Clemson Senior Wins Prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship

 

Venkata “Anish” Chaluvadi, an Honors College senior from Simpsonville, S.C., majoring in materials science and engineering, has become the first Clemson student ever named a Gates Cambridge Scholar, one of only 24 chosen nationwide for the prestigious postgraduate award. Established through a $210 million donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000, the scholarship fully funds postgraduate study and research at the University of Cambridge. Recipients are chosen for academic accomplishments as well as leadership and commitment to improve the lives of others.

Chaluvadi’s interest in sustainable material solutions for environmental problems was developed from his understanding of the rural South as well as his travels to India, where his parents were born and raised. He will pursue graduate study in nanoscience and nanotechnology, with an emphasis in computational modeling.

 

Summer 2021 Alumni Authors

James F. Parnell, William C. Alexander Ph.D. ’80 & Frances B. Parnell
Attracting Birds in the Carolinas (UNC Press) is an in-depth look at how Carolinians can attract birds, from the mountains to the coast.

Shelley Burchfield M ’14
The Earth Remains (Touchpoint Press) is a historical fiction novel set in 1860 near the site of the Fort Hill plantation. The story follows farmer Polly Burgiss, who must face her past and future through both the murders of her young brothers and her own role in slavery.

Richard L. Cassidy ’93
Greatest of These Is Always Love (Limelight Publishing) is a book of self-reflection, grappling with racism and current race relations in America alongside Cassidy’s own experience and Christian faith.

Laurie Devore ’11
A Better Bad Idea (Macmillan) is Devore’s third young adult novel, which tells the story of Evelyn Peters, a young woman stuck in a small town and desperate for a way out.

Marty Duckenfield M ’81
Blind Luck: A Year Abroad (self-published) is a personal memoir of the author’s experience studying at Oxford University during her junior year of college in 1965-66.

George Plopper & Diana Bebek Ivankovic M ’91, Ph.D. ’95
Principles of Cell Biology, 3rd Edition (Jones and Bartlett Learning) is a biology textbook that takes students and instructors through 14 comprehensible principles alongside topics such as evolution, natural selection and artificial selection on the cellular level.

Emily B. Martin ’10, M ’12
Floodpath (Harper Voyager) is book two of the Outlaw Road duology, finishing up the story of the Sunshield Bandit and her allies as they traverse through the young adult fantasy wilderness first inroduced in Martin’s Creatures of Light trilogy.

Nate Miller ’11Jenesis Johnson ’17
Simply Sustainable Landscapes (self-published) will take you on a horticultural journey through history and design, specifically with edible and native plants of the Southeast.

Susan Moresi M ’97
Matilda Gundalini (self-published) follows Matilda, a middle-aged, career-focused woman who comes face to face with workplace harassment.

Michael Puldy ’84
Himalaya Memories (self-published) is a photobook chronicling Puldy’s travels and experiences in the snowy mountains of Bhutan and Nepal.

Colleen Warren Thomas ’13
Beautiful Skin (self-published) is a children’s book that uses the story of a biracial girl to help teach children about race, overcoming racism and diversity.

Bryson Thompson Sr. ’07
How Angels Are Made (self-published) is Thompson’s first children’s book, which explores themes of sickness, loss, grief and healing within a family.

Ron Rash M ’79
In the Valley (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group) is a collection of 10 “searing” short stories and a novella that picks up where Serena, one of Rash’s most well-known novels, left off.

Jamey Rootes ’89
The Winning Game Plan (Elite Online Publishing) is a masterclass in leading a business to success. Rootes draws on his time as Houston Texans president to offer advice on management, culture and handling adversity.

Eugene Schlaman ’73
Iowa Bike Towns (Gatekeeper Press) takes readers on a journey through the more than 800 Iowa towns that are on the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, complete with facts and stories. 

 

A Sterling Partnership

This past year, four large reproductions of historic quilts were installed on the exterior of Greenville’s Sterling Community Center. The original quilts are owned by residents of the historic Sterling neighborhood located adjacent to Greenville’s West End. The quilt on the front of the building is an example of quilts that provided coded information for enslaved persons navigating the Underground Railroad.

The four art pieces were produced by professor of landscape architecture and urban design Tom Schurch, his graduate students, and volunteers from the Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail program, the latest part of a years-long collaboration with the Sterling neighborhood and the Sterling Land Trust. A grant from the Clemson Architectural Foundation funded the work. In addition, Greenville County Parks Recreation and Tourism granted permission for and is completing installation.

The Sterling neighborhood dates to the late 1800s and is anchored by the Sterling Community Center, located on the site of Sterling High School, the first African-American high school in the Upstate. The building was largely destroyed by fire in the 1960s, and the community center is located in the remaining part of the school.

The Sterling Land Trust was formed in 2010 by residents of the neighborhood in collaboration with Sterling High School alumni, such as Mack Lockhart, who had moved back to Greenville after a successful career in Richmond. “I moved back home and looked at this area and saw a need,” he said. “Sterling alumni — we bleed Sterling blue and white – just like Clemson fans.”

James Thompson, another Sterling High alumnus and current president of the trust, agreed. “We tried to step in and reshape the future of that community so that the history won’t die out when we’re gone,” he said. “The role of the trust is to maintain the integrity of affordable housing for people who might not be otherwise able to live in this perimeter of the city.” The trust has partnered with Bon Secours St. Francis, Clemson and “a host of other organizations that have stepped up to help us,” he said.

Deb Long, director of Healthy Community Initiatives at Bon Secours St. Francis, first contacted Schurch in 2015. “Tom and his students have been working with the land trust ever since,” she said. “The land trust is a great group of committed individuals who love the organization and what they can do on behalf of the community. The thing I’m most proud about is that they built their first house, and they have a tenant who needed affordable housing.”

Schurch and his students have worked on a variety of projects in partnership with the trust and the Healthy Community Initiatives, including the quilt artwork, designs for a planned memorial commemorating Sterling High School and drawing up numerous possible plans for neighborhood development — taking into account safety, walkability, street character, common spaces and a sense of shared community — using design to try to encourage a return to the village mentality of the old Sterling neighborhood that was anchored by the high school.

“With respect to the memorial,” said Schurch, “we worked in a partnership. It was not something done from the Clemson end and given to the trust. It was something we worked on together. That project epitomizes how we have worked together over the years with James and Mack and others. They’ve joined us in the studio at Clemson to review work, to work with the students and with me.”

That partnership and getting to know and listen to people “who will inhabit your design” was important for Emily Kelly M ’18. “It’s important to be innovative and push ahead with unconventional and exciting ideas. But the process is best when in parallel with an ongoing dialogue with the community.” She now works for WRT in San Francisco, a firm with a similar approach of using engagement to drive the design process. “Being exposed to this type of community design in school can be crucial for shaping a personal design ethic that carries over into professional life,” she said.

Schurch says that he tries to instill in this professional degree-granting program “that the definition of professionalism is  not just about business ethics, but really addressing the community and being a member of a community and giving to that community in the best way possible. “In a way, it gets back to what it means to be a professional — applying the concept of pro bono — doing things for good. Hopefully that’s a lesson our students are learning.”

 

“That artwork will be there long after we are gone,” said Lockhart. “It’s not something weather is going to tear up, and it’s going to enhance the neighborhood and draw all people of the city there. And it has ties right back to Clemson.”

 

Students like Hannah Slyce, who worked on the project in the fall of 2019, are learning that lesson. “It was really informative and humbling to work with James and Mack who have dedicated their lives to providing affordable, high quality homes for the Sterling community,” she said. “This project really opened my eyes to what it means to do true community design work and gave me an experience I will carry with me into my future career.”

The trust is focused on improving the Sterling neighborhood; completing the quilt projects is one tangible evidence of that. “That artwork will be there long after we are gone,” said Lockhart. “It’s not something weather is going to tear up, and it’s going to enhance the neighborhood and draw all people of the city there. And it has ties right back to Clemson.”

Unmarked Graves Found at Woodland Cemetery

Completed ground-penetrating radar testing of Clemson’s Woodland Cemetery has located more than 600 possible unmarked graves throughout much of the cemetery. Some are at the crest of the hill inside a fenced area, where members of the John C. Calhoun family were buried starting in 1837.

The number of graves coupled with the locations suggest the possibility that some may predate the period when the land was part of Calhoun’s Fort Hill Plantation from 1830 to 1865. Many of the graves are thought to be those of enslaved people who worked at the plantation and later as sharecroppers and Black laborers, including convicted individuals involved in the construction of Clemson College from 1890 to 1915.

Lawrence Conyers, a published authority on GPR and professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Denver, reviewed the methodologies of the team hired by Clemson to do the survey work and agreed with their interpretations. The University provided additional technical information to Conyers about soil and rock conditions on the site, as well as GPR readings taken recently for comparison at the African American cemetery at Hopewell, a known burial ground from that era approximately a mile away.

GPR work in late July initially revealed the possible locations of more than 200 unmarked graves in Woodland Cemetery believed to date back more than a century. Subsequent testing in other areas of the cemetery located additional possible grave sites primarily on the western, northwestern and northern slopes, as well as many in an area to the south and southeast previously identified as the “Site of Unknown Burials” and where the school installed fencing.

Clemson has installed additional signage at the cemetery, closed the area to vehicle traffic and restricted public access hours.

Rhondda Thomas, the Calhoun Lemon Professor of Literature at Clemson whose research and teaching focuses on early African American literature and culture, is working with the local African American community. She formed a Community Engagement Board with members representing the Clemson/Central, Anderson, Pendleton and Seneca areas to help guide Clemson in the preservation and memorialization of the site. She also is working with the local community to identify family members who may have ancestors buried in the unmarked graves.

University historian Paul Anderson leads the research work. His team’s findings are published to a website Clemson created to document the University’s role in Woodland Cemetery and give voice to the African Americans who are buried there. 

 

New Endowed Chair to Focus on Aging, Cognition

Older adults have become the fastest-growing demographic in the nation, and changes in health care and technology are required to meet the needs of this diverse group. But Lesley A. Ross, Clemson’s new SmartLIFE Endowed Chair in Aging and Cognition, says scholarship and research in the area of older adults can’t just be about a number. 

“Longevity is easy to quantify, but older adults don’t focus as much on age as they do on quality of life,” Ross said. “My research, and the work of this position, focuses on keeping older adults happy and independent as long as possible while fighting the negative stereotypes associated with aging.” 

The new endowed chair has been created specifically to research aging and its effects on issues related to brain function. Ross, who comes to Clemson from Penn State, will be a tenured faculty member in the Department of Psychology and will work collaboratively across the University on research related to aging and cognition. She will serve as associate director for the Clemson University Institute for Engaged Aging. SmartState centers were formed in 2002 as one of a series of legislative acts intended to accelerate South Carolina’s knowledge economy transformation.

Wastewater Provides Early Warning System

As universities all over the country began scrambling to figure out what campus life would be like in a year of COVID-19, several Clemson professors got busy on parts of that puzzle that related to their own research.

One of those professors was David Freedman, chair of the University’s Department of Envionmental Engineering and Earth Sciences. In the spring of 2020, Freedman began testing coronavirus levels in wastewater on the University’s main campus and in the surrounding community to provide an early warning system that shows how fast the virus is spreading.

Freedman likened the tests to the “canary in the coal mine” that can help administrators make informed decisions about what they need to do to protect the public’s health even before COVID-19 case counts start to rise. In addition to campus, his testing covers the city of Clemson and the town of Pendleton, both home to many University students, faculty and staff.

 

Studies have shown that the virus starts showing up in wastewater as much as one to two weeks before clinical symptoms are reported.

 

Clemson City Council unanimously passed an ordinance on June 24 that mandated face coverings after Freedman found surprisingly high virus levels at the city’s Cochran Road wastewater treatment plant. The ordinance cited “elevated levels of virus in the community similar to levels in other cities in which an outbreak of the virus was about to occur or was well underway.”

Previous studies first done in Europe have shown that the virus starts showing up in wastewater as much as one to two weeks before clinical symptoms are reported, said Freedman.

“Even before people are coughing and getting a fever, they’ll start shedding the virus in their feces, and that will show up in the wastewater,” Freedman said. Once or twice a week, Freedman collects wastewater samples from one campus plant and two municipal plants and sends them to a lab in Tennessee. Results from the testing are posted on both the city and the University websites.

App Helps Forensic Teams Determine Time of Death

Katherine Weisensee, chair of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice, has collaborated on a smartphone app to help forensic teams determine times of death. Dubbed geoFOR, the app allows coroners and forensic teams to enter observations when human remains are recovered and then upload photos along with information, such as clothing, location, insect access, scavengers, apparent trauma and decomposition stage. The goal, Weisensee said, is to capture as much information on body decomposition as possible across a variety of geographic areas.

The app automatically factors in information from numerous geographical and environmental databases in order to start building a database on how these specific variables observed on the body overlap with geography and environmental factors.

Ideally, after years of use, the app will have captured enough data on body decomposition from a large enough collection of locations globally to provide a near-instant estimate of time of death. The app is currently being beta tested by multiple South Carolina coroners.

Weisensee is no stranger to the study of human decomposition. She earned master’s and doctoral degrees in anthropology from the University of Tennessee, and she spent a significant amount of time studying body decomposition on the campus’s body farm. She is also often consulted by law enforcement agencies who find corpses well past the final stage of skeletonization.

Her insights into the condition of skeletons have been instrumental for law enforcement in determining time and cause of death in bodies that have long since decomposed. She said the first question across all these consultations is usually related to time of death, so she’s motivated to get this application in the hands of law enforcement, humanitarian agencies and members of the general public with a strong stomach in order to start answering that question automatically.

“It’s exciting to see just how geospatial information meets forensic science, and how all of this information can be combined to finally start quickly answering a question that has eluded people for so long,” Weisensee said. 

 

 

A Rare Bird

 

Drew Lanham receives national acclaim for his memoir

 

This spring, Clemson Alumni Distinguished Professor of Wildlife Ecology J. Drew Lanham ’88, M ’90, Ph.D. ’97 has been quoted widely in the national media in publications ranging from The Atlantic and Vanity Fair to Garden and Gun magazine and The Bitter Southerner. He’s also been on NPR podcasts and in Newsweek.

Much of his visibility has been in response to the Central Park birdwatching confrontation in May between Black birdwatcher Christian Cooper and Amy Cooper, a white woman whose dog was unleashed.

A nationally known birder and proponent of increasing diversity among the ranks of birders, Lanham has had his own confrontations with those who see a Black man with binoculars as a threat rather than as another human exploring the world of flight. “My binoculars have become heavier now,” he said during his NPR interview. “It’s become harder for me now to pick up my binoculars and singularly focus on birds.”

Lanham also was lauded in the national media this spring for his memoir, The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature, which was named by The Chronicle of Higher Education among “The Best Scholarly Books of the Decade” and by Literary Hub among “The 10 Best Memoirs of the Decade and Then Some.

“To have a work of creative nonfiction — of nature writing — recognized in a way that puts it in a scholarly realm is personally important because it validates your personal story, your personal struggles,” Lanham said.

The memoir takes readers back to the origins of the titular love story — to Edgefield County, South Carolina, where generations of Lanham’s ancestors, dating to slavery, called home and where Lanham began to fall in love with the natural world around him. Through his journey, Lanham never loses sight of the significance of his identity as a Black man in the Deep South and eventually as “the rare bird, the oddity” of a Black man in the conservation sciences.

“Lanham explains how much he wishes there were other Black scientists at the ornithology meetings he attends,” wrote Anna Tsing in The Chronicle of Higher Education. “Too often, our ideas of what it means to be Black are contained within the life of the city. The countryside is banished; it can only be known for its violence and bad memories. Yet many African Americans continue to live in the countryside, and many in cities are proud, not ashamed, of their rural roots. Lanham’s memoir makes it possible to imagine a confident Black embrace of nature.”

Lanham called the recognition for his book “a great honor,” not least because he says some in academia view such personal, creative endeavors as antithetical to serious scientific pursuits. “That validation from the outside is important for any of us at a university. We don’t just want the acceptance of those people we work with — we all know that’s important — but what we strive to do is get the science out and get the words out to the world.” 

Listen to a podcast on Threshold with Lanham.

Listen to a Yale Podcast with Lanham.

CNN: The realities of being a black birdwatcher

 

 

Students Shine On National Stage

Clemson students won record numbers of prestigious national awards this year, ranging from the highly competitive Fulbright awards to the National Science Foundation, Goldwater, Astronaut and Hollings fellowships, which focus on STEM fields, and the Truman, Udall and Knight-Hennessy awards, which are service oriented.

1 | Charles Dove ’20 majored in electrical engineering and received the Fulbright Program’s Switzerland Study-Research Award. He received an Honorable Mention from the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship in 2020, a 2019 Astronaut Scholarship and was the recipient of the 2019 W.M. Riggs Award, given to the top student in electrical engineering.

2 | Jessica Baron is a Ph.D. student in computer science, visual computing, and received the Fulbright Program’s Switzerland Study-Research Award. She is currently a graduate research assistant in 2D and 3D facial analysis and a graduate teacher of record for digital production arts. Additionally, she has interned at TH Köln in Germany, Weta Digital in New Zealand and Pixar RenderMan.

3 | Jonathan Vogel ’20 majored in mechanical engineering and received the Aston Martin Coventry University Automotive Award. This is the first year this award has been offered by Fulbright, and Vogel was selected as the single recipient. It covers the first year of his master’s degree program and includes an industry placement with Aston Martin upon completion.

4 | McKinnon Reece ’20 majored in mechanical engineering and minored in Mandarin Chinese. He received the Taiwan English Teaching Assistantship from the Fulbright Program. He was previously selected for the Critical Language Scholarship from the U.S. State Department to study Chinese. He will be a teaching assistant and will work with local English teachers in elementary, middle or high schools.

5 | Madison Butler ’15 majored in language and international health. She received a Spain English Teaching Assistantship from the Fulbright Program. As a teaching assistant, she will be teaching English in elementary, middle or high schools. She previously served as a teacher with Teach for America.

6 | Mary Lyons ’19 majored in English and political science. She received a Serbia English Teaching Assistantship from the Fulbright Program. Lyons previously studied abroad in Serbia and will be returning to teach English to K-12 students.

In addition to Fulbright awards, three seniors and four graduate students received Graduate Research Fellowships from the National Science Foundation; three undergraduates received 2020 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships; one undergraduate is the third Clemson student ever to receive the Truman Scholarship; and an undergraduate is Clemson’s second-ever Udall Scholar.

In addition, Clemson students and recent graduates received the 1897 Phi Kappa Phi Fellowship, the Knight-Hennessy Scholarship to Stanford Law School, the University’s first Madison Fellowship and the Astronaut Scholarship, as well as two Hollings Scholarships and 23 Gilman Scholarships.

More about Clemson students on the national stage:

Tyler McDougald awarded Point Foundation Scholarship

 

 

Seven Faculty Win Top Awards for Early Career Achievement

Seven assistant professors are receiving some of the nation’s top awards for faculty who are early in their careers, providing a boost to Clemson’s research in smart materials, supercomputers, environmental sustainability, math education and soil science.

Their awards came from three separate federal agencies, each of which have grant programs aimed at supporting researchers early in their careers, including several hundred thousand dollars in research funding.

1 | Fadi Abdeljawad
assistant professor of mechanical engineering
Army Research Office Young Investigator Program Award

Abdeljawad and his team are working to better understand how nanocrystalline metallic alloys respond to extreme environments. Their work could be the next step in creating a new generation of alloys with unprecedented properties, resulting in lighter, more fuel-efficient cars and airplanes.

2 | Abby Allen
assistant professor of special education
Institute of Education Sciences’ Early Career Award

Allen is researching and designing a sentence writing intervention for students with learning disabilities. She hopes to fill both a research and practice gap she first noticed during her time as an elementary school speech-language pathologist.

3 | Jon Calhoun
assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering
National Science Foundation CAREER Award

Calhoun’s project is aimed at helping engineers and scientists use supercomputers to solve increasingly large problems, potentially clearing the way for new research ranging from predicting the weather to designing better airplanes.

4 | Carlos Gomez
assistant professor of education
National Science Foundation CAREER award

Gomez will use the grant to characterize and analyze the developing mathematical identities of Latinx students transitioning from elementary to middle-grade mathematics. He is interested in how mathematics and language intersect, especially for students who are pulling double duty learning math and the English language for the first time.

5 | Kara Powder
assistant professor of biological sciences
National Science Foundation CAREER Award

Powder investigates gene regulatory elements that determine craniofacial development and evolution. Insights from Powder’s research may someday provide targets for gene therapies addressing craniofacial malformations, which occur in about 70 percent of all human birth defects.

6 | Ulf Schiller
assistant professor of materials science and engineering
National Science Foundation CAREER Award

Schiller and his team will employ sophisticated supercomputing techniques to better understand complex fluids, a step toward creating new smart materials that could potentially be used in energy storage, drug delivery and water treatment, and have applications in the food, cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries.

7 | Rongzhong Ye
assistant professor of plant and environmental sciences

National Science Foundation CAREER Award

Ye studies soil biogeochemistry to understand physical, chemical and biological processes that affect microbial communities, soil health and crop production. The grant will allow him to extend his research in identifying the links between soil microbial communities and soil functions in agriculture.