An engineer who has earned six patents in six years and a geneticist developing strategies to prevent tooth decay were named Researchers of the Year at Clemson University.

Hai Xiao, the Samuel Lewis Bell distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering, was named senior faculty researcher of the year, and Vincent Richards, associate professor of biological sciences, was named junior faculty Researcher of the Year.

“This award recognizes and celebrates the role university researchers play in improving society and life through scholarship and discovery,” said Tanju Karanfil, vice president for research. “I congratulate Dr. Xiao and Dr. Richards on their awards and thank them for their tireless efforts to educate students and fuel innovation for societal benefit.”

Hai Xiao

Hai Xiao

Xiao’s research interests focus on photonic and microwave technologies, novel devices and materials, imaging instrumentation and advanced manufacturing for applications in energy, intelligent infrastructure, clean-environment, biomedical sensing/imaging, and national security. Xiao has organized and led several large multidisciplinary research projects at Clemson and currently serves as the principal investigator of seven projects with nearly $8.5 million in external funding. He has published 88 peer-reviewed articles, earned six patents and graduated 10 PhD students since 2013. Xiao is currently mentoring eight PhD students and two master’s students.

“I am honored,” Xiao said. “This is truly a team award. It is a reflection of the many outstanding Clemson colleagues and friends that I have collaborated with. It is a unique strength we have here at Clemson: no walls and no boundaries. Since I joined Clemson in 2013, I have had the pleasure and privilege to work with many colleagues, across disciplines, departments and colleges. That is Clemson culture.”

Anand Gramopadhye, dean of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, said that Xiao is highly deserving of the award.

“Hai Xiao is an exemplary scholar and researcher, but most importantly, he mentors junior faculty members and students,” Gramopadhye said. “He sets the bar high.”

Vincent Richards

Vincent Richards

Richards uses microbial genomics to further the understanding of the relationship between diverse microbial communities and human health. His most recent work has focused on the oral microbiome, specifically the bacterial and fungal microbial communities in the mouth that are associated with tooth decay. Richards’ research has the potential to support the development of novel therapeutics and prevention strategies. He has received more than $2 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health and has published 41 papers, including 13 in the past two years. Additionally, Richards is mentoring two PhD students, a master’s student and two undergraduates.

“It is an honor to receive this award. Many thanks are owed to my family, colleagues, and all those at Clemson who supported me,” Richards said.

“Dr. Richards is an emerging leader and scholar in the College of Science, and I could not be happier for him to be recognized as Clemson Junior Researcher of the Year,” said Cynthia Y. Young, dean of the College of Science. “His research on complex microbial communities in the human mouth will lead to novel strategies to treat and prevent oral diseases. In addition to this impactful research, he helps create signature experiences for our students, the next generation of leaders in Science. We are proud of his accomplishments and look forward to his future discoveries and contributions at Clemson.”

The Researcher of the Year awards were announced during a virtual ceremony Aug. 24. Each college nominated a senior faculty member and a junior faculty member who received his or her terminal degree within the past 10 years. Winners were selected by an interdisciplinary faculty committee.

Senior faculty nominees were Xiao; Francis Reay-Jones, professor of entomology; Todd May, Class of 1941 memorial professor of philosophy and religion; Bryan Denham, Campbell professor of sports communication; Zeki Simsek, professor and Gressette chair of business strategy and planning; Danielle Herro, associate professor of digital media and learning; and Feng Ding, associate professor of physics and astronomy.

Junior faculty nominees were Richards; Rongzhong Ye, assistant professor of plant and environmental sciences; Mashal Saif, assistant professor of religion; Heather Kettrey, assistant professor of sociology, anthropology and criminal justice; Michael Giebelhausen, associate professor of marketing; Shanna Hirsch, assistant professor of special education; and Kai He, assistant professor of materials science and engineering.

“Congratulations to all of our nominees,” Karanfil said. “Being recognized by your peers as the top researcher in your college is an incredible honor.”