Leigh Anne Clark and her research team have discovered genes in collies and shelties that explain a number of traits in the two breeds. Their most recent discovery could have implications for humans as well.
Self Regional Hall, a new 17,000-square-foot, state-of-the art facility that will house the Clemson University Center for Human Genetics, has opened on the campus of the Greenwood Genetic Center.
The facility will enable Clemson’s growing genetics program to collaborate closely with the long tradition of clinical and research excellence at the Greenwood Genetic Center, combining basic science and clinical care. The center will initially focus on discovering and developing early diagnostic tools and therapies for autism, cognitive developmental disorders, oncology and lysosomal disorders. The building will house eight laboratories and several classrooms, conference rooms and offices for graduate students and faculty.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in six children between the ages of 3 and 17, roughly 15 percent, suffers from some type of developmental disorder.
“Opening Self Regional Hall means that we will be able to do even more to help children with genetic disorders, and their families, and to educate graduate students who will go out into the world and make their own impact,” said President James P. Clements.
“As the parent of a child with special needs, the kind of research that you are doing here is especially meaningful and important to me and my family,” Clements said during the event. “As you all know, an early diagnosis can make a huge difference for a child and their family because the earlier you can figure out what a child needs, the earlier you can intervene and begin treatment.”
“Self Regional Hall is a state-of-the-art facility that provides the resources our scientists need to understand the genetic underpinnings of disorders,” said Mark Leising, interim dean of the College of Science at Clemson. “This facility, and its proximity to the Greenwood Genetic Center, elevates our ability to attract the brightest scientific talent to South Carolina and enhances our efforts to tackle genetic disorders.”
The facility’s name recognizes the ongoing support from Self Regional Healthcare, a health care system in Upstate South Carolina that has grown from the philanthropy of the late James P. Self, a textile magnate who founded Self Memorial Hospital in 1951.
“Self Regional Healthcare’s vision is to provide superior care, experience and value. This vision includes affording our patients with access to cutting-edge technology and the latest in health care innovation — and genomic medicine, without a doubt, is the future of health care,” said Jim Pfeiffer, president and CEO of Self Regional Healthcare. “The research and discoveries that will originate from this center will provide new options for those individuals facing intellectual and developmental disabilities, and will provide our organization with innovative capabilities and treatment options for our patients.”
“We are pleased to welcome Clemson University to Greenwood as the first academic partner on our Partnership Campus,” added Dr. Steve Skinner, director of the Greenwood Genetic Center. “This is the next great step in a collaboration that has been developing over the past 20-plus years. We look forward to our joint efforts with both Clemson and Self Regional Healthcare to advance the research and discoveries that will increase our understanding and treatment of human genetic disorders.”
International teachers learn and teach
Richard Balikoowa from Uganda was one of 16 teachers from seven different countries who studied on campus and taught in local schools from January through May. They are part of the International Leaders in Education Program, a professional exchange program funded by a subgrant from the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), which is funded by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The teachers completed an on-campus academic program with some of Clemson’s School of Education faculty, and then interned with a partner teacher at Riverside Middle, Liberty Middle and Seneca High.
As part of this program, which is in its sixth year at Clemson, the teachers engage in formal and informal cultural activities in which they learn about American culture and share about their own. Teacher Fellows go through a yearlong selection process; they are nominated by their own country, approved through that country’s American embassy and local Fulbright commission, and screened through the U.S. State Department and IREX. Clemson is one of four universities selected to host the group.
Clemson team selected for Solar Decathlon
The U.S. Department of Energy selected a Clemson team to compete in the Solar Decathlon 2015. Clemson is one of 20 colleges and universities across the country and around the world that will now begin the nearly two-year process of building solar-powered houses that are affordable, innovative and highly energy efficient.
“We are honored and excited to participate in the Solar Decathlon 2015,” said Akel Kahera, associate dean for Clemson’s College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities. “This competition offers our students a one-of-a-kind learning and training experience that helps students excel once they enter the clean energy industry.”
Over the coming months, the Solar Decathlon teams will design, construct and test their houses before reassembling them at the Solar Decathlon 2015 competition site in Irvine, Calif. As part of the Solar Decathlon, teams compete in 10 different contests, ranging from architecture and engineering to home appliance performance, while gaining valuable hands-on experience.
In fall 2015, the student teams will showcase their solar-powered houses at the competition site, providing free public tours of renewable energy systems and energy-efficient technologies, products and appliances that today are helping homeowners nationwide save money by saving energy. The solar-powered houses will represent a diverse range of design approaches; building technologies; target markets; and geographic locations, climates and regions, including urban, suburban and rural settings.
The Solar Decathlon helps demonstrate how energy-efficient and renewable energy technologies and design save money and energy while protecting local communities and boosting economic growth.
To view a video about the Solar Decathlon, go to clemson.edu/ clemsonworld and click on “In These Hills.”
Clemson partners in national hub for genetics research
In February, Clemson, the Greenwood Genetic Center and Self Regional Healthcare announced a new partnership that will establish formal collaboration among genetic researchers and Clemson faculty. Self Regional Healthcare will support Clemson’s Center for Human Genetics with a gift of $5.6 million over three years. The gift consists of an initial contribution of $2 million for the center’s facilities and a subsequent contribution of $3.6 million to support research in genetics and human diagnostics at the facility located on the Greenwood Genetic Center campus.
“Today’s announcement will create a new pipeline for genetic research,” said John Pillman, chair of the Self Regional board of trustees. “The collaboration of these three partners will ultimately connect genetic therapeutics research to patients.”
Steve Skinner, director of the Greenwood Genetic Center, said such collaborations are crucial in turning research advances into clinically available therapies for patients, not only in Greenwood and across South Carolina, but globally. “This collaboration is a major step forward for patients as we combine the resources and strengths of each institution: Self’s commitment to patient care, Clemson’s expertise in basic scientific research and our experience with genetic disorders and treatment.”
Self Regional and the Genetic Center have had an affiliation agreement since 1975 with the Genetic Center’s clinical faculty serving as the Department of Medical Genetics for Self Regional.
President Clements said the announcement brings us a step closer to moving basic discoveries in human genetics from a research environment to a clinical setting, where they can be used to diagnose and treat real human disorders. “Clemson is proud to be part of this important collaborative effort, and we’re grateful to Self Regional Healthcare for its support of our research efforts at the Greenwood Genetic Center.”
The center will address research and clinical opportunities in human diagnostics and epigenetic therapeutics advancing personalized medicine for intellectual and developmental disabilities, autism, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and disorders of the immune and nervous systems. Specific research will include molecular diagnostics and therapeutics, bioinformatics and computational/systems biology.
Self Regional Healthcare, as a research and lead health care partner, will support hospital-based clinical trials and collaborate in designated research activities. This marks Clemson’s third significant development at the Greenwood Genetic Center. In June 2013, Clemson announced it would expand its genetics programs, create an internationally competitive research and development team, and expand research capabilities at the Greenwood Genetic Center’s J.C. Self Institute through the Center for Human Genetics, a 17,000-square-foot research and education center in human genetics. And in November, Clemson established the Self Family Foundation Endowed Chair in Human Genetics, jointly funded by the Self Family Foundation and the state of South Carolina.
Ballato selected for class of ’39 award
With the increasing popularity of Sci-Fi movies, it’s no surprise that lasers conjure up images of futuristic adventures in outer space. But materials science and engineering professor John Ballato’s work in fiber optics isn’t happening in a galaxy far, far away — it’s all happening right here in Clemson.
The 2013 recipient of the Class of ’39 Award, Ballato is director of the Center for Optical Materials Science and Engineering Technologies (COMSET). His research in glass and specialty fiber has made seemingly fictitious concepts a reality. “It sounds very Star Trek-ish, but the military has lasers deployed around the world to shoot down a variety of threats,” Ballato said, “everything from missiles to RPGs.”
Although Ballato and his team don’t make the lasers that are sent to the battlefield, they do help develop the fiber optics that go inside them. The program’s success in the field of specialty fiber has enabled Ballato to work closely with the U.S. Department of Defense Joint Technology Office, which has invested more than $10 million in COMSET over the past eight years.
Ballato moved to Clemson in 1997 and worked with other researchers to start an optics program, no easy task for junior faculty members. “Doing optical fiber research is extremely expensive,” he said. “The equipment that you need is big, complex and dangerous.”
But a confluence of events fell into the team’s favor. The dot-com boom turned into the dot-com bust in the late 1990s, leaving a glut of fiber optic cable that no one wanted. But Ballato and his team knew there was more research to be done. They quickly found an underserved sector, a “sandbox” where no one else was playing, he said. “The Department of Defense was clamoring for specialty fiber,” he said. “They couldn’t get any because it was all going to communications.”
It was a perfect fit. The research had to be done onshore for security reasons, Ballato said, and the Department of Defense was a client with deep pockets. “There was nobody else talking to them,” he said. “Everybody else had moved on http://creative.clemson.edu/clemsonworld/2014/05/hills/to other things, and we rode that wave in fiber for 10 years, through two wars and a staggering amount of investment.”
Ballato said COMSET partners with companies to pitch programs to the Department of Defense. “Clemson is actually pretty unique nationally in the sense that we go from ‘dirt to shirt,’” he said. “We model it, we design it. We study new materials. We make the glasses. We draw the fiber. We build the lasers for them at a prototypic level. That’s extremely valuable for our partners. It’s a one-stop shop for them.”
Ballato served as the interim vice president for research and associate vice president for research and economic development, where he championed Clemson’s advanced materials related research and economic development. His achievements speak volumes, but this award may be the most meaningful. Ballato was chosen by his peers to represent the highest achievement of service to the University, the student body and the larger community.
As the 2013 winner of the Class of ‘39 Award, Ballato’s name will be engraved in stone next to 24 past winners. The Class of 1939 established the Award for Excellence in 1989 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the class and to recognize and inspire faculty service above and beyond expectations.
In March, President Clements announced that Ballato would take on additional duties as the University’s vice president for economic development.
Clemson’s Air Force ROTC detachment gathered in March to send Lieutenant Colonel Tom von Kaenel on a 120-day bicycle journey to Juneau, Alaska, to raise awareness of the sacrifices of service members, veterans and their families since 9-11. Kaenel is the founder of Sea2Sea, a military nonprofit that organizes bicycling events across the country, partnering with other nonprofits and local organizations. During the memorial service held that day, Clemson cadets read the names of South Carolinians who lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Nanoparticles, Big Ideas
Although these images can easily be mistaken for abstract art, they are indeed high resolution transmission electron microscope images of unique nanostructures explored by R.A. Bowen Professor of Physics Apparao (RAJA) Rao and his team at the Clemson Nanomaterials Center.
The honeycomb-like structure (in purple) with rows of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal fashion forms the basis of a graphene layer — the quantum building block for buckyballs, carbon nanotubes and graphite. Supported by a $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation, Rao and his team have begun to chip away at reinventing energy storage by developing a cost-effective and scalable way to produce carbon nanomaterials. While energy is one of the focus areas, Rao’s team is also working on understanding the fundamental implications of nanomaterials on the physiological response.
Shown in the image (orange) is a silver nanoparticle coated with serum albumin, whose modified structure could be used to generate nanoparticles that can deliver useful drugs without being engulfed by the immune system.