Klaine Fellowship Recipient Focusing on Roadside Waterways

Stephen Klaine was a professor in the Clemson Department of Biological Sciences and a member of the environmental toxicology graduate program for 24 years. He was an internationally recognized environmental toxicologist with a legacy of devotion to teaching and mentoring until he passed away in 2016. Colleagues and friends of Klaine honored his contributions to biological sciences by establishing a fellowship in his memory.

In 2021, Stephanie LaPlaca, a graduate student in the College of Science, is the first recipient of the Dr. Stephen Klaine Annual Memorial Fellowship.

“Receiving the Klaine Fellowship is a huge honor. Although I never got the chance to meet Dr. Klaine, I’ve heard so many wonderful things about him through other students and faculty at Clemson. His legacy is inspiring,” said LaPlaca, a fourth-year Ph.D. student from Virginia in the Department of Biological Sciences’ environmental toxicology program.

LaPlaca’s research focuses on the toxicity of crumb rubber particles to aquatic organisms. As tires wear, they leave tiny particles of rubber on the roadways. When it rains, those particles wash into creeks, streams and lakes. Understanding how crumb rubber affects aquatic organisms can inform stormwater regulators on how to best manage road runoff and help consumers make more eco-friendly choices to reduce their impact.

LaPlaca and Peter van den Hurk, her academic adviser, published a paper in the journal Ecotoxicology last April.

“It’s quite impressive for a student to have a publication out of doctoral research in their third year.” said van den Hurk, who coordinates the environmental toxicology program. “Steve was very science-oriented, but he was also oriented toward translating science to applications in the real world. As environmental scientists, we help society address environmental problems. Steve advocated that. I think Stephanie fits that picture very well.”

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