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NSF awards research fellowships to Clemson students

April 12, 2016 - CES students, Allison Jansto, Emily Thompson, Jennifer Wilson, Michelle Greenough, and Catherine McGough. They have won National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships.

CES students, Allison Jansto, Emily Thompson, Jennifer Wilson, Michelle Greenough, and Catherine McGough. They have won National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships.

Seven Clemson students have received graduate research fellowships from the National Science Foundation, and five others received honorable mention awards in the national competition. The NSF offers three-year graduate research fellowships to students in science, engineering, mathematics, technology and some social sciences. Each year, college seniors and early graduate students are invited to apply. Out of 17,000 applicants nationwide, 2,000 students won the prestigious awards.

These Clemson students received graduate research fellowships:

• Ryan Borem of Easley is a U. S. Army combat veteran and Ph.D. student in bioengineering. His research focuses on the development of a tissue engineering scaffold to assist in the repair and regeneration of intervertebral discs in people suffering from back pain.

• Michelle Greenough of Davis, Calif., is a Ph.D. student in materials science and engineering. She plans to develop a multilayer ceramic membrane to separate and then capture carbon dioxide gas. The aim of her research is to help reduce carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

• Nora Harris of Rock Hill is a senior industrial engineering student. Her research will investigate how to encourage increased sustainability in the design process of buildings and infrastructure. She will begin a master’s program in civil engineering at Virginia Tech in the fall.

• Allison Jansto of Harmony, Pa., is a graduate student in chemical engineering. Her research focuses on investigating the relationship between the nanostructure, mechanical properties and performance of functional materials with a goal of better understanding the transport and mechanical properties of materials used in fuel cells and batteries.

• Catherine McGough of Charleston, W.Va., is a graduate student in engineering and science education. Her research goal is to identify how undergraduate engineering students’ future goals and motivations relate to how they solve problems in class. These findings will allow instructors to improve and personalize problem-solving instruction.

• Emily Thompson of Rochester, N.Y., is a senior physics major. Her research deals with particle physics. She is pursuing graduate work at the University of Bonn in Germany.

• Jennifer Wilson of Charlotte, N.C., is a senior majoring in plant and environmental science. Her research proposal focused on understanding how plants detect and respond to attack by fungal pathogens. Next year, she will begin pursuing a Ph.D. in plant pathology at Cornell University. Her future research will focus on the transmission of plant viruses by aphids.

 

Clemson Lands $11 Million Grant

CLEMSON HAS BEEN AWARDED $11 MILLION to expand a bioengineering center that helps mentor junior faculty members as they research how labgrown tissue can treat some of the world’s most debilitating diseases, ranging from heart disease to spinal cord injuries.

The money comes from a National Institutes of Health (NIH) program that supports the Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) nationwide, including Clemson’s South Carolina Bioengineering Center of Regeneration and Formation of Tissues (SC BioCRAFT). The grant is the largest from the NIH in the University’s history; it brings the total NIH funding for the center to $20.3 million.

The grant will pay for maintaining and upgrading state-of-the-art facilities and provide funds for five junior faculty to begin their research, said Naren Vyavahare, the SC BioCRAFT director and Hunter Endowed Chair of bioengineering.

“This is seed money,” he said. “The whole idea behind the center is to fund and mentor junior faculty and make them successful. When they get their own major grant, we graduate them and bring new people in.”

Clemson researchers will collaborate with Roger Markwald of the Medical University of South Carolina, who is a co-principal investigator on the grant. Senior investigators Thomas Borg and Mark Kindy, both of MUSC, will provide biology expertise.

Clemson’s Own Monster Garage

If you go to the website for Clemson’s Machining & Technical Services, you can read about the many capabilities of this department in the College of Engineering and Science. Seven bullet points list everything from drafting and machining to plastic fabrication and welding.

They might consider trimming that page down to just six words:

We can make just about anything.

That’s what director of instructional and research support Phil Landreth ’84 will tell you, backed up by his staff of engineers, artisans and craftsmen who work in the basement of Freeman Hall, packed with high-powered equipment and projects. “It’s like walking into Monster Garage every morning,” Landreth says with a grin, referring to the Discovery Channel show. There are no chrome dashboards or classic interiors, but the challenges they meet each day and the solutions they create have life-changing implications.

Say hello to the four managers of the shop — Truman Nicholson, Jeff Holliday, Brad Poore and Charlie McDonald ’04. Get them talking about their many projects, and their faces light up as they begin to tick them off:

  • Joist hangers and hurricane clips for the Wind Load Test Facility
  • Heart valve bioreactor and part of an artificial knee for biomedical engineering
  • A component of the buoys in the Intelligent RiverTM project
  • Fullerene nanoparticle producers for chemistry, physics and COMSET
  • An etching press, larger than commercially available, for the art department

The list goes on and on — from turf cutter blade parts for athletics to a machine to make miniature bales of cotton for materials science and engineering and air handling shafts for Facilities Maintenance and Operations. They produce samples for undergraduate labs to use for stress testing. They’ve helped students develop easy-to-connect joints for the steel bridge competition. They’ve created a mechanism to dynamically compress artificial cartilage tissue as it is being grown. They even worked with emeritus professor Cecil Huey to replace the governor on a historic steam engine for the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico.

Etching Press

Etching Press

When art professor Sydney Cross wanted an etching press larger than she could find commercially, she went to the guys in Machining & Technical Services. The outcome? An etching press with a 5’x8′ bed.

“It is the largest etching press at a university on the East Coast,” says Cross, “and I don’t know of anyone commercially producing them at that size.” Her classes use the press on a regular basis. Pictured here is Claudia Dishon ’10, who completed her Master of Fine Arts degree in printmaking.

2012 SAE formula hub

The MTS shop produces a number of parts for the formula car teams that Clemson fields. Pictured here is the front hub being machined for the 2012 SAE formula car.

Heart valve bioreactor

Heart valve bioreactor

The MTS shop created parts for a heart valve bioreactor that was developed in Dan Simionescu’s Laboratory for Regenerative Medicine at the Clemson University Biomedical Engineering Innovation Campus (CUBEInC). CUBEInC, which opened in December 2011, is part of Greenville Hospital System’s Patewood campus.

Faculty at CUBEInC collaborate with cardiovascular and orthopedic surgeons across the hospital system and expose their students to the highest levels of research.

Stress testing samples

Stress testing samplesIn undergraduate engineering labs, students perform stress tests to determine how various materials respond and to see the relative strength of different metals. MTS produces samples like the ones pictured here.

Fullerene nanoparticle producers

Fullerene nanoparticle producersWhen chemistry professor Ya-Ping Sun needed to create a mechanism to produce fullerene nanoparticles, he came to MTS. They worked with him and others in chemistry, physics and COMSET (Center for Optical Materials Science and Engineering Technologies) to create this mechanism that produces carbon molecules used in pharmaceuticals, lubricants, coatings and composite materials.

Hurricane clips

Hurricane clipsWhen civil engineers were developing hurricane-proof building techniques, they worked with MTS to create joist hangers and hurricane clips that were then tested in the Wind Load Test Facility. Pictured here is one of the hurricane clips developed to keep roofs from lifting off houses during storms.

 

From drawings to reality

On the walls of the shop you’ll see pictures of years and years of formula cars designed, built and raced by Clemson students for the annual Society of Automotive Engineers competition. The silent partners in the projects are the guys in MTS.

“The students are building a prototype,” says Nicholson, “and we create different parts for them, like the rotors and the throttle body and the axles.” He picks up a differential that has been crafted out of a solid block of aluminum. “We usually do the differential.”

The competition is early May. Like other projects, these might start with a drawing on a napkin, but Landreth and the others pride themselves on the ability to work with students and faculty to figure out solutions, then make those solutions a reality.

“We meet with the students and talk about what they want and need,” says Nicholson. The back-and-forth conversation elicits a much better product than just dropping off an order and picking it up when it’s finished.

“I can count on one hand the failures    we have had of not being able to give someone what they need,” says Landreth.


Clemson SAE Formula Team

Where the rubber meets the road

Across campus in another little-known building are two guys spending their Friday morning working on Clemson’s SAE formula car for the competition that is less than three weeks away. The frame is welded together and sits on a large worktable. The whiteboard on the door lists most of the tasks that need to be finished, with a countdown of days to go before competition (19 at this time).

“There are more things we need to do, but I’m afraid if I put everything up there, it will overwhelm some of the team,” says Kevin Carlson, one of the team leaders. He and team member TJ Theodore will be here most of the weekend.

The SAE formula team is made up of students from mechanical engineering, industrial engineering and business who average 10-15 hours a week beginning in the summer. No course credit, no compensation. The seniors on the team will even have to choose between attending the competition or walking at graduation. Some of the team members (including the other team leader, Perry Ellwood) are working co-op jobs and come back to Clemson to spend their weekends on the car. Two alumni team members return once or twice a week to help as well.

The team relies heavily on the guys from MTS, who have produced 14 parts for this year’s car.

“We have 125 hours of MTS time,” says Carlson. “We completely design the car in SolidWorks [software application] and then go to MTS with drawings. They do the steering gears, the wheel hubs, the trigger wheels, the throttle body.” The team mills some parts themselves by hand. And they wrangle others, both donated and sold, from outside vendors.

Working with MTS not only saves the team money, but it also provides them with technical expertise. “It saves us around $6,000 to have their help,” says Carlson. “Hour-wise, it saves us over 300 hours of machining if we had to do it ourselves. They’re a huge help, both with the parts and giving us knowledge on how to machine things better or more efficiently.”

An engine for the rest of campus

The crew in MTS are probably best known for their work with the SAE formula car, but there’s not a college or department on campus that has not been affected by their work. Bioengineer Karen Burg discovered their capabilities while she was still a graduate student. Now a prolific researcher and holder of an endowed chair in bioengineering, she shares some of the credit with them for Clemson research productivity.

“I’ve worked with the Machining & Technical Services staff since I was a graduate student,” she says, “and I’m grateful for all their assistance on numerous projects. They are enthusiastic and helpful, and they have significantly increased our ability to conduct cutting-edge research.”

The MTS crew has worked with Burg to create an instrumented container used for growing tissue for breast cancer research. Caught in a more casual moment, Burg remarks, “In short, Phil [Landreth] and the Machining & Technical Services personnel ROCK.”

The rest of the Clemson crew agrees.

Clemson's Monster Garage group

In addition to Phil Landreth and the four managers, the staff of Machining & Technical Services includes (L–R) David Kelley, Glen Rankin, Scott Kaufman, Brittney McCall, Bill Simmons, Dustin Gravley (kneeling), Dock Houston and Wendy Baldwin.

Alanna Walker discovers another side of life

Alanna Walker

Alanna Walker

I entered Clemson with a rock solid plan for my future. I knew that I wanted to get a B.S. in bioengineering and then continue on straight into a Ph.D. in bioengineering and become a professor at a research university.

As my time passed, I continued happily in bioengineering, but I also began to get involved in programs outside of my major. Specifically, I got involved with Clemson’s New Student Dialogue diversity education program during my junior year. It is difficult to say what made me decide to get involved with this program, but I believe it was a combination of having a great experience with One Clemson as a freshman and my desire to learn about everything (even outside of the world of bioengineering!).

I didn’t know what to expect, but looking back, I can safely say that becoming a peer dialogue facilitator changed my life. Learning about and implementing dialogue between incoming freshmen and transfer students opened up an entirely different world of skills and experiences for me. I learned to introspect; I learned to listen; and, most importantly, I learned to really open my mind and experience real empathy for others.

I already possessed those skills, but the New Student Dialogue program allowed me to realize that they were there and that they are just as important to develop as my problem-solving, engineering-based skills. I also became involved with the new Intergroup Dialogue program for students of all levels. In that program, I was able to find my voice as a peer leader. I worked closely with my co-facilitators and my supervisor to help shape the curriculum, which gave me the confidence to take ownership of my own education. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for the world.

These new experiences allowed me to get in touch with a side of myself I had previously discounted. My newly honed interpersonal skills needed an outlet, but I was shocked to find that perhaps my trusty “life road map” wasn’t leading me to a career that would enable me to reach my full potential. I was so passionate about bioengineering; how could I have been so wrong? Was it even possible to reconcile my scientific, bioengineering life with my empathetic, Peer Dialogue Facilitator life?

After quite a bit of denial, self-doubt and pro/con lists, I came to realize that I needed to adjust my plan. Spring break of my senior year, I sat down and took a serious look at where I had been and where I thought I was going. I came up with not only a new road map, but also an entirely different destination! I applied and was accepted to Columbia University’s master’s of bioethics program. I finally found a way to use my medical background and my interpersonal skills in a way that complement each other beautifully!

It is amazing for me to look back at the naively confident freshman I was when I first came to Clemson and compare her to the adventurously open-minded first-year master’s student I am today. Bioethics, like bioengineering, is a field of unknowns that I am excited to explore. Even so, the idea of changing my plan a month before graduation was almost as scary as the prospect of moving from Clemson, South Carolina, to New York City! But I am thankful every day that I was able to trust my instincts and seize this amazing opportunity. Without my experiences of self-discovery in the New Student Dialogue and Intergroup Dialogue programs, I wouldn’t have had the courage to take this giant leap of faith. I got what I consider to be a very well-rounded education by taking ownership of my learning and getting in touch with myself.

Always and forever, Go Tigers!

I’m Alanna Walker, and this is my Clemson.