old naval base, will symbolize the joint vision of Clemson University and businesswoman/philanthropist Anita Zucker. The program will serve as the academic anchor in the Clemson University Restoration Institute (CURI) applied technology park, joining the Warren Lasch Conservation Center and the SCE&G Energy Innovation Center. The Zucker Family Graduate Education Center will offer master’s programs in electrical engineering, systems engineering and digital production arts (DPA) and a Ph.D. program in computer science.

“For years our business community has complained that we don’t have enough graduate-level courses in engineering. Well, I feel like that call will finally be answered with this new center,” Zucker said.

“The Zucker Family Graduate Education Center will respond to industry’s demand for an engineering workforce for the future,” said Elizabeth Colbert-Busch, director of business development for CURI. “The center will bring opportunity for personal and professional growth for place-bound engineers who would like to have an advanced degree and expand their opportunities in the job market.”

The idea is that the engineering programs will help keep young talent and expertise from leaving South Carolina for other places that offer opportunities to grow in the industry. Additionally, the DPA program will expand instruction in video game design and content development in hopes of creating a new regional industry. The center will start with a combination of on-site and remote (via video conference) learning with a plan to have the program completely local within three years.

The timing of the opening is ideal as Charleston is quickly becoming one of the nation’s fastest-growing areas for such advanced business and industry sectors as aerospace, transportation, advanced materials, advanced security and biomedical services and manufacturing. According to the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Charleston region is one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the United States, and growth in population and employment is expected to continue to exceed the national average.

But the Zucker center isn’t the only new building for Clemson in Charleston — new to Clemson, that is. In August, the Clemson Architecture Center in Charleston and the Historic Preservation Program were united under one roof when they moved into the Cigar Factory on East Bay Street. The former cigar and textile manufacturing plant was originally built in 1881 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Formerly, the two programs were housed in three separate locations. To better meet existing needs, anticipate planned growth and ensure that Clemson students in Charleston have all the resources they need, a larger, more functional facility was required.

“Clemson is thrilled with this solution to house our allied design programs in Charleston under one roof,” said Richard E. Goodstein, dean of the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities. “It has been a long-time goal of the University’s to integrate the creativity, scholarship and service outreach of these programs in one central location.”

Though completely different aesthetically, the hope is that both these buildings will expand the footprint of Clemson in South Carolina and in turn cement the idea that the University is committed to providing opportunities to students, teachers and industry alike, across the entire state.

Biochemistry and genetics graduate awarded 2016 Norris Medal

InTheseHills_Austin HerbstEach spring, one Clemson student is chosen as the recipient of the Norris Medal, the highest honor for an undergraduate. Established in the will of Clemson trustee D.K. Norris, the honor is awarded to the graduating senior judged the best all-around student by the Scholarships and Awards Committee.

This spring, that student was Austin Herbst of Easley, who graduated with a dual degree in biochemistry and genetics, with a double minor in microbiology and psychology. Two weeks before graduation, he took home multiple awards from the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences, including being named the outstanding senior in genetics and biochemistry and receiving the Martin Award, which honors the student in the life sciences with the highest GPA. The Blue Key Academic and Leadership Award and the Phi Kappa Phi Certificate of Merit rounded out the list. The Blue Key award is given to one senior in each of Clemson’s seven colleges to honor outstanding scholarship, campus leadership and service.

Last spring as a junior Herbst was awarded the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship for excellence in science, mathematics and engineering. He was involved in undergraduate bioengineering research during his first three years at Clemson, and conducted research at both Furman and Emory universities. He published five peer-reviewed articles. He has volunteered in the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Nicaragua, and was active in Engineers without Borders, Engineering World Health and Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Society, of which he was president.

Having been admitted to medical school at Harvard, Johns Hopkins and Vanderbilt, Herbst is planning to attend Harvard this fall. He would like to pursue a career in global health and work internationally.