Summer Clemson Fun

Summer ScholarsAre you exploring summer possibilities for your children or grandchildren? Do you have a high school student interested in attending Clemson? Clemson University Summer Scholars offers weeklong sessions May 31-August 1 for high-achieving middle and high school students on topics that range from architecture and engineering to packaging science and professional golf management. The early bird registration deadline is April 1.

 | Clemson sponsors numerous other overnight camps and day camps for elementary, middle and high school students. Go to for more information.

If I Knew Then What I Know Now

Regret illustrationHow many times have you wished you could give your younger self a piece of advice? Clemson psychology professor Robin Kowalski is willing to bet there’s not a single person who hasn’t thought about this at least once in the last year. According to her research, the odds are pretty good that she’s right.

Her latest article in the Journal of Social Psychology, “If I knew then what I know now: Advice to my younger self,” analyzes the results of two studies of more than 400 individuals 30 years of age or older. Kowalski said the results have been truly revealing about the nature of regret, how people can use it to self-actualize and what areas people tend to fixate on in their later years.

Q | You shouldn’t dwell on the past, right?

A | “My findings would suggest otherwise as long as you’re not obsessing about it,” Kowalski said. One-third of the participants in the study spontaneously thought about advice they would offer their younger selves at least once a week.

Thinking about the past can help people conceptualize and even realize their “ideal self,” which reflects who the person thinks they would like to be. “Following the advice helped participants overcome regret,” Kowalski said. “When participants followed their advice in the present, they were much more likely to say that their younger selves would be proud of the person they are now.”

Q | What areas do people tend to focus on when it comes to advice to the younger self?

A | Kowalski said the top three areas are education, self-worth and relationships.

Advice tied to education often involved individuals urging themselves to return to or finish school, and many participants offered a timeline, such as “get master’s while in your 20s” or “finish college in four years.”

Advice related to self-worth, such as “be yourself” or “think through all options before making a decision,” tended to be more inspirational and corrective than the more temporal advice about education.

“My favorite piece of advice in the whole paper,” Kowalski said, “came from a guy who said ‘Do. Not. Marry. Her.’ That’s valuable for the person that he is now because he can reflect and have a better idea of what he’s looking for in an ideal mate, plus he can offer advice to others.”

Q | Will this research make it more likely that children will follow their parents’ advice?

A | “No,” Kowalski laughed, “but that’s an interesting way of looking at things because I think children between 10 and 30 tend to deny how similar they are to their parents. If they embraced it, they might be more likely to listen to the advice their parents would have given to their younger selves, and the closest thing to that younger self is their children.”

Q | What could a young Robin Kowalski learn from today’s Robin Kowalski?

A | “I would do high school totally differently. I was so academically focused, so I think I would tell myself to have a little bit more fun and enjoy high school a little more.”

Advancing Biomedical Research in South Carolina

Statewide team lands funding to explore solutions to biomedical challenges

Naren Vyavahare

Naren Vyavahare

In its first decade, SC BioCRAFT matched seasoned mentors with 23 early-career researchers. They went on to generate $35 million for research into spinal cord injuries, new ways of growing vascular tissue for grafts and a wide range of other biomedical challenges.

Now the South Carolina Bioengineering Center for Regeneration and Formation of Tissues has received $5.7 million from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to fund the next five years of research on treatments for illnesses ranging from diabetes to heart disease.

Researchers involved in the center have been awarded 24 patents, spun off four start-up companies and generated 304 articles in peer-reviewed publications.

SC BioCRAFT began operating in 2009 under the direction of Naren Vyavahare, the Hunter Endowed Chair of Bioengineering at Clemson. “It feels good to know that we have junior faculty who have been so successful and have their own independent labs because of this center,” Vyavahare said. “SC BioCRAFT is playing a key role in building the biomedical research infrastructure in South Carolina.”

The center’s primary mission is to increase the number of South Carolina biomedical researchers who receive funding for their work from the National Institutes of Health. The research theme revolves around regenerative medicine, a fast-growing field that offers the promise of repairing and regenerating diseased tissues.

The center brings together researchers, clinicians and other health care professionals from across the state to advance biomedical research. Clemson researchers collaborate closely with colleagues at the Medical University of South Carolina and Prisma Health.

Clemson is now home to three Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence, including the South Carolina Center for Translational Research Improving Musculoskeletal Health and the Eukaryotic Pathogens Innovation Center.

Tanju Karanfil, Clemson’s vice president for research, said that the success of SC BioCRAFT is helping fuel a trend toward collaboration among institutions. “Each institution brings its own strengths and ways of looking at the various health care challenges we face,” he said. “Bringing them together leads to innovative solutions that might have eluded us if we were to work on our own. SC BioCRAFT and our other Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence are great examples of that concept in action.”

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

Lecturers Host Monthly Gathering for the Deaf Community

Professors Hurdich and ClementsWhen two Clemson faculty members decided to host a coffee get-together for the local Deaf community in Greenville, little did they know that 300 people would show up.

Starbucks wasn’t prepared either. “They only scheduled one signing barista, and he was swamped,” said Jason Hurdich, a lecturer in the Clemson Department of Languages.

Signing Starbucks-Greenville has become a lively monthly gathering since the first event in January. “People have come from all over South Carolina, plus North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Florida,” said William “Bo” Clements, also a lecturer in the Department of Languages. “I’m sure there are more than just these states.”

Hurdich and Clements are two of four Deaf faculty members in the American Sign Language program at Clemson.

Clemson is the only four-year public institution in South Carolina that recognizes and offers ASL as world language credit. Students can earn a bachelor’s degree in ASL or minor in the program, which is part of the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities.

Public coffee chats for the Deaf community are held throughout the nation, but Hurdich and Clements believe the monthly Greenville gathering has immediately catapulted to the largest in the country. “Most Deaf coffee chats across the nation attract between 20-70 people, and we were surprised but glad to see so many members of the community,” Hurdich said by email.

Hurdich and Clements knew the Upstate had a sizable Deaf community, but social opportunities, particularly for those in small towns, are limited. “There are very few opportunities for us to meet,” Hurdich said. “The Deaf community tends to be isolated from mainstreamed settings.”

The two looked around for an appropriate location and found a relatively new Starbucks on Laurens Road. “It was a perfect place with bright light and plenty of tables and chairs,” Clements said.

Starbucks has a particularly strong commitment to the Deaf community, having opened a “Signing Store” last fall in Washington, D.C., where every employee is proficient in ASL, Hurdich said. The Laurens Road Starbucks, meanwhile, regularly schedules up to four signing baristas on Signing Starbucks nights.

Attendance at the monthly meeting has declined somewhat due to the summer holidays, but Hurdich said he expected the numbers to climb back up to 300 in the fall.

At Signing Starbucks get-togethers, ASL chats are not so different from conversations by the hearing community, with topics touching on “work, family, sports, churches and universities,” Clements said.

But members of the Deaf community also share information to help each other navigate the challenges they face, said Hurdich, who earned the nickname “Rockstar” as a prominent ASL interpreter for Gov. Nikki Haley during Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

“We thrive on sharing information since we miss out on incidental information,” he said. “Think of all the talking that happens throughout the day, and imagine how that information is missing for a Deaf person.

“With the isolation of the Deaf community, having the opportunity together to share topics is important,” Hurdich added. “Most commonly we discuss community happenings, quality of interpreting services, even technology that impacts the Deaf community.”

Often in attendance also are the hearing children of Deaf parents. “It is their opportunity to connect with other children in similar circumstances,” Hurdich said. “[It’s] a great way to share, so it’s wonderful to see that!” 

Making a Global Difference

NibigiraOne of 84 doctoral degree recipients in May, Carmen Nibigira knows the value of focus and persistence.

Nibigira moved to Clemson in 2012 from the small African country of Burundi to pursue her Ph.D. in travel and tourism. It was a difficult decision that took her away from her children, who stayed with family back home while she studied.

Although she had quickly risen in her field, Nibigira was conscious that dynamics in the tourism and hospitality industry were changing and that she had much to learn if she wanted to continue to advance her career.

“My professional background was in hospitality; however, I began to see tourism industry discussions shift to a greater focus on conservation, preservation and community engagement,” Nibigira said. “I had little knowledge at the time about how my journey in Clemson would unfold but had faith that pursuing my education in tourism development, with a focus on policy, was the best decision, regardless of the circumstances.”

Her studies have been interrupted several times — by career opportunities and by political unrest in Burundi. But she persisted, at times working on the degree part time, and completed her degree in May. Nibigira’s faculty adviser, travel and tourism professor Sheila Backman, said this kind of tenacity and focus is typical for Nibigira: “Other graduate students find themselves needing to overcome challenges while they complete their credential, but not like Carmen. Instead of slowing her down, she always manages to navigate through anything that’s thrown her way. And she does it the right way. As a result, her academic and practitioner colleagues have tremendous respect for her and the knowledge, skills and commitment she brings to the table.”

Nibigira started her academic career in the United Kingdom, earning her undergraduate degree in Brighton and her master’s in Birmingham, with experiences in Switzerland and East Africa. She decided to pursue her Ph.D. in North America, in part to learn about tourism from a different cultural perspective. She chose Clemson because of its climate, tourism and parks management program, and faculty’s international reputation.

While she studied, Nibigira also continued her long-standing work to empower women throughout East Africa by creating opportunities for education and mentorship. She has mentored dozens of women during her 20-year career in the travel and hospitality industry and is committed to continuing that.

“Education is a great opportunity for young women,” she said. “But it’s not just about education. It’s about the quality of education, equal pay, being able to get a good job and striving to have it all, just not all at once. It took me 15-20 years to work toward my Ph.D., when you factor in my university education and work experience. Once you understand that hard work pays, you become mentally prepared for the challenge.”

Nibigira is now working as a project director for Horwath HTL, an international consulting firm that provides governments and other clients with tourism research, policy and strategy development, and implementation support in East Africa. Recently, she has found a new challenge to pursue after a conversation with one of her sons. “He asked me, ‘Why are you always focused on helping girls? Why not boys?’” she said. His statement caught her off guard and made her think.

“I’m a mother of boys and began to wonder, are we creating the same opportunities for them? We perceive boys as having an advantage, but I’ve started to wonder if that’s really the case,” Nibigira said. “I’m compelled to see how I can start engaging boys in the very near future. We have helped girls and women access education and equal opportunities, and boys are feeling left out.”

“After all, in Africa, we say that it takes a village to raise a child,” she continued. “I feel like it took several countries to raise me. If I can make a difference in any way, I will.”

Students Earn Goldwater, Hollings, Tillman Scholarships

Melissa McCullough

Melissa McCullough

Clemson students are the recipients of premier national undergraduate scholarships this year.

Riley Garvey, a biosystems engineering major from Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Caleb Todd, an environmental and natural resources major from Summerville, S.C. are the recipients of the Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship from the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The award supports two years of full-time study as well as a paid summer internship with the NOAA between the junior and senior year.

Clemson claimed three winners of the 2019 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, a national undergraduate award in mathematics, natural sciences and engineering. Laura McCann, a chemistry major; Erin Mihealsick, a genetics and biochemistry major; and Benjamin Slimmer, a physics major, each will receive one-year scholarships that will cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500.

Melissa McCullough (left), a Navy veteran and Ph.D. student, is among 60 U.S. service members, veterans and military spouses who have been named to the 11th class of Tillman Scholars. The scholarship is named for Pat Tillman, who left his NFL career to join the U.S. Army and was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan. Honorees are sharing in more than $1.2 million in scholarship funding this year. McCullough is pursuing her Ph.D. in bioengineering while teaching and working full-time as a bioinstrumentation lab manager.

Students interested in applying for these or other major fellowships should contact the Office of Major Fellowships at