Packaging Science Students Win in International Design Competitions

Three teams from the packaging science program captured international awards for projects ranging from a skin care package to quarantine survival kits for shipping and gifts on the go. One team won first place in the United States/United Kingdom division at the Packaging Impact Design Award competition. They traveled to Monaco along the French Riviera to present their Golden Bee Skin Care package design during the Grand Finale at Luxe Pack Monaco.

“The packaging industry’s focus on sustainability was the main driving force for our design,” said Samantha Johnson, a senior from Michigan. “We created a package without any plastic that contains a sustainable product. Not only will it look beautiful, but it will be gentler to the environment.”

Two other teams won awards
in the annual Student Packaging Design Competition held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, by AICC, The Independent Packaging Association.


Understanding UFOs

Generally, when you see a headline about UFOs, it doesn’t involve understanding the evolution of galaxies. Unless, that is, the UFOs being discussed are ultra-fast outflows — powerful winds launched from very near supermassive black holes that scientists believe play an important role in regulating the growth of the black hole itself and its host galaxy.

Using data gathered by the Large Area Telescope onboard NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and a stacking technique combining signals too weak to be observed on their own, researchers detected gamma rays from UFOs in several nearby galaxies for the first time, providing a basis for scientists to understand what happened in our own Milky Way galaxy.

Clemson scientists collaborated with other researchers from 12 countries as part of the Fermi-LAT Collaboration on published research findings that outline the detection of gamma-ray emission from UFOs launched by supermassive black holes.


Making Clemson History

Many students begin their college careers a bit uncertain about what direction they might head. The final decision often comes down to determining where their strengths and passions lie.

As a graduating senior, Louise Franke is still answering that question for herself.

She loves the humanities but envisions a career as a physician. A Clemson University Honors College student, she’s majoring in biochemistry but points to a political theory class her freshman year as life-changing, resulting in a minor in philosophy and political science. She has done research in the EPIC (Eukaryotic Pathogens Innovation Center) laboratory while participating in both the Lyceum Program, which requires a political philosophy class each semester and biweekly Socratic sessions with a professor, and the Dixon Global Policy Scholars program, which brings students from different majors together to discuss and dissect broader policy issues.

She hasn’t wanted to close the door to any of those interests. And it has served her well.

Since 2006, Clemson has had six Rhodes finalists. This year, Franke has made history by being named the University’s first-ever Rhodes Scholar — one of 32 American students to receive the scholarship.

The Rhodes Scholarship is recognized worldwide as the top award for undergraduates. Scholars are selected through an intensive application and interview process and then spend two years at the University of Oxford, where Franke plans to pursue a B.A. in philosophy, politics and economics before earning a joint M.D. and Ph.D. in bioethics. Her goal is to practice as a physician while forging a career as a bioethicist in the public policy and academic realms.

“The Rhodes community is an intellectual community where people care about ideas, about action and about the world,” said Franke. “It’s a group of people that fight the world’s fight, and the fact that I’m now part of that blows my mind. It’s a dream come true.”


The Rhodes community is an intellectual community where people care about ideas, about action and about the world.


Franke points to her first class in the Lyceum program with assistant professor Michael Hoffpauir as causing “a slight existential crisis.” In Franke’s only non-science course that semester, she was reading Plato, Aristotle (“all that kind of great ancient stuff”). She said she was “nodding along, writing my essays, but nothing was jarring to me.” But reading Machiavelli’s The Prince made her stop and think. Then she read Frederick Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals.

“I was just like, ‘What does this all mean?’” she said. “How could I not be studying Nietzsche for the rest of my life? I don’t understand it all, but what I do understand makes me know I have to understand more.”

Hoffpauir remembers Franke delving into subjects such as justice and considering what it means “for her — for caring for herself and for her caring for others. She became keenly aware that doing so requires her to work through her unexamined opinions and any bias she might have.”

Franke described that class as a “huge moment,” one she credits for pushing her to apply to the Hudson Institute Political Studies program in Washington, D.C., an experience she called “my favorite six weeks of my life.” Mornings consisted of three-hour seminars with 18 other students and a professor (“like the best professors in the country,” she said); afternoons, they met different influential figures (“We met Ruth Bader Ginsburg. That was amazing.”) and participated in policy workshops.

But when asked what she’s most passionate about, Franke gets less academic. “It sounds super cheesy,” she said, “but I think helping people more than anything.” She said the main thing she’s learned about herself is that she doesn’t want a job that is not constantly interacting with people.

“I think my goal is to go to med school right now. But I’m very, very open to something else happening.”


The Best of the Best

In November, Clemson faculty voted Rhondda Thomas the recipient of the Class of ’39 Award for Excellence — in essence, she has been named as one of the very best faculty members by her own colleagues.

The award, endowed by the Class of 1939 to commemorate its 50th anniversary in 1989, is presented annually to one distinguished faculty member whose contributions over five years are judged by peers to represent the highest achievement of service to the student body, University and community, state, or nation.

“The legacy of sacrifice, service and philanthropy of the Class of ’39 is inspiring and motivating, and I’m honored that my colleagues chose me to be a part of this distinguished group,” said Thomas, the Calhoun Lemon Professor of Literature. “I’m also grateful to work at a university that values and encourages service both on and off-campus.”

Her research and teaching interests are early African American literature and culture, politics of Black identity, autobiographical scholarship, African American literature and the Bible, race and culture studies, African American historiography, migration narratives, and African American women writers.

Perhaps most significantly, she has been a prominent member of the community pushing for a full accounting of Clemson’s history with African Americans in the region. “Through her public program creation and leadership, she has greatly contributed to increasing understanding of our cultural heritage and to recognize the previously unheard voices in Clemson’s institutional history,” said Will Stockton, chair and professor of English.

Erin Goss, associate professor and associate chair for the Department of English, commented on the impact of Thomas’ work to document the Black experience at Clemson in her nomination letter:

“Dr. Thomas has made enormous contributions to how students, colleagues and citizens understand the history and culture of Upstate South Carolina,” Goss wrote. “Most recently, by documenting the history and experience of Black people in the region through her celebrated and highly publicized ‘Call My Name’ project, she has also helped these populations better understand how to [comprehend] the challenges of the past to build a stronger future.”

Named Clemson’s 2020 Senior Researcher of the Year, Thomas also won a CAAH Creativity Professorships award for the 2020-2022 term and a Preserving Our Places in History Project Award for “Call My Name” from the South Carolina African American Heritage Commission. She has received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities to support a touring exhibition of her research, “Call My Name: The Black Experience in the South Carolina Upstate from Enslavement to Desegregation,” an extension of an initiative that has digitized more than 2,000 primary documents related to Clemson’s history.

Thomas also is involved in an interdisciplinary partnership coordinated by English professor Lee Morrissey that has been awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, dedicated to “Exploring America’s Stories in the Clemson Landscape.”



Three Vegetables to Plant Midsummer for Fall Harvest

Vegetable gardeners, especially in the South, know the lull that shrinks harvests during July and August. Tomatoes, peppers, squash and cucumbers simply can’t take the heat when daytime temperatures climb past 95 and nighttime lows exceed 75. The plants may survive, but the crops won’t set fruit.

Midsummer planting offers an opportunity to stretch your growing season and utilize the remaining garden space when early-summer crops are past their peak.

Clemson Cooperative Extension suggests three vegetables to plant midsummer to keep your garden growing for a fall harvest.

Okra: the Southern staple that loves hot weather. Clemson Spineless is a widely planted variety of okra, and given its name, how could you not choose it? Okra is safe to plant anytime from May through early July. A late okra planting will bring a welcome fall crop. Be sure to harvest okra pods at 2 to 3 inches long when they are the most tender and tasty. If pods aren’t picked daily, plants will stop bearing.


Midsummer planting offers an opportunity to stretch your growing season and utilize the remaining garden space when early-summer crops are past their peak.


Brussels sprouts and broccoli should be planted between mid-July and September 1. You can start crops as transplants or sow them directly in the garden. Brussels sprouts are ready to harvest in 85 to 100 days, while broccoli is ready to harvest 50 to 90 days after transplanting. Harvest broccoli when the main head is 3 to 6 inches in diameter and the flower buds are still tightly closed. Cut the main stem about 6 inches below the top of the head. Brussels sprouts should be picked when the sprouts are 1 inch.

Midsummer plantings need ample irrigation during this dry time of year to ensure good seedling emergence. Soil should stay uniformly moist for the best roots. Irrigate during periods of dry weather, especially as the roots are developing, by moistening the soil to 6 inches deep.


Campus Projects That Never Came to Be


What if Clemson’s campus had a section of restored colonial buildings and farms? How different would campus be with a Center for Visual Arts, connected by a pedestrian bridge to the Brooks Center for the Performing Arts? What happened to plans for a campus parking deck?

Answers to these questions and more can be found in Unbuilt Clemson, a new book by Dennis Taylor, librarian emeritus who spent 32 years working in special collections and archives. Published by Clemson University Press, Unbuilt Clemson looks at projects throughout the University’s history that were never realized. Taylor spent years researching Clemson’s archives and visiting architecture firms from Williamsburg, Va., to Boston, Mass., that had worked on plans for the University, digging into proposed projects that, for one reason or another, were never built.


One issue that alumni might not be surprised to read about, Taylor said, is parking. The book details two proposed parking decks from 1992 and 2002 that were never built due to cost.


Some projects eventually took form on campus in other ways, such as a multipurpose auditorium proposed in 1965 that eventually led to the construction of Littlejohn Coliseum.

Other projects, such as a Continuing Education Center in 1972, never came to fruition because funding was not available. And some projects, such as the CURIOUS Campus — a “village” of academic buildings with a town center, green spaces and nature trails on the shores of Lake Hartwell —  simply did not come along at the right time to align with other campus priorities.

One issue that alumni might not be surprised to read about, Taylor said, is parking. The book details two proposed parking decks from 1992 and 2002 that were never built due to cost. “The first campus master planner wanted to turn campus into a walking campus,” Taylor said. “Parking has been a problem going back to President Poole when more students started driving cars.”


Feeding the World


Postdoctoral award winner focuses on increasing yield of food crops


Rohit Kumar wants to help feed the world.

“My interest is to serve society by contributing to sustainable food security for the growing world population,” said College of Science postdoctoral fellow Rohit Kumar, who works in the laboratory of Rajandeep Sekhon, an associate professor of genetics and biochemistry.

Kumar’s overall research focuses on understanding complex traits that underlie nutritional value and stress tolerance to develop climate-resistant crop plants.

At Clemson, his research has focused on regulatory systems that govern senescence — the process of biological aging — and stalk lodging in corn, which refers to stalk breakage below the corn ear. Lodging reduces the U.S. corn crop by as much as 25 percent annually.

Sekhon said Kumar’s work could help improve yields for a wide range of annual crops, including corn, soybeans, rice and wheat. “These crops only survive for one season, and even then, their lifespan is limited,” Sekhon said. “During that lifespan, the most important thing the plants do for us is convert solar energy into chemical energy through photosynthesis, which is what basically sustains us. Our big idea is that if we can delay senescence, that can lead to the production of more chemical energy for human consumption.”

Since he came to Clemson in 2018, Kumar has authored or co-authored five peer-reviewed publications in various scholarly journals, including The Plant Cell and Plant, Cell & Environment. The Clemson University Postdoctoral Association named Kumar its 2021 Distinguished Postdoctoral Award for his efforts to understand how to extend the productive life of food crops.

In addition to his research, Kumar frequently serves as a reviewer of international journals and a judge in student-oriented competitions, including the Three-Minute Thesis program and the University’s Undergraduate Science Symposium.

“Dr. Kumar is an outstanding young scientist with a steady upward trajectory,” Sekhon said.



Providing a Place to Call Home


Habitat Homecoming build provides experience and changes lives


Matthew Grant walked on to the Habitat for Humanity build site as a management major his freshman year to fulfill service hours for a course. He had no idea he was stepping into a life change.

“I came out to a workday and loved it,” he recalled. “All we were doing was putting in vinyl flooring, but it was really cool to me to actually be doing work on an actual house that a family was going to be living in.”

As his involvement progressed, his passion for the work inspired a new career path. “I realized I could just wake up every day and do this the rest of my life,” he said. When he returned to Clemson as a sophomore, he switched his major to construction science and management. Now a senior and advocacy chair for Clemson’s 29th Habitat for Humanity Homecoming build, Grant’s enthusiasm is just as strong as it was three years ago.

Grant’s story highlights the special relationship between the project and the Nieri Family Department of Construction Science and Management. On September 30, 2021, Michael ’86 and Robyn Nieri — namesakes of the department and owners of Great Southern Homes—strengthened the relationship further with a gift of $50,000 to Pickens County Habitat for Humanity. State Farm also donated $20,000 to the Clemson chapter. These gifts made the Homecoming build possible as well as another new Habitat Home to be built in 2022.


“I love to share what we all love about construction, and beyond that, getting to use construction to serve people.”


Approximately 60 CSM majors have contributed to this year’s build, according to Addison Dicks, a senior CSM major serving as project coordinator. Five CSM majors are part of the chapter’s leadership team.

Dicks stays on top of a myriad of tasks as diverse as recruiting volunteers, acquiring in-kind donations for materials, applying for permits, arranging security and even driving 200 miles to Summerville to pick up lumber. “Balancing it all between classes and trying to manage it has been a challenge, but it’s a good challenge,” he said.

According to Endowed Professor Dennis Bausman, the hands-on work experience creates an ideal learning opportunity. “We’re preparing young men and women not necessarily to hammer nails, but also to manage the process,” Bausman said. “But you’re a better manager if you have some feeling or experience of actually having gone through it. The lessons they are learning while they are out there working and managing the effort, I think, are invaluable.”

For some students, the building process and interacting with the families for whom the homes are built have shaped their lives and future plans.

“It definitely opens your eyes to a new perspective,” Dicks said. “I’m not going to speak for everybody, but a majority of the people who are blessed enough to come to college have probably come from a good life. When we grew up, we had a great roof over our head, and it’s very easy to take that for granted.”

In Grant’s case, the Habitat builds have had a direct impact on his career choice. He plans to work in construction for a nonprofit such as Habitat for Humanity after graduation. Until then, he will continue spreading the gospel of construction science to his classmates.

“I love to share what we all love about construction, and beyond that, getting to use construction to serve people,” he said.



Clemson Rolls Out Executive Leadership Ph.D. Program

The Department of Management in the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business is launching a three-year, AACSB-accredited Executive Leadership Ph.D. program that will allow candidates to earn their Ph.D. while working in full-time careers. Inaugural applicants participated in a research boot camp in October and will begin the program in July of 2022.


“This new offering will take a deep dive into leadership that will allow participants to pursue a research agenda in academia or significantly expand their skill set for growth in the business world.”


“This new offering will take a deep dive into leadership that will allow participants to pursue a research agenda in academia or significantly expand their skill set for growth in the business world,” said Kristin Scott, professor of management and director of the program. “Graduates will be qualified for faculty positions or be armed with advanced research techniques they can utilize in transforming organizations.”

The Executive Leadership Ph.D. program is offered in a hybrid format with virtual class meetings and three-day residencies three times per semester (nine per year) and is designed to be completed in three years over nine semesters while attending Fall, Spring and Summer terms. “Candidates will experience a small and selective cohort that will create a high-touch program,” Scott said. “In addition to lasered-in focus on leadership, the program will provide them with deep analytical skills. Clemson’s world-class management faculty will be joined by global scholars who will be guest faculty throughout the three-year program.”

Applications for the program are now being accepted. Applicants will need to have a master’s degree and successful leadership experience of preferably a decade or more.