The College of Science honored outstanding undergraduate and graduate students Friday, April 6, at the IPTAY Suite in Memorial Stadium.

The College of Science honored outstanding undergraduate and graduate students Friday, April 6, at the IPTAY Suite in Memorial Stadium.
Image Credit: Pete Martin / College of Science

CLEMSON – The College of Science honored its outstanding undergraduate and graduate students Friday (April 6) at the IPTAY Suite in Memorial Stadium.

An assembly of standout students received a variety of prestigious awards during the event, which featured food, photos and an uplifting video. More than 50 – including parents, faculty and staff – reveled in the festivities.

“We are here to honor the best and brightest in our College of Science,” said Jens Oberheide, the awards committee chair for the College of Science. “Working with the committee has once again been one of the highlights of my year – because learning what our amazing students do throughout all the science disciplines is fun.”

Dean Cynthia Y. Young thanked the award winners for their impressive accomplishments.

“We are proud to have you in the Clemson Family,” Dean Young said. “You represent the future. Your excellence in discovery, learning, and engagement helps us to advance science at Clemson.”

The following students received awards. Two categories had dual winners:

OUTSTANDING SENIOR IN SCIENCE: Sloan Nietert / Mathematical Sciences: Nietert did extensive research in Clemson’s algorithm and computational science lab to optimize the maneuverability of an experimental gamma knife developed in the Physics Department for better radiation treatment. Another research project at the Medical University of South Carolina earned him a co-authorship on a paper, and he was also a software engineering intern for Facebook. Interestingly, Nietert led the software and hardware development for the Clemson Carillon bell tower, which received $55,000 in funding from the IT Student Advisory Board.

OUTSTANDING UNDERGRADUATE IN DISCOVERY: Bridget Luckie / Biochemistry and Genetics: Luckie is a double major in Biochemistry and Genetics. She is an exceptional student on the academic side and also an outstanding researcher. Luckie’s research is focused on acetate transport and utilization of an invasive opportunistic pathogen of the central nervous system that is the most frequent cause of fungal meningitis worldwide.  She has made enough important contributions to this research that she is a co-author on a soon-to-be submitted paper.

OUTSTANDING JUNIOR IN SCIENCE: Adam (AJ) Miller / Physics and Astronomy: Miller is a double major in Physics and Computer Science. His research on ion beams and electronics has already resulted in two papers in prime experimental physics journals, with one of them selected as a special scientific highlight by the American Institute of Physics. In addition to his research and heavy course load, he also worked as a software intern at Home Depot, where he presented his work to the Senior Vice President of Home Depot IT. The prototype for a payment system he developed is now being used in Home Depot stores across the world and saved the company an estimated $5 million.

BLUE KEY ACADEMIC AND LEADERSHIP AWARD: Jason Erno / Biochemistry: Erno is a Biochemistry major with a minor in Psychology. He conducts research on DNA repair, where he makes significant contributions to several projects that will soon earn him co-authorship in several publications. He also conducts undergraduate research in Psychology on stress during simulated self-driving car use, which was published as a proceedings article. Erno excelled in campus leadership. He is an assistant attorney general of training on the University Student Government Judicial Branch.

PHI KAPPA PHI CERTIFICATE OF MERIT: Leland Dunwoodie / Biochemistry: Dunwoodie is an outstanding senior with a 4.0 GPA and a minor in Biological Sciences and Genetics. Dunwoodie has amassed a rich research experience base at Clemson and through summer internships, including two at the Van Andel Institute in Michigan on cancer biology and one at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, the number 1 cancer center in the world. He acquired deep experience running DNA sequencing analysis workflows on the Palmetto Cluster supercomputer and gained a detailed knowledge of algorithm design underlying genome biology application.

OUTSTANDING GRADUATE IN DISCOVERY: Yunhui Peng / Physics and Astronomy: Peng joined Clemson in 2013 after getting his BS from Xi’an Jiaotong University in China. He has become an accomplished computational biophysicist and an expert in protein-DNA interactions. Peng’s research offers novel physical insight into the effects of amino acid mutations and in silico drug discovery, with implications for the important topic of personalized medicine, including diseases that currently have no treatment. His impressive dedication and deep knowledge in biophysics and molecular modeling has resulted in 13 papers in high impact journals, with eight as a first author.

OUTSTANDING GRADUATE IN DISCOVERY: Mengying Xiao / Mathematical Sciences: Xiao joined Clemson in 2013 after getting her BS and MS in Mathematics from Capital Normal University in China. Xiao works on developing numerical algorithms for more efficiently and accurately solving the Navier-Stokes equation and magnetohydrodynamics flow equations, which are important in most any applications where air/water/oil movement is happening, including cardiovascular simulation, vehicle design and ship movement. Solving these equations is famously difficult and can take days to weeks on a supercomputer.

OUTSTANDING GRADUATE IN LEARNING: Huixi Li / Mathematical Sciences: Li was the first graduate student the Mathematical Sciences Department provided with an advanced teaching experience in MATH 4120 class as part of the research training group grant in coding theory, cryptography and number theory. He then taught his own section of Calculus I, which is often the first college math class for many students. Li also advised undergraduate students over the summer as part of NSF-sponsored research in mathematical science, where he not only communicated the ideas but also suggested new strategies for attacking problem.

OUTSTANDING GRADUATE IN LEARNING: Ojas Natarajan / Microbiology: Natarajan was a teaching assistant in the General Microbiology labs where he taught two lab sections – with approximately 24 undergrads in each – for nine semesters. He also advised undergraduate student research, mentoring 25 students over the past six years.

OUTSTANDING GRADUATE IN ENGAGEMENT: Lauren Garcia-Chance / Biological Sciences: Garcia-Chance developed infographics highlighting the role of floating treatment wetlands for growers that are easily understandable. She released them via social media and also a three-minute video that is a short, digestible means of quickly communicating the importance of what she is doing. She also devotes time to environmental outreach in the community and to pursue higher education in STEM fields: engaging girls during Clemson University’s Bring Your Daughter to Clemson Day, with the local Boy Scouts, and Daniel High School, among others.

The College of Science Student Advisory Board made two additional presentations:

  • Bishwambhar Sengupta of Physics and Astronomy received the Outstanding Member Award.
  • Joseph Thames of Genetics and Biochemistry received the Advocate Award.