Posts

Klaine Fellowship Recipient Focusing on Roadside Waterways

Stephen Klaine was a professor in the Clemson Department of Biological Sciences and a member of the environmental toxicology graduate program for 24 years. He was an internationally recognized environmental toxicologist with a legacy of devotion to teaching and mentoring until he passed away in 2016. Colleagues and friends of Klaine honored his contributions to biological sciences by establishing a fellowship in his memory.

In 2021, Stephanie LaPlaca, a graduate student in the College of Science, is the first recipient of the Dr. Stephen Klaine Annual Memorial Fellowship.

“Receiving the Klaine Fellowship is a huge honor. Although I never got the chance to meet Dr. Klaine, I’ve heard so many wonderful things about him through other students and faculty at Clemson. His legacy is inspiring,” said LaPlaca, a fourth-year Ph.D. student from Virginia in the Department of Biological Sciences’ environmental toxicology program.

LaPlaca’s research focuses on the toxicity of crumb rubber particles to aquatic organisms. As tires wear, they leave tiny particles of rubber on the roadways. When it rains, those particles wash into creeks, streams and lakes. Understanding how crumb rubber affects aquatic organisms can inform stormwater regulators on how to best manage road runoff and help consumers make more eco-friendly choices to reduce their impact.

LaPlaca and Peter van den Hurk, her academic adviser, published a paper in the journal Ecotoxicology last April.

“It’s quite impressive for a student to have a publication out of doctoral research in their third year.” said van den Hurk, who coordinates the environmental toxicology program. “Steve was very science-oriented, but he was also oriented toward translating science to applications in the real world. As environmental scientists, we help society address environmental problems. Steve advocated that. I think Stephanie fits that picture very well.”

Persistence and Determination

It is hard to believe that more than a year has passed since we first received news of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been a year of reimagining  education in ways we never thought possible. We have masked up and maintained our physical distance, and as I write this, current positive test rates on campus are less than 0.5 percent for students and 0.3 percent for faculty and staff. As we look toward fall, we are planning on returning to classes and activities in person. And for that, we are all grateful.

Once again, we have learned that Clemson Tigers are a persistent and determined bunch.

In this issue of Clemson World, you’ll read about one of our most determined alumni — Col. Ben Skardon ’38. At 103, he walked a mile a day for eight days this spring to commemorate the Bataan Death March and to honor the fellow servicemen and friends he lost. You’ll also read about Michael Allen ’99, who has taken on the transformation of the Echo Theater from a home for the Ku Klux Klan to a community space focused on reconciliation and hope.

An equally determined faculty member, Professor Srikanth Pilla, is now heading up the Clemson Composites Center, a one-stop-shop for academic research, design, development and real-world manufacturing solutions. He didn’t drive a car until he was 21 years old, but he’s now collaborating with students and researchers on applications of academic research designed to net huge gains for the automotive industry.

I know it’s been a challenging year for all of us. If we learn nothing else from it, I hope that we learn how much we need each other, and how interconnected our lives are. Thank you for being a part of the Clemson Family, and I hope to see you on campus this fall.

Go Tigers!

 

A Heart for Helping Others

It only takes a spark to light a flame. Jessica Taylor Weitz is a testament to that. A lifelong competitive swimmer, Jessica’s experience working with special-needs children in the pool during college has led her to take an interest in the ClemsonLIFE program. Her parents, Jonathan Weitz ’90 and Lisa Weitz ’90, established the Jessica Taylor Weitz Endowment for ClemsonLIFE in honor of Jessica’s passions.

Jessica first began working with special-needs children as a student and swimmer at Tulane University. She often took time out of her intense training schedule to help students learn the joys of swimming. Whether they were dipping their toes in the water or swimming laps unassisted, Jessica was there to help every step of the way. It was during these moments that Jessica found her passion to help those with intellectual disabilities.

The ClemsonLIFE program, in a similar way, acts as a helping hand for its students. The program offers an on-campus collegiate experience that prepares young people with intellectual disabilities for competitive employment and independent living through a combination of academic coursework and career exploration. With around 40 students in the program, ClemsonLIFE acts as a catalyst for personal growth, teaching lessons that many of us take for granted. Students learn functional mathematics and literacy, independent living skills, health and wellness, and self-advocacy. A day’s lesson may also include proper texting etiquette, grocery shopping or hosting a party. These practical skills allow students to live independent, joyful lives.

Because of this, ClemsonLIFE students have a 44 percent independent living rate and an 84 percent current employment rate, compared to national rates of 21 percent and 14 percent, respectively. 

Because of Jessica Weitz’s charitable spirit and her parents’ philanthropy, ClemsonLIFE students will be able to continue to experience this outstanding program. 

A New Home With a Name

 

Last year, the Clemson Softball team, in their inaugural season that was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, finished 19-8 overall and 5-1 in Atlantic Coast Conference play. This year, they started their highly anticipated second season in the newly named McWhorter Stadium, thanks to the generosity of Stuart McWhorter ’91 and Leigh Anne Hendrix McWhorter of Nashville, Tennessee, who pledged a Cornerstone Gift of $2.5 million to IPTAY in support of the softball program.

“We are so grateful to Stuart, Leigh Anne and their entire family for their generous commitment to Clemson Athletics and the softball program,” said President Jim Clements. “We are excited about the direction of the program and are thankful to the McWhorters for becoming Cornerstone Partners and being such a significant part of the foundation of softball at Clemson.”

Adjacent to the baseball facilities, McWhorter Stadium features 1,000 fixed chairback seats in addition to berm seating. The facility also includes a team clubhouse with more than 12,000 square feet of space that houses a team lounge, locker room, sports medicine room, equipment room and coaches’ offices. It includes a press box with three broadcast booths and a videoboard and also houses locker rooms for the coaches, umpires and visiting teams. In its inaugural season in 2020, the softball program averaged 1,544 fans per game, ranking first in the Atlantic Coast Conference in attendance and fifth nationally. 

“We have the utmost sense of gratitude, pride and appreciation for the opportunity to come to work, practice and play in a facility as nice as ours each and every day. Our facility demonstrates the high level of support and resources that IPTAY and the McWhorter family have provided our young program,” said Clemson Softball head coach John Rittman. “Our first-class facility gives our student-athletes, coaches and support staff all of the tools necessary to be successful. On behalf of our players and staff, we are truly appreciative of all of the generous IPTAY members who have donated their time and money in order for us to be able to call this facility our home.”

Stuart McWhorter has supported Clemson University since he was a student and served as the Tiger mascot from 1987 to 1990. Since then, he and Leigh Anne have given generously to Universitywide initiatives in both athletics and academics.

Stuart and Leigh Anne are distinguished members of Clemson’s Cumulative Giving Society and the President’s Leadership Circle. Stuart was a founding member of the Leadership Committee for the University’s 10-year capital campaign, The Will to Lead, and he served on the Clemson Athletics Tiger Pride Capital Campaign Cabinet.

Stuart was previously a member of the Clemson University Foundation Board, and he and Leigh Anne are members of the Founder Society for the Arthur M. Spiro Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership. Stuart has also shared his success with his alma mater when he served as an executive-in-residence, focusing on Clemson’s entrepreneurship and economic engagement efforts.

Stuart and Leigh Anne live in Nashville with their five children: Clayton, a first-year student at Clemson, Thomas, Caroline, Marleigh and Layla.

As Clemson’s softball program sits near the top of the ACC in its second season, the extraordinary generosity of Stuart and Leigh Anne has provided Clemson Softball with a strong foundation and given Tiger fans plenty to cheer about. 

College of Education Honors and Mourns Chip Jackson

Calvin “Chip” Jackson, devoted supporter of the College of Education and longtime educational and civic leader in South Carolina, was named the second recipient of the Distinguished Friend of the College of Education Award. The award is given to honor an individual, partner or program that has provided significant support over time to the college.

Unfortunately, Jackson died August 7, 2020, at the age of 64, before the presentation could take place.

Jackson first served as president of the External Advisory Board for Clemson’s College of Health, Education and Human Development, where he helped navigate the founding of the College of Education as it emerged from HEHD to become a standalone college. He served on the search committee for the founding dean and became chair of the college’s inaugural Senior Advisory Board.

“His voice, calm and steady, was a reassuring rudder as the college formed and evolved, and his leadership was critical in re-centering the college as a vital player in education in South Carolina,” said Founding Dean George J. Petersen. “We will always be grateful for his contributions to our efforts to transform education.”

Jackson served in staff and leadership positions at several South Carolina colleges and universities as well as the South Carolina After-School Alliance and the South Carolina Department of Education, where he served as deputy superintendent.

Jackson is survived by his wife, Patricia; his children, Cass Jackson Smith ’05 and Regis Jackson ’10, and their families; his mother, Willie Mae Farley Jackson; and his extended family and friends.

A New Generation of Army Vehicles

Automotive autonomy technology is changing economies and global industries — and is also a driving force behind military modernization. Bringing these self-driving vehicles to life on- and off-road requires new concepts to be tested quickly, efficiently and cost effectively — all of which happen through virtual prototyping. This key enabler for autonomy is the focus behind a new $18 million center housed at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research and a research partnership with the U.S. Army Ground Vehicle Systems Center.

As founding director of the Virtual Prototyping of Ground Systems Center, Zoran Filipi will lead more than 65 Clemson faculty across seven engineering departments on the multiyear research partnership to develop virtual prototyping tools supporting the rapid transformation of U.S. Army fleets. The research will be focused on autonomy-enabled ground vehicles, including digital engineering, next-generation propulsion and energy systems, and manned and unmanned teaming in unknown off-road environments. Research activities will also take place on Clemson’s main campus and will include learning opportunities for students at all levels.

As the research develops, the team will build a physical mock-up of an optionally manned, noncombat, off-road ground vehicle. In the project’s final phase, discoveries and breakthrough innovations from the center will be fabricated and tested via Deep Orange, the University’s long-running educational prototyping program. The Deep Orange program takes automotive engineering students through a two-year product development process that culminates in a fully functional concept. The program encourages learning by doing, transdisciplinary teamwork, leadership and project management skills to best prepare students for the workforce. Deep Orange has been sponsored by industry leaders such as AVX, BMW, ExxonMobil, EY, Ford, GM, Honda R&D Americas, Mazda, MINI and Toyota.

The Virtual Prototyping of Ground Systems Center is designed to accelerate the development and validation of high impact technologies, acting as a catalyst for economic growth. Driven by fundamental research, the center supports South Carolina’s economic development efforts, industry innovation priorities and the development of a highly skilled workforce.

“This type of work is the driving force behind why South Carolina invested in our idea for the CU-ICAR campus,” said Clemson President Jim Clements, “and we are grateful for the legislature’s continued support and the hard work of Rep. Clyburn and Sen. Graham to bring this project to life. It will pave the way for opportunities for our faculty, our students and our state.” 

 

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.

 

Teaming Up for Innovation

Clemson will play a significant role in advancing the nation’s environmental, energy, and national security research and workforce development efforts as a member of the Battelle Savannah River Alliance that will now manage the Savannah River National Laboratory.

Clemson faculty have worked with scientists at SRNL for three decades to study solutions to nuclear waste storage, advanced materials, environmental protection and energy security. The long-standing relationship has resulted in numerous internships for undergraduate and graduate students who have conducted research with SRNL scientists and Clemson faculty. The new partnership is expected to bring even more opportunities. 

“This historic partnership expands on our world-class workforce development efforts and opens a pipeline of scientific discovery and innovation that should benefit the entire state of South Carolina,” said Clemson president Jim Clements. “I’d like to thank Gov. McMaster and our state leaders for supporting this endeavor that will provide unique opportunities for our faculty and students while uplifting the state’s economy.”

As a member of the BSRA team, Clemson experts will provide technical support on environmental remediation, waste management, materials science, computational modeling, advanced manufacturing, cybersecurity and numerous other research topics.

“Workforce development will be central to our work at SRNL,” said Tanju Karanfil, Clemson’s vice president for research who will serve on a board of directors overseeing management of the lab. “This close partnership with Battelle and SRNL will nurture a skilled workforce that will be ready to lead the energy sector into the future.” 

The contract DOE awarded to BSRA includes a five-year base with five one-year options. The estimated value of the contract is $3.8 billion over the course of 10 years if all options are exercised. Other members of the alliance are Georgia Tech, South Carolina State University, University of Georgia and University of South Carolina, as well as small business partners Longenecker and Associates and TechSource. 

This marks the first time the U.S. Department of Energy has issued a management contract for the lab separate from the Savannah River Site contract. BSRA is led and wholly owned by Battelle, which already has a management role at seven other DOE national labs. 

 

Tackling Drug Shortages

Drug shortages have plagued health care for decades. Even prior to COVID-19, hospitals incurred more than $400 million in labor costs and alternative treatment options due to national generic drug shortages, especially for those administered via injection.

And research shows shortages lead to things like delaying critical procedures, rationing doses based on supply levels and prescribing suboptimal treatment plans with substitute drugs — resulting in adverse patient outcomes.

Manufacturing tops the list as the most common cause of shortages, pushing those in the pharmaceutical supply chain to look for new ways to increase productivity — and thanks to a partnership between Clemson and Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation, a solution may be on the horizon.

Led by Associate Professor Yue “Sophie” Wang, the project combines robotics and medicine to ensure sterility, quality, safety and efficiency in pharmaceutical manufacturing. Her team worked in partnership with South Carolina-based Nephron to develop a flexible, easy to use, open-source benchtop robot that can fill, cap and seal sterile syringes.

“Pharmaceutical collaborative robots is a new and quickly growing research area,” said Wang, who serves as the Warren H. Owen Duke Energy Associate Professor of Engineering. “By combining our expertise with unique applications in pharmaceutical manufacturing, we hope to benefit both patients and the industry through increased efficiency in syringe manufacturing.”

The project supports the Nephron 503B Outsourcing Facility, which provides sterile, pre-filled medications to hospitals and medical facilities across America. Pre-filled syringes help control costs by minimizing drug overfill and minimizing microbial contamination.

“Anything we can do to improve drug shortages, that’s just good for patients,” said Nephron CEO Lou Kennedy. “It’s a very big crisis, not just in the U.S. but globally as well.”

The partnership was developed through Clemson’s Office of Corporate Partnerships and Strategic Initiatives. The next phase of the project is further development, starting with the completion of a purpose-built clean room on Clemson’s campus. Kennedy hopes to commercialize the benchtop system for use inside health care facilities across the country.

Clemson and Nephron are at the forefront of a larger trend shaping pharmaceutical manufacturing today. The integration of automation, AI and robotics is catalyzing the industry, and rising demand paired with major market disruptions, such as COVID-19, are only accelerating change. The pharmaceutical robotic systems market is expected to nearly double to $119.46 million from just five years ago, driven by innovations in packaging, inspection and lab work, according to one report.

Part of what has made the project successful is the complementary strengths Nephron and Clemson have brought to the table. Wang needed an insider’s perspective on pharmaceutical manufacturing to understand the exact requirements and processes involved in sterile syringe production. In addition to Clemson’s research talent, Nephron was also drawn to the steady stream of talented graduates who could hit the ground running at their facilities. 

 

Pages