Q&A: Catherine Mobley

CW: What do you enjoy most about your job? Or what’s the most satisfying thing about your job?
Mobley: There’s so much that I enjoy about my career, but perhaps my favorite part is that I am constantly learning something new. No day is ever the same as I am continually challenged to apply sociology in new ways in a diversity of contexts – in the classroom, in my research, both within the field and across other fields in my interdisciplinary research. I especially enjoy engaging in interdisciplinary research and teaching. While I have engaged in independent research, I have had the opportunity to engage in empirical research with colleagues from other discipline across campuss. According to Ernest Boyer’s definition of the “scholarship of integration,” interdisciplinary research consists of making connections across disciplines in order to advance understanding of complex scientific questions and social issues. Indeed, the “lone ranger” concept is rarely effective for investigating the issues that are central to my research efforts. Funding agencies are increasingly recognizing the value of interdisciplinary research and teaching. These efforts also support the recent call on the part of my college and university to increase interdisciplinary research. These research collaborations are beneficial and interesting to me both personally and professionally. I enjoy working with my colleagues to develop and implement creative approaches to challenges that would not otherwise emerge if I was working in isolation. Indeed, I am finding that the most innovative research often emerges at the interface of disciplines. Across campus, I think I am known to be a reliable collaborator who makes substantial contributions to projects and adds value to research teams through my expertise in sociological theory and methods. Together, we have applied for multiple research grants and co-authored research presentations and manuscripts. I have truly enjoyed these experiences!
CW: How do you balance teaching and research?
Mobley: I view both as inevitably intertwined with one another. For example, as I work on my research I am always seeking opportunities to enrich my teaching. And, students often raise questions in the classroom that inspire my research.
CW: Give me a brief description of your research. What piqued your interest in that area (s)?
Mobley: At the current time, my two main areas of research are in the area of environmental sustainability and engineering education. The two topics often overlap with one another, depending on the particular research effort. I have long been personally interested in environmental issues and feel lucky to be able to pursue my personal interests through the lens of the sociological perspective. I’ve been able to explore a vast variety of topics related to environmental sustainability, including human behavior as it pertains to water quality and water quantity, college student perceptions of environmental issues, the influence of formative experiences on the development of environmental concern, and public perception of a variety of sustainability related topics. For the past decade or so, I have been involved with an extensive research project related to engineering education, the MIDFIELD project. This project, headed up by Matt Ohland (formerly at Clemson University and now at Purdue University) involves a study of the academic experiences and pathways of engineering majors from 12 institutions. One part of the research team analyzes a longitudinal database of over a million student records from the 12 MIDFIELD institutions. I have been involved in the qualitative portion of the project, investigating a variety of research questions through focus groups and interviews with engineering transfer students. The most recent qualitative project focused on engineering transfer students and in Fall 2014, my colleagues and I received a NSF grant to investigate the experiences of student veterans at four institutions (University of San Diego, Clemson University, Purdue University, North Carolina State University). I also collaborate with colleagues from other disciplines, such as hydrogeology, to learn more about engineering education.
CW: What does this award mean to you…being chosen by your peers?
Mobley: I am so honored to be receiving this award, especially knowing it is coming from my peers. I’ve been walking by the Carillon Bell monument for nearly 20 years now, in awe of the people whose names are inscribed there. It means so much to me, especially knowing there were so many qualified candidates for the award. Recently, I was talking to a recipient of the Class of ’39 award and learned that one of the purposes of the award is to inspire faculty to do their bes,t and to go above and beyond expectations. This recognition has definitely inspired me! Little did I know when I was attending Clemson University in the early 1980’s that I’d be here 30 years later, pursuing the career of my dreams!

Come Home to Clemson: Download Esso Club Wallpaper

Fall has arrived in Clemson. A hint of color is beginning to show in the trees, evening temperatures are cooling off (just ever so slightly) and the First Friday Parade has come and gone. And no matter how much things have changed, it still feels like home.
So, as you’re making plans for this fall, take time to return to Clemson.
Until then, download a custom Esso Club wallpaper for your iPhone, iPad or desktop, or add a Facebook cover photo. To download, just right click on the option below, and save the image to your device.
Then take a few minutes and read about “Coming Home to Clemson” from the most recent issue of Clemson World.
Facebook cover photo

Vanishing Fireflies: The Making of a Cover

AKA: Dresses, Preschoolers and Fireflies … Oh My!


When you’re a photographer with a kid, pictures can go one of two ways. The first being that your child is so used to having photos taken, they act like a tiny model and keep trying to help. The second being they have had their picture made so often, that they run when the camera comes out.

Luckily, I have the former … most days. So when I asked my 4-year-old daughter if she wanted to wear one of her favorite dresses, stay up WAY past bedtime and catch fireflies, she was totally on board.

Night # 1

On went the dress and out came the Mason jar. The camera and lighting were ready; all we needed was a few fireflies.
So the three of us headed out. I named my husband, Mike, as Assistant Firefly Catcher. Our daughter, Savana, was obviously in charge because she would yell and point out every firefly that blinked while he ran around trying to grab them out of the air.
**Disclaimer** No fireflies were harmed during the making of this photo.
Mike and I had a “back in our day” moment when we realized just how few fireflies were available for catching, compared to when we were kids. So in the end we had about four fireflies in the jar. Of course, once they were in the jar, they wouldn’t blink for anything.

But Savana was a trooper and an extremely patient 4-year-old, and Mike was my helpful lighting assistant.
We tried multiple angles with Savana looking in the jar, different lighting exposures and even a few landscape long exposures (a full minute) of just the yard. With the yard exposures I was hoping to capture their little lights blinking in the distance, but there were just too few to make a difference. And we had a small window of time to work with them. Too early in the evening, it was still too bright so we couldn’t see them to catch them; too late and they were already gone, no blinking to be seen.
The next day I brought in the photos and discussed the options with the team in Creative Services. I received a lot of helpful guidance and decided to give it another go with better ideas in mind to really highlight our little blinking friends.

Night #2

Savana and I headed back out and again only caught about three fireflies. This time we added some field grass to the jar to give them a little playground while we worked. The first night, I was lighting Savana’s face but failing to light the fireflies well enough for photos. This time I had her sit on the ground and turned on a small battery-powered video light, which went under the fabric of her dress to slightly diffuse it, and she rested her jar on top of the light.
I started with some close-ups of our main subjects, and they were more than helpful this time around. The fireflies were much more active in the jar that night, crawling everywhere and even giving us a couple of blinks, although the longer the light was on, the less they blinked.
When I was just about done, I wanted to try a few with the light on Savana’s face as well. We unscrewed the lid, and she looked down into the jar.

Once the lid was gone, I had beautiful soft light on her face and the natural wonder that a 4-year-old brings to the table.
Once I had the shots down to the best ones, I headed into Photoshop to really make the fireflies stand out. There was one main firefly in perfect position and all he needed was a little oomph added to make him stand out. Other than that, this shot is pretty much straight from the camera. A little skill and a lot of luck went into this particular photo. Fireflies don’t take direction well.
This assignment was so much fun and a great way for me to try to think outside of the box, made even better by having the opportunity to include my family. It was such a wonderful learning experience for both my daughter and me and, as always, I’m definitely looking forward to the next challenge.


Landscape Architecture as Kinesthetic Experience

Most people think of design as a visual discipline, but a project in the Landscape Architecture department at Clemson in spring 2014 explored a multi-sensory approach.

Collaborating on the project were Mary Padua, founding chair of Clemson’s Department of Landscape Architecture; landscape architecture professor Dan Ford; and Jennie Wakefield, Clemson alumna and former English department lecturer. [pullquote align=’right’]Eight freshmen landscape architecture majors and one graduate student participated in the four, 2½-hour experiential workshops on an under-developed, topographically challenging site beside Lee Hall.[/pullquote]
The workshops used kinesthetic experience and the creative process developed by renowned landscape architect Lawrence Halprin to explore a “qualitative rather than quantitative” approach to design, said architecture professor Annemarie Jacques, who photographed the project. Halprin (1916-2009) is the California landscape architect who was brought in to redesign downtown Greenville in the late 1970s.
The project incorporated Halprin’s vision of landscape architecture as the choreography of people’s movement and interactions through a place. This point of view grew from a lifelong collaboration with his wife, modern dance pioneer Anna Halprin, and daughter Daria Halprin, who expanded their work into new models for psychology, education and leadership through the establishment of Tamalpa Institute in San Francisco. Wakefield is a teacher training graduate of Tamalpa.
Jennie Wakefield 01april14It’s natural to begin making something by sitting down at the computer or drawing pad to think up an objective form. But a blindfolded walk from Lee Hall to the site, led by Padua, who worked with Halprin at one time, threw the students back on their senses. Then an unblindfolded score (Halprin’s term for a plan of action over time, like a musical score) asked them to investigate the site using that sensory awareness.
From a collaborative group-building activity using found materials, performed without pre-planning or talking, to the creation of scores for classmates’ movement through the site, the emphasis was on the process that leads to design. Only after fully experiencing the site through sensory, kinesthetic activities and poetic reflections did the students generate preliminary designs. Presentations of their ideas were grounded in imaginary, sensory and emotional experience.
This project explored the creative process and a way of learning, working, and being – both individually and collectively – that is holistic and expressive. As one student commented, it was an experience that “totally opens up your mind and your creativity.”

The Experience of an Internship, Right Here on Campus

Josh Groppe likes to build apps. But not just any apps. Apps with a purpose, apps that will provide something valuable to the user.The past year and a half, he’s had a chance to do just that for Clemson. “I wanted to continue to learn about mobile app development, and I love Clemson. This internship allowed me to bring two of my passions together,” said Josh, who has been interning with the Clemson Mobile Innovation Team for four semesters now.

Groppe is just one of hundreds of students who have jumped on board a relatively new campus internship program that puts students into a job on campus that allows them fantastic, paid, on-the-job experience. The program is called University Professional Internship/Co-op Program, or UPIC (pronounced “you pick”).
“These UPIC internships are mentored and intentional. Students are working side by side University professionals to develop their skillset,” said UPIC Director Troy Nunamaker.
And students are recognizing the opportunity — and the impact. When UPIC began in 2012, they hoped to have 500 internships by 2016. In 2014, they will have more than 600 positions available — more than double their original target for the year. “This internship gives them the experience of what it’s like to work on real projects in a real work environment,” said Sam Hoover, manager for the Mobile Innovation Team within CCIT and Groppe’s UPIC supervisor.
Part-time internships consist of 160 hours a semester, and the pay is more competitive than a typical campus job — $10 per hour the first semester, then $11 and $12 for subsequent semesters. UPIC funds half the student’s salary and the department hiring the student funds the other half. Full-time co-op positions are also available. [pullquote align=’right’ font=’chunk’ color=’#3A4958′]For a student like Groppe who’s putting himself through school, having a well-paid internship within minutes of his classes and within the scope of his planned career path is an incredible opportunity.[/pullquote]
“I pay for school and my bills. So having this job helps me with life. I couldn’t do everything else without it,” Groppe said.
UPIC leaders manage the HR aspects of the program and help the departments promote and fill their open positions. To get a position approved, the department has to apply for the opportunity, assign a supervisor and provide the UPIC staff with intended learning outcomes.
“The best part has been building my ability to perform in a team and do it well,” said Summers Binnicker, a double major in financial management and marketing. Binnicker has spent the past three semesters working on a marketing team — almost entirely of students — within the Regional Entrepreneurial Development Center. The team works with entrepreneurs to help develop business and marketing plans, do market research or simply provide any resources they need to make their idea a reality.
[pullquote align=’left’ font=’chunk’ color=’#3A4958′]“I always considered myself an individual worker, but in this environment we have to divide and conquer responsibilities. Plus, I have had to learn how to present or decipher information and translate that into a product that has value to the entrepreneur we’re working with,” she said.[/pullquote]
Groppe echoed Binnicker’s sentiments. “There’s value in talking something out, in really working and thinking as a team. When it comes to school I tend to go it alone. But I’ve learned there’s tremendous value in working and talking through a project with someone else.”
Having to tie the internship back to key takeaways has been vital for both UPIC staff driving the program and students participating.
“The format of the program really keeps you accountable. The reflection questions we have to answer really make me stop and think, ‘What did I really learn?’,” Groppe said. “I might forget these if I didn’t write it out.”
As Groppe and Binnicker prepare to graduate and begin looking for full-time work, these internships and experiences are going to place them ahead of the competition. In fact, according to the Career Center, Clemson students are 13 percent more likely to gain full-time employment if they have completed an internship. So what started as a simple idea — increasing the number of on-campus internships for students — has turned into much more. And its impact is growing into much more for students like Groppe.
“I like knowing that what I’m learning (in the classroom) has real-world application,” he said. “That drives me.”

Clemson's Own Monster Garage

If you go to the website for Clemson’s Machining & Technical Services, you can read about the many capabilities of this department in the College of Engineering and Science. Seven bullet points list everything from drafting and machining to plastic fabrication and welding.
They might consider trimming that page down to just six words:

We can make just about anything.

That’s what director of instructional and research support Phil Landreth ’84 will tell you, backed up by his staff of engineers, artisans and craftsmen who work in the basement of Freeman Hall, packed with high-powered equipment and projects. “It’s like walking into Monster Garage every morning,” Landreth says with a grin, referring to the Discovery Channel show. There are no chrome dashboards or classic interiors, but the challenges they meet each day and the solutions they create have life-changing implications.
Say hello to the four managers of the shop — Truman Nicholson, Jeff Holliday, Brad Poore and Charlie McDonald ’04. Get them talking about their many projects, and their faces light up as they begin to tick them off:

  • Joist hangers and hurricane clips for the Wind Load Test Facility
  • Heart valve bioreactor and part of an artificial knee for biomedical engineering
  • A component of the buoys in the Intelligent RiverTM project
  • Fullerene nanoparticle producers for chemistry, physics and COMSET
  • An etching press, larger than commercially available, for the art department

The list goes on and on — from turf cutter blade parts for athletics to a machine to make miniature bales of cotton for materials science and engineering and air handling shafts for Facilities Maintenance and Operations. They produce samples for undergraduate labs to use for stress testing. They’ve helped students develop easy-to-connect joints for the steel bridge competition. They’ve created a mechanism to dynamically compress artificial cartilage tissue as it is being grown. They even worked with emeritus professor Cecil Huey to replace the governor on a historic steam engine for the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico.

Etching Press

Etching Press
When art professor Sydney Cross wanted an etching press larger than she could find commercially, she went to the guys in Machining & Technical Services. The outcome? An etching press with a 5’x8′ bed.
“It is the largest etching press at a university on the East Coast,” says Cross, “and I don’t know of anyone commercially producing them at that size.” Her classes use the press on a regular basis. Pictured here is Claudia Dishon ’10, who completed her Master of Fine Arts degree in printmaking.

2012 SAE formula hub

The MTS shop produces a number of parts for the formula car teams that Clemson fields. Pictured here is the front hub being machined for the 2012 SAE formula car.

Heart valve bioreactor

Heart valve bioreactor
The MTS shop created parts for a heart valve bioreactor that was developed in Dan Simionescu’s Laboratory for Regenerative Medicine at the Clemson University Biomedical Engineering Innovation Campus (CUBEInC). CUBEInC, which opened in December 2011, is part of Greenville Hospital System’s Patewood campus.
Faculty at CUBEInC collaborate with cardiovascular and orthopedic surgeons across the hospital system and expose their students to the highest levels of research.

Stress testing samples

Stress testing samplesIn undergraduate engineering labs, students perform stress tests to determine how various materials respond and to see the relative strength of different metals. MTS produces samples like the ones pictured here.

Fullerene nanoparticle producers

Fullerene nanoparticle producersWhen chemistry professor Ya-Ping Sun needed to create a mechanism to produce fullerene nanoparticles, he came to MTS. They worked with him and others in chemistry, physics and COMSET (Center for Optical Materials Science and Engineering Technologies) to create this mechanism that produces carbon molecules used in pharmaceuticals, lubricants, coatings and composite materials.

Hurricane clips

Hurricane clipsWhen civil engineers were developing hurricane-proof building techniques, they worked with MTS to create joist hangers and hurricane clips that were then tested in the Wind Load Test Facility. Pictured here is one of the hurricane clips developed to keep roofs from lifting off houses during storms.


From drawings to reality

On the walls of the shop you’ll see pictures of years and years of formula cars designed, built and raced by Clemson students for the annual Society of Automotive Engineers competition. The silent partners in the projects are the guys in MTS.
“The students are building a prototype,” says Nicholson, “and we create different parts for them, like the rotors and the throttle body and the axles.” He picks up a differential that has been crafted out of a solid block of aluminum. “We usually do the differential.”

The competition is early May. Like other projects, these might start with a drawing on a napkin, but Landreth and the others pride themselves on the ability to work with students and faculty to figure out solutions, then make those solutions a reality.
“We meet with the students and talk about what they want and need,” says Nicholson. The back-and-forth conversation elicits a much better product than just dropping off an order and picking it up when it’s finished.
“I can count on one hand the failures    we have had of not being able to give someone what they need,” says Landreth.

Clemson SAE Formula Team

Where the rubber meets the road

Across campus in another little-known building are two guys spending their Friday morning working on Clemson’s SAE formula car for the competition that is less than three weeks away. The frame is welded together and sits on a large worktable. The whiteboard on the door lists most of the tasks that need to be finished, with a countdown of days to go before competition (19 at this time).
“There are more things we need to do, but I’m afraid if I put everything up there, it will overwhelm some of the team,” says Kevin Carlson, one of the team leaders. He and team member TJ Theodore will be here most of the weekend.
The SAE formula team is made up of students from mechanical engineering, industrial engineering and business who average 10-15 hours a week beginning in the summer. No course credit, no compensation. The seniors on the team will even have to choose between attending the competition or walking at graduation. Some of the team members (including the other team leader, Perry Ellwood) are working co-op jobs and come back to Clemson to spend their weekends on the car. Two alumni team members return once or twice a week to help as well.
The team relies heavily on the guys from MTS, who have produced 14 parts for this year’s car.
“We have 125 hours of MTS time,” says Carlson. “We completely design the car in SolidWorks [software application] and then go to MTS with drawings. They do the steering gears, the wheel hubs, the trigger wheels, the throttle body.” The team mills some parts themselves by hand. And they wrangle others, both donated and sold, from outside vendors.

Working with MTS not only saves the team money, but it also provides them with technical expertise. “It saves us around $6,000 to have their help,” says Carlson. “Hour-wise, it saves us over 300 hours of machining if we had to do it ourselves. They’re a huge help, both with the parts and giving us knowledge on how to machine things better or more efficiently.”

An engine for the rest of campus

The crew in MTS are probably best known for their work with the SAE formula car, but there’s not a college or department on campus that has not been affected by their work. Bioengineer Karen Burg discovered their capabilities while she was still a graduate student. Now a prolific researcher and holder of an endowed chair in bioengineering, she shares some of the credit with them for Clemson research productivity.
“I’ve worked with the Machining & Technical Services staff since I was a graduate student,” she says, “and I’m grateful for all their assistance on numerous projects. They are enthusiastic and helpful, and they have significantly increased our ability to conduct cutting-edge research.”
The MTS crew has worked with Burg to create an instrumented container used for growing tissue for breast cancer research. Caught in a more casual moment, Burg remarks, “In short, Phil [Landreth] and the Machining & Technical Services personnel ROCK.”
The rest of the Clemson crew agrees.

Clemson's Monster Garage group
In addition to Phil Landreth and the four managers, the staff of Machining & Technical Services includes (L–R) David Kelley, Glen Rankin, Scott Kaufman, Brittney McCall, Bill Simmons, Dustin Gravley (kneeling), Dock Houston and Wendy Baldwin.