Rami Major holds Norris Medal plaque.

Rami Major, winner of the 2019 Norris Medal, poses with her mom, Sherry Major (left), and Clemson University President James P. Clements during the awards ceremony.
Image Credit: University Relations

CLEMSON – For the second year in a row, a College of Science student has been awarded the 2019 Norris Medal as the best all-around graduating senior at Clemson University.

Rami Major, who majored in genetics, was presented the award at the 2019 University Spring Awards Ceremony held in the Watt Family Innovation Center auditorium on May 7.

The Norris Medal is considered the most prestigious award given to an undergraduate student at Clemson. Last year, the recipient was Leland Dunwoodie, a biochemistry major at Clemson who is now attending medical school at Vanderbilt.

“The past four years at Clemson and the people who have guided me along the way have been instrumental in shaping my goals, passions and worldview,” said Major, a graduating senior in the department of genetics and biochemistry. “I feel so grateful for the time I’ve spent here, and I’ve tried to give back to the Clemson community along the way through my involvement. It was such a privilege to be honored today alongside so many other incredible contributors to Clemson.”

No stranger to awards, Major also won SCIENCE’s 2019 Blue Key Academic and Leadership Award on April 10. This award recognizes one student in each of the seven colleges at Clemson who has distinguished him or herself in academic scholarship and campus leadership.

Rami Major interacts at the event.

Rami Major is a graduating senior in the department of genetics and biochemistry.
Image Credit: University Relations

Major joined Michael Sehorn’s lab as a junior and amassed a rich trove of experience conducting research on DNA repair mechanisms. As a freshman, she entered Antonio Baeza’s lab and conducted research on the adaptive value of monogamy in symbiotic marine invertebrates. Major has recently accepted an offer to pursue her Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“I was intrigued with Rami from her National Scholars Program interview weekend,” said Sehorn, associate professor in the department of genetics and biochemistry. “Once she was on campus, I rushed to recruit her to my lab. During her time at Clemson, I have enjoyed watching this young woman blossom into a highly inquisitive and brilliant scientist. She meets every challenge with the belief that she will overcome it. I am truly going to miss her as her time at Clemson comes to and end, but I am excited to see what she accomplishes at graduate school and beyond.”

“Rami is a very talented student that has accumulated the most important skills during her years at Clemson,” added Baeza, assistant professor in the department of biological sciences. “Her outstanding personality, attitude, and newly acquired knowledge will allow her to be a trendsetter in her future endeavors as she focuses on the intersection of science and policy.”

Before becoming a Ph.D. student at UNC Chapel Hill, Major will spend part of the summer visiting national parks in Utah.

“I’m planning on doing lots of hiking, camping and exploring,” Major said. “But I’m looking forward to starting the next chapter of my education at Chapel Hill, and I’m excited for the challenge that graduate life will bring.”

In her letter of recommendation, Alison Starr-Moss summarized many of Major’s accomplishments during her stay at Clemson.

“Rami is an exceptional student, both in and out of the classroom,” wrote Starr-Moss, senior lecturer and academic advisor in the department of genetics and biochemistry. “Rami has excelled academically, recognized through her selection for the National Scholars Program. She has been active in multiple campus organizations, including the Calhoun Honors College and College of Science Student Advisory Board, and participated in research each of her eight semesters on campus. Despite her clear aptitude for genetics and research, Rami does not want to commit to a career focused biomedically or in a laboratory. Rami’s passion is ethics, specifically the point at which science, ethics, and policy intersect. Her long-term goals include enacting effective science policy that will advance science without sacrificing humanity. Rami recognizes that science crosses international borders and anticipates the collaboration of scientists with diverse backgrounds working together to solve a common goal. Rami is a student who wants to effect change through science and technology policy and she has a genuine ability to do so.”

Cynthia Y. Young, Dean of the College of Science, was effusive in her praise of Major’s myriad accomplishments.

“Rami Major has seized every opportunity to engage at Clemson – from undergraduate research projects to study abroad to student leadership,” Young concluded. “Rami will be a leader among the next generation of scientists, and we are so fortunate to have her in our Clemson family. As she heads to UNC to pursue her doctorate in Biomedical Sciences, I am confident she will carry some of the magic in these hills with her.”

Other University-wide SCIENCE award winners

Kylie Smith poses with Tiger mascot.

Kylie Smith of biological sciences won the Phil and Mary Bradley Graduate Student Award for Mentoring in Creative Inquiry.
Image Credit: University Relations

Kylie Smith, a Ph.D. student in the department of biological sciences, won the Phil and Mary Bradley Graduate Student Award for Mentoring in Creative Inquiry. Mentors are nominated by Creative Inquiry undergraduates participating in their projects.

“When I found out I received this award, I was overwhelmed by the love and support from my team of undergraduates,” Smith said. “Words cannot express how grateful I am for all the students that nominated me this year and during previous years. Being a mentor through Creative Inquiry has given me such amazing experiences as a teacher and opportunities to get to know these students on a whole new level.”

Smith also won SCIENCE’s 2019 “Outstanding Graduate in Engagement” award on April 10. Her research was featured in an award-winning Clemson World Research Magazine article titled “The Coral Crusader.”

Londan Means, director of academic advising in the department of biological sciences, won the Class of 1956 Staff Excellence Award. This award is presented annually to a distinguished staff member who has made exemplary contributions to undergraduate student success at Clemson University. Means’ name will be added to the perpetual Class of 1956 Award for Staff Excellence plaque on display in the Academic Success Center Building.

Londan Means poses with Saara DeWalt.

Londan Means (left), shown with Saara DeWalt, interim chair of biological sciences, won the Class of 1956 Staff Excellence Award.
Image Credit: University Relations

“It is truly an honor to receive this award and I am grateful to be recognized for supporting students in achieving academic, personal, and professional success,” Means said. “I am actively engaged in and committed to fostering the success of all students, and hope to positively impact them by serving as a knowledgeable resource and continuous source of support throughout their academic tenure at Clemson University. I count it a personal success when students share their successes with me, and this award represents those successes.”

Means also won one of SCIENCE’s “Outstanding Staff Member” awards on May 6. Means is a respected academic advising leader, student advocate, and member of the CU Navigate advising platform leadership team. Her nominator described her as a colleague who consistently shows a willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty for students.