A new name is set to be etched in stone at Carillon Garden — that of a professor who has built his lab into a research powerhouse while opening new opportunities for his students and colleagues.
Brian Powell M ’01, Ph.D. ’04, the Fjeld Professor in Nuclear Environmental Engineering and Science, was named the winner of this year’s Class of ’39 Award for Excellence.
After earning his master’s degree and Ph.D. in environmental engineering and science from Clemson, Powell returned in 2008 as a faculty member. His research is helping form the technical basis for designing repositories to store spent fuel from nuclear power plants and to clean up sites contaminated by nuclear-weapons production. His work at Savannah River Site has helped the U.S. Department of Energy save millions of dollars in remediation costs.
Powell has graduated 10 master’s students and nine Ph.D. students since the 2017-18 academic year. Two postdoctoral fellows in his lab were promoted to research professor and two others to permanent positions. In those five years, Powell has authored or co-authored 51 publications and received nearly $5.6 million in new awards to fund research.
David Freedman, chair of the Department of Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences, said that in his 32 years in academia, he has met very few colleagues as talented as Powell.
“The creativity and dedication that he brings to his research and service are infectious,” Freedman said. “His productivity and intellect are exemplary. Dr. Powell already has a proven track record in terms of impactful service and novel research, and his career trajectory points to many more substantive contributions in the years ahead.”
Each year, the Class of ’39 Award goes to one distinguished faculty member whose outstanding contributions over a five-year period have been judged by his or her peers to represent the highest achievement of service to the University, the student body and the larger community.
In addition to his research, Powell has served on University committees to hire leadership, guide research strategy and navigate the challenges of COVID-19. He has served on Faculty Senate and currently is the faculty representative to the Board of Trustees.
Jesus M. de la Garza, director of the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences, said that Powell is highly deserving of the Class of ’39 Award.
“Brian is an exemplary leader in his field of research, he is a highly effective instructor at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and he still makes time for service to his colleagues at the University,” de la Garza said.
Powell holds joint appointments with the Department of Chemistry and the Savannah River National Laboratory. He has played an important role in helping Clemson become part of the lab’s new management team, led by the Battelle Savannah River Alliance.