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Seven researchers earn NSF CAREER awards

Luiz Jacobsohn

Luiz Jacobsohn is working to find the most effective material for use in radiation scintillators, which will lead to a reduction in the radiation dose in medical treatments.

How can we keep food fresh with less energy during cold storage and transportation? What’s the best way to manage water supplies during extreme drought? How can we get personalized medications to patients faster?

Seven Clemson researchers will tackle these questions, and others, thanks to competitive awards from the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development Program totaling more than $2.7 million. CAREER awards are investments in some of the country’s most promising young researchers, providing a boost to their careers and to the quest for answers.

Clemson has experienced increasing success in winning CAREER awards. There currently are 31 active projects funded by CAREER awards; 30 University faculty members have received awards since 2010, including seven each in 2016 and 2017.

“These CAREER awards from the National Science Foundation are a testament to the talent, dedication and ingenuity of Clemson’s faculty,” said Tanju Karanfil, vice president for research. “Not only are these faculty working to solve some of society’s most pressing problems, they are providing the highest quality education to our undergraduate and graduate students.”

The 2017 CAREER Award winners are:

Luiz Jacobsohn (pictured above), assistant professor of materials science and engineering. Jacobsohn’s quest is for the most effective material for use in radiation scintillators, which detect radiation in a number of applications, from medical imaging to national security.

Sophie Jörg

Sophie Jörg

Sophie Jörg, assistant professor of digital production arts. Jörg works to make the virtual world more realistic. With the NSF grant, she will develop and refine the complex and subtle movements of hands and fingers.

Amin Khademi

Amin Khademi

Amin Khademi, assistant professor of industrial engineering. Khademi is tackling the complex and complicated process of bringing pharmaceuticals and other products to market and to patients, by developing new mathematical methods for carrying out clinical trials.

Ashok Mishra

Ashok Mishra

Ashok Mishra, assistant professor of civil engineering. As a water resource engineer, Mishra is creating mathematical models to characterize extreme drought events that can improve water security in a changing environment.

Simona Onori

Simona Onori

Simona Onori, assistant professor of automotive engineering. Onori, a control engineer, is helping make the world a cleaner place. Her research involves multiscale modeling to develop advanced controls that will mitigate emissions in new-generation vehicles.

Marissa Shuffler

Marissa Shuffler

Marissa Shuffler, assistant professor of industrial and organizational psychology. Porter received a rare award for behavioral research. Her work focuses on improving the ways teamwork and leadership are taught in organizations.

Sapna Sarupria

Sapna Sarupria

Sapna Sarupria, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering. Sarupria is designing new materials for keeping things on ice. She’s using high-throughput screening to efficiently discover new materials that either inhibit or promote ice formation.

Clemson to exchange Ph.D. candidates with China’s top civil engineering program

Andrew Brownlow’s doctoral research in civil engineering is about maintaining subway tunnels. Because of a new exchange program between Clemson and China’s top engineering program, the Ph.D. student from Aiken was able to travel to Shanghai, home to the world’s longest subway system.

“They have great opportunities to do research,” Brownlow said. “I made some good partnerships and had an opportunity to do some networking in one of the fastest-growing countries in the world.”

Clemson and Tongji universities will exchange civil engineering doctoral students as part of a global partnership that underscores the importance of cooperation in solving some of the world’s toughest engineering challenges.

Students who participate will be eligible for dual degrees from both universities. The agreement marks the first dual Ph.D. program in civil engineering that Tongji has signed with a U.S. university. Tongji is ranked No. 1 in civil engineering by China’s Ministry of Education. Students who seek dual degrees will remain abroad for about two years.

But students needn’t seek a degree to participate in the exchange. As part of a previous memorandum of under-standing, they can also travel to do research for about two months at a time. “The partnership is an important part of increasing the college’s and the department’s global impact and visibility,” said James Martin, chair of Clemson’s Glenn Department of Civil Engineering. “This is what preeminent departments do. They partner with other preeminent departments.”

Clemson students who study at Tongji will be immersed in the culture and language of a rapidly growing nation that has enormous civil engineering needs, ranging from roads, tunnels and bridges to earthquake-resistant buildings.

“China is the second largest economy in the world and still growing at a fast pace,” said Hsein Juang, the Glenn Professor of Civil Engineering at Clemson. “There will be a lot of opportunities for engineering firms and private consultants to offer their services to the Chinese government and civil engineering industry in the coming decades.

“Having a second Ph.D. degree at Tongji will be a big plus for Clemson students working for companies that provide engineering and business services in China.”

Clemson Memorial Stadium

“Put about 10,000 seats behind the YMCA. That’s all you’ll ever need.”

Those were the words of Coach Jess Neely as he left for Rice after the 1939 season. Fortunately, Clemson didn’t follow his advice.

In 1941, the S.C. General Assembly authorized the issuance of $100,000 in bonds to build a stadium. The project was a mid-1900s version of a Creative Inquiry project: Civil engineering students did the preliminary surveying, Professor H.E. “Pop” Glenn and Carl Lee, a 1908 engineering alumnus, provided the design and construction drawings, and players cleared the hill- sides. Coach Frank Howard and returning football players laid the sod in the summer of 1941. Legend has it that Howard put a plug of tobacco into each corner of the stadium as the concrete was poured.

When all was said and done, it seated about 20,000 fans in 26 rows. The University’s trustees named it Memorial Stadium, commemorating all of the alumni, faculty and staff who had died in service to the country.

The first game of the season in 1942 was against Presbyterian College, as it had been since 1930, and Clemson rolled over them 32-13. PC head coach Lonnie MacMillan is credited with providing the stadium its nickname in 1951 after being defeated 53-6.

“It’s like going into Death Valley,” he said.

The name stuck and gained even more traction with the addition of Howard’s Rock in 1966, presented to Coach Frank Howard by an alumnus after a trip to California’s Death Valley. It was at the 1967 game against Wake Forest when rubbing The Rock became a tradition. Legend has it that Coach Howard challenged the team by saying, “If you’re going to give me 110 percent, you can rub that rock. If you’re not, keep your filthy hands off it.”

Another 17,500 seats were added in 1958 (overseen by Professor Glenn), and in 1957, the first Tigerama was held. In 1960, dressing rooms, restrooms and additional concession stands were added along with 6,000 more seats.

Had the original plans for Hartwell Lake gone forward, Memorial Stadium would have been flooded up to the 26th row. Lengthy negotiations and the addition of dikes ensured the stadium’s survival.

More seats have been added over the years, with current capacity at more than 80,000. And just this summer, Yahoo Sports ranked Clemson as having the most exciting entrance in college football, referencing its designation by sportscaster Brent Musburger as “the most exciting 25 seconds in college football.”

Core Strength

Martin

Disaster doctor knows what it takes to endure.

At 2:04 p.m. EST on October 17, 1989, the “World Series Earthquake” struck the San Francisco Bay Area. As the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants went through their warm-ups, viewers at home watched in amazement as the Loma Prieta became the first major earthquake in the United States to have its initial jolt broadcast live on television.

Heavy equipment cranes and backhoes probe and lift debris from the crushed Interstate 880 freeway in Oakland, Ca. on Friday, Oct. 20, 1989. The Bay area was hit with a 7.1 earthquake on Tuesday, causing the two-level freeway to collapse. Over 250 persons were killed. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

Heavy equipment cranes and backhoes probe and lift debris from the crushed Interstate 880 freeway in Oakland, Ca. on Friday, Oct. 20, 1989. The Bay area was hit with a 7.1 earthquake on Tuesday, causing the two-level freeway to collapse. Over 250 persons were killed. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

While instrumentation recorded the tremors, word went out among the civil engineering and geologic communities that a major event had taken place. Among those packing their bags was James R. Martin II, then a Ph.D. candidate at Virginia Tech, now the chair of Clemson’s Glenn Department of Civil Engineering. This was to be his first major disaster assessment in the field, and he would be working with his doctoral adviser, Wayne Clough, an internationally known earthquake engineer who would eventually serve as president of Georgia Tech and secretary of the Smithsonian. As he traveled west, Martin had an opportunity to reflect on the winding road that had brought him to this particular place and time.

A firm foundation

As a kid growing up in Union, South Carolina, Martin’s family vacationed widely up and down the East Coast, traveling on the interstate system that took them south to Florida, north to New York and as far west as Ohio, visiting family and friends along the way. Martin was impressed with the vast ribbon of concrete and steel, with its smooth wide lanes and massive bridges. As impressive as the highway was, what impacted him just as much were the gigantic construction projects going on along the edge of the interstate, just outside the car windows. There were factories, shopping centers, dams and power plants — intricate and complex structures that fired Martin’s young imagination. “It was my mom who taught me to be present in the world,” Martin says. “She always said, ‘Pay attention to what’s going on around you; be a student of life.’ If I returned from a school field trip and couldn’t describe everything I’d seen that day in minute detail, she’d be very disappointed.”

His parents also taught (and illustrated by personal example) that a contributing citizen of the world had to move beyond observing to becoming involved. His father worked for the phone company, but also devoted a great deal of time to public service. James R. Martin Sr. was the first African-American elected to public office in Union County. He served 17 years on the Union County Council and the Catawba Regional Planning Council, and he worked closely with Sen. Strom Thurmond for many years to advance development of rural communities. His mother, Dora T. Martin, enjoyed a 38-year tenure as an educator and served 23 years on the Union County Council. A board member of the Catawba Regional Council of Governments, she was elected state president of the South Carolina Association of Regional Councils. “I grew up in a household where it was easy to be inspired,” says Martin. “Both of my parents were living examples of how we are called to service — to try to make a positive difference in people’s lives.”

Dora and James Martin, 1999

Dora and James Martin, 1999

It isn’t surprising, then, to know that it was the impact on people that Martin noticed during his first field experience following the Loma Prieta earthquake. “The human element is really first and foremost,” he observes. “An earthquake or flood is a human tragedy first before it is a case history.”

Looking beyond the build

Field reconnaissance must be performed early in the aftermath of a natural disaster before cleanup efforts remove vital evidence. Researchers like Martin are typically concerned with the performance of civil infrastructure such as bridges, buildings, dams, ports and power plants. And the empirical field evidence reveals what worked and what did not.

Over time, Martin developed the belief that civil engineering has to embrace an understanding of social policy, in addition to mastering infrastructure’s technical requirements. He and his colleagues realized the need for a more multidisciplinary approach, which was the foundation for establishing the Disaster Risk Management Institute at Virginia Tech. This National Science Foundation-funded effort has helped establish an education and research environment that includes social and economic perspectives in investigating disaster risk resilience.

James Martin in Japan

James Martin in Japan

Martin represents a new maturity in terms of the discipline itself. “Traditionally, civil engineering has been involved with just the technical aspects of a project, but if you want to be part of the big decisions, you have to go beyond that,” he says. “When we talk about sustainable infrastructure, civil engineering has to be part of the big decisions — where a bridge is going to be built, how it’s going to be financed and who will be served by it. Sustainable infrastructure goes beyond just the engineering parameters that govern the design.”

A personal quake

In 2000, tremors of a completely different sort rocked Martin’s world. He noticed numbness in his legs after a workout. Over the course of the next few days, the numbness got progressively worse, and in two weeks he had lost about 50 percent of the movement and feeling in his legs. He began to notice problems with his vision. His reasoning and short-term memory began to falter. After exhaustive testing, he was officially diagnosed in late February 2000 with multiple sclerosis (MS). His condition worsened, and he required care for everyday living until he began to slowly regain the use of his hands. Eighteen months after the initial attack, he was able to hold a pen and scribble his name. It took another four years to really be able to write legibly and 10 years to regain fine motor skills for things like buttoning a shirt — a task that still can be a challenge.

MS can be debilitating, and it was clear to Martin early on that the disease has to be fought from every angle — physically, mentally and spiritually. Martin was committed to fighting the disease with all he had. He learned about diet and exercise, and explored Eastern approaches to healing. “Healing is about hard work — it’s tremendously hard,” he says. “But the important thing I’ve discovered is that if you really make up your mind to do something, I mean REALLY make up your mind to do something, you can do it.” In the 13 years since he was diagnosed, he has never missed a single day of a planned workout. Even if he gets home at 3:00 a.m. and has been up for 48 hours, he works out. There are no exceptions, ever.

His message of determined resolve is one that he has shared as a motivational speaker and one he wants to introduce to an even broader audience. Martin has completed two manuscripts. It’s Raining details how he dealt with the spiritual and emotional aspects of struggling with a disability. In Buying Time, he outlines the steps one must take to extend the quality of real life. His ultimate goal is to establish a foundation to help people deal with disabilities. “Most of us at some point are going to have some difficult bridge to cross, and we are going to be tested,” he says. “At that point, you have to reach down inside and bring out that inner strength you need to cross that bridge. And we can’t bring out what we didn’t put in, so we need to constantly nurture the really important things.”

Martin has been drawing on his inner strength since the day he enrolled in the Citadel for his undergraduate degree. Being from Union always meant that Clemson was a choice for college, but he felt that the Citadel experience would present opportunities for growth, especially in terms of leadership. “Beyond the academics, I knew that the environment there, with its lack of diversity at the time, would be a little uncomfortable, but I’ve always felt that you have to be a little uncomfortable to grow, and if you are committed to growth you don’t care about going into places where you’re uncomfortable.” At the time of his graduation, Martin was one of a handful of African-Americans in the class, and he was one of the first African-American engineering graduates at the Citadel. Diversity is important to Martin and as the first African-American department chair in the College of Engineering and Science, he sees his appointment as a milestone for the college and University.

“My welcome has been extremely warm and inviting, which I think illustrates Clemson’s commitment to a diverse faculty and staff, and by extension, a diverse student body,” he says. “It’s forward movement, and whether you are talking about personal challenges or academic advancement, what you look for is forward movement.”

Forward movement

Martin is working to achieve forward movement in Clemson’s Glenn Department of Civil Engineering as well. “We have a very good department,” he says. “And I am inviting faculty, students, staff and alumni to join me in an effort to establish a culture of greatness.” Martin points out that Clemson’s location along the I-85 corridor, coupled with its academic computing power, offers unique opportunities. “We live in the fastest growing area of the country right now,” he observes. “And Clemson’s cyber-infrastructure gives us the chance to put together big data for civil systems. We can make a positive global impact with the information and research we can develop.”

Had he stayed at Virginia Tech, the current academic year would have provided some sabbatical time for Martin, which he would have used to polish his manuscripts and refine his research. The opportunity here, though, was something he couldn’t pass up. Having an endowed department is one thing that attracted him to Clemson. Virginia Tech’s civil engineering department received an endowment when he was there, and it made a tremendous difference in what could be accomplished.

“Clemson’s civil engineering alumni are a passionate group,” he states. “From the first time I set foot on campus, I just had the feeling that this is where I am supposed to be, and they’ve reinforced that belief over and over. We have a chance to build something really solid, really special here. And we will.”