CLEMSON – As one of the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious honors, the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award is granted in support of early-career scholars who excel as teachers in the classroom and researchers in the lab. This year, College of Science assistant professors Hugo Sanabria, Leah Casabianca and Xian Lu have been named recipients of the award.

Hugo Sanabria

Sanabria is an assistant professor in the department of physics and astronomy

Sanabria is an assistant professor in the department of physics and astronomy.
Image Credit: Clemson University College of Science

Sanabria received his award from the NSF Division of Molecular and Cellular Bioscience. It will enhance Sanabria’s research and also help him promote various educational opportunities, such as an educational and training program for highly qualified students and a curricular program that will gain students access to state-of-the-art instrumentation and hands-on lab experiences. Sanabria also plans to use a portion of the funds to create a new study abroad program in support of a globally competent workforce.

“It took six months to receive the final award notification. Those six months were some of the longest months that I have ever felt,” Sanabria said. “Immediately after receiving the news over the phone, I called my family and also some of my mentors. Some of the people that I have followed throughout their careers have been awarded this prestigious recognition, and all have done very well after that.”

Sanabria joined Clemson University in 2014. He is an assistant professor in the department of physics and astronomy where he studies the fundamental principles that allow the protein calmodulin to regulate vital functions in the body, such as heart beating, muscle contractions, and learning and memory.

Sanabria’s award runs from April 15, 2018 to March 31, 2023 and totals $634,261.

Leah Casabianca

Casabianca (left) joined Clemson University’s department of chemistry in 2014.

Casabianca joined Clemson University’s department of chemistry in 2014.
Image Credit: Clemson University Relations

Casabianca received her award from the NSF Division of Chemistry. Casabianca will develop methods for determining the structure of biological molecules that interact with the surface of nanoparticles using a technique called Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectroscopy. Casabianca will also use this award to increase the number of female and minority students in South Carolina who have an interest in using computer science to solve problems in chemistry. These students will incorporate computer programming exercises into existing physical chemistry courses at Clemson, develop a computational chemistry course for undergraduate students, and design lesson plans that combine computers and chemistry for summer camps for middle-school girls.

“I am truly honored to receive this award. I want to thank my students for always working so hard, and the Clemson chemistry family for their constant support,” Casabianca said.

Casabianca joined Clemson University’s department of chemistry in 2014. Her work involves researching how nanoparticles behave when they enter the body, a topic that is becoming increasingly relevant as the use of nanoparticles in medicine and consumer products increases.

Casabianca’s award runs from May 1, 2018 to April 30, 2023 and totals $575,000.

Xian Lu

Lu uses atmospheric modeling to study the polar upper atmosphere.

Lu uses atmospheric modeling to study the polar upper atmosphere.
Image Credit: Clemson University College of Science

Lu received her award from the NSF Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences and will use it to fund her studies of the polar upper atmosphere as well as new educational and training opportunities for students at Clemson University.

A subset of the funds will also be used to give underrepresented students early exposure to atmospheric research by developing coursework pertaining to atmospheric modeling.

“This award provides a tremendous thrust for me to establish a research group and launch my career in an ideal time frame,” Lu said. “I would like to thank the NSF and Clemson University for their support. My group is very excited about this news, and I look forward to the new scientific journey that this award has enabled for us.”

Lu has been an assistant professor in the department of physics and astronomy since 2016. She plans to explore the fundamental processes that shape the Space-Atmosphere-Interaction-Region (SAIR) of the atmosphere, which is 100 miles above Earth’s surface. Specifically, her project will work to detail the two key mechanisms that drive the dynamics and variability of the polar upper atmosphere. Lu’s work helps to make strides in climate evolution and space weather research.

Lu’s award runs from Aug. 1, 2018 to July 31, 2023 and totals $657,633.

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