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Training Successful Problem-solvers

Analytical chemistry professor Ken Marcus used to call his group of doctoral researchers “the Tinkerers.” His group develops analytical instrumentation, something he says takes a unique mindset and is attractive to federal laboratories and scientific organizations. Nearly half of that group of soon-to-be 41 Ph.D. graduates works in national laboratories, such as Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “They’re looking for problem-solvers,” Marcus said.

The latest problem-solver is Tyler Williams, the second Clemson chemist in three years to receive a National Nuclear Security Administration Graduate Fellowship, designed to develop the next generation of national security leaders.

Marcus said that to be a successful tinkerer and problem-solver, there has to be a connection between mind, gut and hands:

“Those three things have to be in sync. You have to know enough and understand what’s going on in order to react on a gut level. Then, your hands do the work. Sometimes things work out as you planned, sometimes they don’t and sometimes serendipity is your best friend. If you do something in the lab and something remarkable happens, but you don’t [recognize] it in your gut and in your head, then it’s lost.”

In June, Williams will join the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, which enhances national security through the military application of nuclear science. He will work in the administration’s enriched uranium modernization group, which focuses on modernizing the nation’s enriched uranium capabilities and infrastructure to support NNSA’s defense, nonproliferation and naval reactor missions.

 

Wisconsin: Harriet Smith ’75, M ’77

Harriet Smith ’75, M ’77, right, visited Yerkes Observatory before it closed to the public last fall. While there, she toured the observatory and spent several hours using the 40-inch refracting telescope to peer at stars, star clusters and planets. The observatory, located in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, has been called the “birthplace of modern astrophysics.” The telescope they used is the largest refracting telescope successfully used for research in astronomy.  The University of Chicago, which operates the observatory, decided to shut down the facility as a cost-cutting measure. Before the modern era, scientists such as Edwin Hubble, Edward Barnard, Gerard Kuiper, George Ellery Hale, Carl Sagan and a host of other giants in astronomy worked or studied there.

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.