Nine college-level award-winners were acknowledged along with five winners of departmental-level awards at the College of Science's first annual awards ceremony.

Nine college-level award-winners were acknowledged along with five winners of departmental-level awards at the College of Science’s first annual awards ceremony.
Image Credit: Jim Melvin / Clemson University

CLEMSON – The College of Science honored its best and brightest during its first annual Students Awards Ceremony held April 14 in the Great Hall of the Core Campus.

Nine college-level award-winners were acknowledged along with five winners of departmental-level awards.

“It’s my pleasure to welcome our students, families, friends and faculty and staff of the College Science to our first awards ceremony. It is one of the best days of the year, when we get to recognize our outstanding students and reflect on their amazing accomplishments,” said Mark Leising, interim dean of the College of Science. “This is not an easy task, as we have many worthy students – about 3,000, overall. All of them study very rigorous curricula and almost all make some kind of impact in research. Many participate in very meaningful service projects. Now you will meet the best of the best.”

Jens Oberheide, chair of the COS scholarship and awards committee, emceed the event and said that working with the committee was one of the highlights of his year because he learned so much about the college’s “amazing students” throughout all the science disciplines.

“All of tonight’s honorees are outstanding scholars, many are accomplished researchers and others have committed themselves to special service projects,” said Oberheide, a professor of atmospheric physics in the department of physics and astronomy. “Over the course of a single afternoon, we will have time to barely scratch the surface of what these very special young people have accomplished in such a short time.”

Patrick Dynes, an avid football fan in addition to be an outstanding student, said that Clemson University has lived up to his expectations – and then some.

“I chose to come to Clemson because it’s a great school in South Carolina for a great value, and I’m extremely happy with my decision,” said Dynes, who was awarded the Outstanding Senior Award in the Sciences. “Clemson has given me so much, in terms of my career. This award is really important to me because it really confirms that I’ve been doing a good job, and it really gives me motivation to continue in science.”

Lauren Gambill said that she decided to come to Clemson because of the research, the environment and the people.

“Clemson creates an atmosphere where people love to talk about science,” said Gambill, winner of the Outstanding Undergraduate Research Award. “I’ve always been a Tiger at heart, even coming from Columbia. There are a variety of things that I’ve really enjoyed at Clemson – mainly the athletics, and being able to do research here.”

Here is a list of award winners:


Outstanding Senior Award in the Sciences

Patrick Dynes

Patrick is being recognized on the basis of scholarship and character. His talent and achievements as a mathematical science major have been nothing short of spectacular. His advisor, Jim Brown, says that Patrick is the most talented undergraduate student he worked with. In number theory, Patrick’s chosen area of study within mathematics, it is never the goal to publish a large number of papers but rather to work on deep mathematics that lead to impactful results. The top faculty in this field usually publish one paper or less per year. Yet, Patrick has already co-authored two papers that came out of a prestigious REU at Williams College, with a third one soon to be submitted. Patrick plans to attend graduate school in mathematics, and he has prepared himself extremely well, not only through his research but also by taking numerous graduate-level classes in addition to his difficult undergraduate curriculum, where he not only majored in mathematics but also in computer engineering. And he has maintained a nearly perfect GPA. Despite all this, Patrick has still found time to assume several leadership roles at Clemson, including serving on the College of Engineering and Science Student Advisory Board.

Outstanding Undergraduate Research Award

Lauren Gambill

Lauren’s nominator and advisor, Dr. Mark Blenner, commented that Lauren is undoubtedly the undergraduate who is the most dedicated, the most accomplished and who has had the largest impact on metabolic engineering and synthetic biology research in his group. Lauren is currently investigating the possibility of gene duplication as the mechanism for an improved growth rate in certain strains. If this mechanism is confirmed, it might lead to the development of a new metabolic engineering strategy based on gene duplication. Lauren is already a co-author on three publications in high-impact journals, with a fourth one in preparation where she will be the lead author. Lauren is active in Women in Science and Engineering, Clemson U Life Science Outreach, and she mentors three undergrads in Blenner’s lab. In her spare time, Lauren enjoys hiking and playing the guitar. She will be attending graduate school to get a PhD in an interdisciplinary biochemistry program that uses engineering tools to solve biological problems.

Outstanding Junior Award in the Sciences

Sarah Waldvogel

 Sarah is majoring in Biochemistry and Genetics with a minor in German with a perfect GPA. She was selected from more than 1,000 of the top students at Clemson University to receive one of 14 National Scholars Program scholarships at Clemson awarded in 2014. This scholarship has allowed her to study abroad in South Africa and to study aspects of the European Union in France and Germany. Sarah’s research career began during the summer of 2014 prior to her first semester at Clemson University, where she worked with Jason Hallstrom from the Clemson School of computing on DNA visualizations. After this summer, Michael Sehorn recruited her for his lab as first semester freshman. Because graduate students rely on her to help them accelerate their research projects, she has already contributed significantly, earned a co-authorship on one high impact publication and will earn authorship on 3 additional manuscripts that are in preparation. Sarah somehow finds the time for several leadership roles at Clemson, including president of the German Club, Clemson University Ethos Ambassador, and delegate to the undergraduate scholar program administrators association, to name just a few. Sarah likes to run and hike, and has played the flute since she was seven years old. After graduation, Sarah plans to attend medical school with the longtime career goal of being on the faculty at a medical school.

Blue Key Academic and Leadership Award

Leland Dunwoodie

Leland, from biochemistry, is an outstanding junior with a 4.0 GPA. One of Leland’s core qualities is his ambition to enter complex research projects at a very early age. He sought out Alex Feltus’ lab as a freshman because he realized that he needed bioinformatics experience. Few students have this level of foresight. Because of this ambition, Leland is amassing a rich research experience base at Clemson and through summer internships, including two at the Van Andel Institute in Michigan on cancer biology. Leland’s personality is infectious. He organizes travel for parades, runs for student senate leadership positions, and meets with the President and Board of Trustees. Leland is a Goldwater scholarship nominee, a most outstanding Clemson undergraduate senator and – fitting to this award – a recipient of the Blue Key Honor Society National Chapter of the Year. Leland likes to cook, run, golf and watch sports. He plans to pursue an MD/PhD that will allow him to conduct interdisciplinary brain cancer research.

Phi Kappa Phi Certificate of Merit

Megan Hunt

Hunt is a biochemistry senior with a minor in political science and Spanish with a straight 4.0 GPA. Megan is already an outstanding scientific researcher focused on the fungus Cryptococcus neoformans, an invasive opportunistic pathogen of the central nervous system, and the most frequent cause of fungal meningitis worldwide, especially in the developing world. Her nominator and advisor, Kerry Smith, compares her to a second-year graduate student in the lab. Megan has shown tremendous leadership skills. She is the director of international projects for the foundation of international medical relief of children and has organized a trip to Peru. She played a key role in the creation of the American medical student association at Clemson and has been very involved in petitioning SC senators to increase funding for HIV research and is president of the AIDS advocacy network steering committee. In her free time, Megan likes sports and to relax with friends. With her mom, she likes morning walks with the dog and enjoys discovering new craft breweries with her dad. Megan has already been accepted into prestigious, top-notch medical schools and, in addition, plans to pursue either a masters in public health or public policy to integrate political advocacy and healthcare policy consulting into her career.

Outstanding Graduate Researcher Awards (Two Recipients)

Jacquelyn Evans

=Jacquelyn’s performance and accomplishments as a graduate researcher in genetics in the lab of Leigh Anne Clark have been nothing short of outstanding. Her laboratory work on inherited diseases of dogs has led to new genetic tests that will eliminate or reduce disease incidence. Jacquelyn’s research has garnered international attention. She is the first author on three publications in high-impact journals and gave several invitation presentations at national and international conferences. She trained and managed eight undergraduate students and provided genotypic data and genetic counseling services to hundreds of dog breeders. She is also a very active member of the Clemson community and served as a Clemson Graduate Student Government senator, the Dean’s advisory board in CAFLS and several graduate school committees.

Bo Wang

After getting his BS degree in Physics from Huazhong (HEW-zung) University of Science & Technology, one of the top universities in China, Bo Wang joined Clemson, where he became fascinated with the physics of living systems. Since then, Bo has become a highly skilled computational biophysicist in the lab of Feng Ding and an expert in discrete molecular dynamics simulations. His results offered molecular insights into the design of next generation oil spill remediation agents and the transformation of nanomaterials in living systems, with implications for nanotoxicology and nanobiotechnology. Bo’s most recent work addressed a major bottleneck for broad applications of nanomedicine – the binding of serum proteins with engineered nanoparticles – has  been broadly recognized and selected as the cover story in Polymer Chemistry. He has published four first-author papers in high impact journals and served as a senator on Clemson’s graduate student government.

Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Awards (Two Recipients)

Andrea Gaertner

 Andrea has been a graduate teaching assistant in the general chemistry lab program since 2013. Teaching these project-based labs requires a special mindset because the program fosters cooperative learning and teamwork, an approach that is often uncomfortable to the students who must develop new skills. Andrea rose to the challenge and her students give her high praise. One student said of Andrea: “As a freshman, I walked into the chemistry lab more afraid than ever, as chemistry is not my strong suit. I wholeheartedly believed that chemistry lab would be the death of me. But over the course of the semester, I became more and more comfortable with my abilities and knowledge of chemistry and actually enjoyed the subject I had been running from. I have Ms. Gaertner to thank for that.” Andrea is also an excellent role model and provides new graduate students with a peer mentor as they learn how to be effective teaching assistants.

Miranda Klees

Miranda has been teaching microbial genetics and advanced micro labs since 2012, along with several other labs. She was instrumental in reorganizing the advanced microbiology lab by trying all the experiments and recording the approximate time needed. More importantly, Miranda showed a true love for her profession and a sincere interest in and concern for the students. One of her students commented in his recommendation letter for this award that the term “teaching assistant” definitely does not accurately describe Miranda’s efforts in the lab. The term “teacher” would be a more accurate term for the role she has played. Many of her students say that Miranda is “the best teaching assistant they have ever had at Clemson.” Miranda is a graduate student government senator and also frequently volunteers for various undergraduate mentoring activities at Clemson.


 Most Outstanding Student in Biological Sciences 

Thomas Guryan

Dr. Michael Childress describes Thomas as one of the best students he has ever had. Thomas’ maturity and intelligence were exceptional. He knew that he wanted to study marine ecology and was willing to do whatever it took to pursue that career. He enrolled in Honors Behavioral Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, Invertebrate Biology, SCUBA Diving and eventually Dr. Childress’ creative inquiry course in Conservation of Marine Resources. During the summer of 2016, Thomas was selected as a summer REU student at the Duke University Marine Lab. Despite all his academic responsibilities, Thomas is an active participant in intramural sports and social organizations.

Mark Bernard Hardin Award in Chemistry

Rebecca Pontius

Rebecca has worked on two different projects in Dr. Modi Wetzler’s group, the first of which has been submitted for publication. The second is her honors thesis project. The first involves revising the classic, 42-year-old Richman-Atkins azamacrocycle synthesis that is used to make cyclen and many other ligand fireworks. The second follows up on the ligand synthesis and focuses on generating both macrocycle and non-macrocycle ligands that incorporate sulfur/selenium ligand arms. Rebecca is very sharp both in class and in lab. She has played soccer for years.

Robert H. Martin Award in Biological Sciences and Genetics and Biochemistry 

Hilda Chan

Hilda joined Dr. Michael Sehorn’s lab as a freshman and has since completed eight semesters of research in Sehorn’s lab. Hilda is a gifted researcher and not easily distracted. She was interested in learning how to perform protein-protein interaction analysis. Her experiments are technically challenging and she is making exceptional progress. Hilda won first place in Chinese Speech Contest and a second place in a photography contest. Hilda manages her busy schedule to allow her sufficient time to study and maintain her perfect 4.0 GPA while conducting 16-20 hours of lab work each week.

Samuel Maner Martin in Mathematical Sciences

James Stevens

James is a superstar with serious natural talent for mathematics with a 3.97 GPA. James took seven graduate-level mathematics courses and one graduate-level computer science course as an undergrad. It is rare for top Clemson students to even take one, but almost never more than one. James will begin a doctoral program in mathematics in the fall at University of Chicago.

Outstanding Physics and Astronomy Junior

Joshua Hanson

 Joshua has been a researcher in Dr. Joan Marler’s lab since January 2015 and has continued to perform research every academic semester since. During the summer of 2016, he was an REU student at NIST-Gaithersburg, working with Dr. Joseph Tan. Joshua’s main project in Dr. Marler’s lab during his summer research was building and testing the diode lasers that are required for Doppler cooling of trapped atomic ions. Joshua is very professional and focused in the lab. He is an excellent speaker and a favorite of his classmates.

Lakshman Ventrapragada (center) was presented with the College of Science Student Advisory Board Outstanding Member Award.

Lakshman Ventrapragada (center) was presented with the College of Science Student Advisory Board Outstanding Member Award.
Image Credit: Jim Melvin / Clemson University

Dr. Brian Dominy (center) was presented with the College of Science Student Advisory Board Advocate Award. At left is Sydney Paul, president of the advisory board, and Benjamin Emanuel, who serves on the board.

Dr. Brian Dominy (center) was presented with the College of Science Student Advisory Board Advocate Award. At left is Sydney Paul, president of the advisory board, and Benjamin Emanuel, who serves on the board.
Image Credit: Jim Melvin / Clemson University