Blenner Receives Presidential Award

Six other early-career faculty also recognized

An associate professor whose research could help enable long-term space missions and search for some of the globe’s most destructive weapons has received the U.S. government’s highest honor for early-career scientists and engineers.

Mark Blenner, the McQueen-Quattlebaum Associate Professor in the department of chemical and biomolecular engineering, received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

Blenner was among 311 researchers nationwide, including two from South Carolina, honored with the award, according to the White House. Blenner is the fifth Clemson researcher to win the award since it was commissioned in 1996 by the cabinet-level National Science and Technology Council. The nominating agency for Blenner’s award was NASA, and he was one of 18 from the administration to win.

Blenner and his team are working to engineer yeast to convert respiration carbon dioxide, algae biomass and urine into 3D printable plastics and nutritional omega-3 fats. Astronauts on missions to Mars, for example, could use the plastics to make new tools and use the omega-3 fatty acids for maintaining health.

Six other Clemson researchers are bringing home some of the nation’s other top awards for junior faculty members — honors that come with new opportunities to advance technology that could lead to a more sustainable environment, safer water supplies, robotic cars and a faster, more secure internet.

1 | Eric Davis, chemical and biomolecular engineering (National Science Foundation). Davis and his team are researching new materials aimed at reducing the cost of large-scale energy storage technologies. Their success could mean that utilities would be able to introduce more renewable energy to the electrical grid and reduce the amount of fossil fuels that need to be burned.

2 | Ben Jaye, mathematical and statistical sciences (National Science Foundation). Jaye is working to understand the structure of high-dimensional sets through the analysis of geometric wavelets. He also is seeking to increase undergraduate student participation in mathematical research with the introduction of an annual research symposium, and to advance educational activities at the graduate and postdoctoral levels.

3 | Hongxin Hu, computer science (National Science Foundation). Hu and his team are developing new security functions to protect computer networks from attacks, including a virtual intrusion detection system that would detect attacks and a virtual firewall system that would repel them.

4 | Yunyi Jia, automotive engineering (National Science Foundation). Jia and his team are studying what it will take to make people more comfortable with robots, like autonomous vehicles and collaborative robots involved in advanced manufacturing.

5 | Judson Ryckman, electrical and computer engineering (U.S. Air Force). Ryckman’s team is working to create smaller and more efficient photonic devices. The research could lead to improvements in a wide range of industries and products, including faster internet downloads and self-driving cars better equipped to navigate city streets.

6 | Ezra Cates, environmental engineering (Environmental Protection Agency). Cates and his team are studying how to break down and remove toxic chemicals from water. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are man-made chemicals that have contaminated drinking water supplies and groundwater at several sites around the country.

A Partnership for Life-Changing Opportunities

Wells Fargo Luncheon

Emerging Scholars and Call Me MISTER® are two of the leading diversity initiatives at Clemson to provide students with the knowledge, desire and resources to pursue higher education.

Emerging Scholars works with students from South Carolina’s I-95 Corridor (a chain of predominantly rural, underserved communities running from the North Carolina border to South Carolina’s southern tip at the Georgia border), concentrating on academic preparation, leadership skills and the college application process. The mission of Call Me MISTER (Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models) is to increase the pool of available teachers from a broader, more diverse background particularly among the state’s lowest performing elementary schools. Established at Clemson, the program has expanded to other colleges in the state and serves as a model for nine other states.

A strong partnership between Wells Fargo and Clemson, including a shared commitment to the life-changing and transformative power of education, has allowed these programs to continue to grow and significantly impact education throughout South Carolina. In 2015, there were six Emerging Scholars enrolled at Clemson. Four years later, 50 Emerging Scholars are enrolled. Over the past 19 years, 272 male South Carolinians have become Call Me MISTER graduates — 52 of those graduated from Clemson.

With a recent gift of $300,000, Wells Fargo continues to support these initiatives. “Wells Fargo’s longstanding financial support for Call Me MISTER and the Emerging Scholars Program has provided a sustainability track for two of Clemson’s most venerated programs. This allows them to continue advancing toward achieving our inclusion and equity goals as a land-grant university,” said Lee Gill, chief inclusion and equity officer and special assistant to the president for inclusion and equity. 

Emerging Scholars

Making the World a Better Place

President ClementsIt’s a new year at Clemson, and as always, I’m amazed by the many talents and accomplishments of our faculty, staff, students and alumni. If there is one trait that seems to encompass them as a whole, it is this: a strong commitment to making the world a better place.

In this issue of Clemson World, you’ll read a moving story about a nontraditional student, whose research was motivated by her own children’s rare genetic disease. You’ll learn about our partnership with Prisma Health, and how our faculty members provided the research backbone that allowed Prisma to expand a program to treat babies born with opioid dependency.

You’ll also get to meet some of the unsung heroes of Clemson — photographers who translate the people and places of the University into images that inspire and amuse us, and who bring back memories of our own experiences in this place that we call home. You may even gain some tips you can use in your own photography as they share some of their favorite shots.

I hope that as you read these stories and flip through these photos, you’ll be reminded of the friends you made, the professors who inspired you, and the memories that keep you connected to Clemson University.

As always, it’s a great time to be a Tiger!

Go Tigers!

James P. Clements

Honorary Alumni

The Clemson Alumni Association recently named three honorary alumni:

Candi Glenn is one of Clemson’s most well-known volunteer student recruiters in Texas. Glenn and her husband, Gerald ’64, have supported Clemson through the Glenn Department of Civil Engineering and as an Athletic Cornerstone partner through the Gerald and Candice Glenn Family Unrestricted Endowment for Clemson Athletics.

Jacqueline Reynolds, who married into the Clemson Family, has shown a lifelong commitment to the University through the Jacqueline Morrow Reynolds Endowment for Music in the performing arts department and a devotion to historic preservation as the president of the board of trustees for the Pendleton Historic Foundation. She established the Jacqueline M. Reynolds Conservation Endowment for Fort Hill to ensure its conservation. This endowment has since expanded to the Hanover House, Hopewell and the Trustee House.


Terry Don Phillips, who served as Clemson’s director of athletics from 2002-12, was recognized as an honorary alum on Aug. 22, 2019. Known as the athletics director who “gave Dabo a chance,” Phillips is considered by many to be, as former vice president of advancement Neill Cameron stated in his letter of recommendation, “a person who is ‘just Clemson.’”

Alumni News

100th Gameday

Clemson parent Mark Baxter volunteered to fly the flags at College GameDay on Sept. 7, 2019, in Austin, Texas.

100 GameDays On Oct. 12, 2019, the Tiger Paw and Clemson alumni flags traveled to Baton Rouge, La., for LSU’s matchup against Florida. This marked the flags’ 100th consecutive ESPN College GameDay appearance, thanks to the tireless efforts of alumni and fans and the coordination of the Alumni Association. The streak began in 2013 when GameDay came to Clemson for the season opener against Georgia.

Meal Clubs The Greenville Luncheon Club, Hub City Friends of Clemson in Spartanburg, the Second Century Society in Columbia, and Clemson in the Lowcountry in Charleston meet several times throughout the school year for fellowship and networking. These meal clubs host a featured speaker at each meeting. More info
Orange Shoe Event The Women’s Alumni Council held its first Orange Shoe Event at the Madren Conference Center, which included a silent auction benefiting the Clemson WAC Scholarship and appearances by the Tiger and DJ Sha. The 100 attendees, clad in orange shoes, enjoyed dinner, drinks and dancing. More info
Launch of Hispanic Latinx Alumni Council The Clemson Alumni Association Board of Directors approved the launch of the Hispanic Latinx Alumni Council in September 2019.
Fall Band Party The Clemson Young Alumni Council and Alumni Association held their eighth annual Fall Band Party on Sept. 6, 2019, at Swansons Warehouse in Greenville — the night before the Texas A&M game. Partygoers enjoyed a performance by the Midnight City Band as well as a raffle and silent auction. In all, $12,650 were raised for the Spirit of Greenville nonprofit and the Clemson Alumni Scholarship Endowment. More info

Roaring 10: 2019 Honorees

Honesty, integrity, respect. Every year, the Clemson Young Alumni Council chooses 10 alumni who have graduated in the past 10 years who represent these core Clemson values. Each honoree is chosen based on their impact in business, leadership, community, educational and/ or philanthropic endeavors.

Roaring 10

Meet the 2019 Roaring 10: Nadia Nadim Aziz ’09, program manager for “Stop the Hate,” the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law; Samantha Lynn Bauer ’10, sales and marketing manager at Zen Greenville; Tyler Andrew Brown ’09, M ’10*, conservation districts program manager for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources; Amanda Jane Hobbs ’14, associate consultant at Goldratt Consulting; Harold P. Hughes ’08, M ’14, CEO of Bandwagon FanClub, Inc.; Ryan D. Lee ’09, COO of LewisGale Medical Center; Ramakrishna Podila Ph.D. ’11, assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Clemson University; Dominique Jordan Sensabaugh ’12, creator and curator of Dominique Sensabaugh Lifestyle Brand; Martin Tiller ’10, business development and leader of Event Rentals of Anderson and Orange Property Management; and Benjamin J. Winter ’13, United States Navy lieutenant.