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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.

Peanut Butter Jelly

slider-2015-peanutbutter-backNew film shines light on Clemson’s Hollywood connection

One jellyfish fires projectiles from a sunken airplane, and another retaliates with a blast from a ship’s canon.

What caused all the fuss?

A jar of peanut butter that had fallen off a boat and drifted to the coral reef below.

The animated short, “Peanut Butter Jelly,” showcases the increasing sophistication coming out of a Clemson program that mimics a real-world animation studio. It also shines a light on the School of Computing’s growing influence in the movie industry.

Graduates are winning top honors, including an Academy Award as recently as February. They are learning from professors who have worked their computer magic on feature films ranging from “Happy Feet” to “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.”

“Peanut Butter Jelly” takes about one minute to watch, but it’s the result of a year’s work by 26 students, said Alex Beaty, the student writer and director.

The film’s producer, Jerry Tessendorf, racked up  credits in several movies, including “Happy Feet” and “Superman Returns,” before becoming a professor of visual computing at Clemson.

While Tessendorf provided some guidance on “Peanut Butter Jelly,” he described it as an “all-student production.”

“This is very close to what is done in feature films,” he said. “The ability to do this kind of work is rare in academics.”

“Peanut Butter Jelly” illustrates the growing technical ability of students in Digital Production Arts, a program in Clemson’s School of Computing. Students learn the skills needed to work in the animation, visual-effects and electronic-games industries.

Beaty, who recently received his Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in the program, said 14 graduate students worked on the film in artistic roles and 12 undergraduates worked in supporting roles. Tessendorf and Joshua Tomlinson, who is also a faculty member, supported their efforts.

PBJ-Alex_Beaty“What excites me most is the number of people who came together to make this,” Beaty said. “We’re not paying them, and they’re putting in large amounts of time. It all came from passion, and that represents why we’re all here in the DPA program — not to be on screen but because we all love making movies.”

One of the strongest ties between Clemson and Hollywood is Tessendorf. He shared in a 2008 Technical Achievement Award from the Academy with Jeroen Molemaker and Michael Kowalski while at Rhythm & Hues Studios. They developed a system that is still used in film and allows artists to create realistic animation of liquids and gases.

Beaty, who aspires to direct movies, said he decided to write and direct “Peanut Butter Jelly” after participating in an intensive summer program at Clemson with professionals from DreamWorks.

“They said if you’re interested in layout you need to have some sort of film that you direct,” Beaty said. “That’s the role of layout — it’s really close to a directorial role. As soon as I heard that, I said, ‘Ok, I’ve got to make my own film.’”

The DreamWorks program was a success and will be back this summer, Tessendorf said.

“It’s a very intense 10 weeks during the summer,” he said. “We choose a few students. They are volunteers because they have to commit to working 100 hours a week in the studio with DreamWorks mentors. The goal is to produce professional-quality work, not just student-quality films.”

Peanut Butter Jelly – Animated Short FIlm from Alex B on Vimeo.

The School of Computing’s Digital Production Arts program offers both an undergraduate minor and an MFA. Currently, 30 graduate students are enrolled in the MFA program.

Two School of Computing alumni were recognized last year for their work on the Academy Award-winning film, “Frozen.”

Jay Steele, who received a Ph.D. in computer graphics, received a film credit in the area of animation technology. Marc Bryant, a Digital Production Arts graduate, was part of the animation team that received an award from the Visual Effects Society for outstanding FX in the segment called “Elsa’s Storm.”

Digital Production Arts’ co-founder, Robert Geist, who had a credit  in “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” remains a professor in the School of Computing and currently serves as interim director of the DPA program.

“Our graduates are doing some of the highest-level visual effects in the world,” Geist said. “For them, the sky is the limit.”

Paul Alongi is a technical and feature writer for the College of Engineering and Science.

More information on Clemson’s Digital Production Arts program