By Alex Urban

CLEMSON — Two Clemson University researchers have been recognized by the university’s chapter of Sigma Xi, the scientific research honor society.

John Ballato, professor in the School of Materials Science and Engineering and director of the Center for Optical Materials Science and Engineering Technologies (COMSET), received the Outstanding Researcher Award. Saara DeWalt, assistant professor in the department of biological sciences, received the Outstanding Young Investigator Award.

Sigma Xi is the honor society of scientists and engineers that recognizes scientific achievement. Its mission is to enhance the health of the research enterprise, foster integrity in science and engineering and promote the public’s understanding of science for the purpose of improving the human condition.

The Outstanding Researcher of the Year is an annual award given to a senior member of the faculty who has excelled in scientific research. The Outstanding Young Investigator is an early-career scientist who has excelled in scientific research.

Ballato has been a principal investigator on more than $30 million in sponsored programs, has published more than 100 peer-reviewed journal articles and holds more than 25 U.S. and foreign patents. He is an associate editor of the Journal of the American Ceramic Society and is an active participant on the “Optoelectronic Glasses” technical committee for the International Commission on Glass. His research focuses on the optical and optoelectronic properties of materials and optical fiber fabrication.

Ballato earned a bachelor’s degree in ceramic science of engineering from Rutgers University in 1993 and a Ph.D. in ceramic and materials engineering, also from Rutgers, in 1997. He has been teaching at Clemson since 1997.

DeWalt is a principal investigator on grants from the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. DeWalt’s research focuses on plant diversity, habitat, community composition and impacts of non-native species. She has worked extensively on tropical forest dynamics in Hawaii, Central America and the Caribbean. Her research group also investigates invasion dynamics on reservoir islands in South Carolina and Georgia.

DeWalt earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Brown University in 1994 and a Ph.D. in biology from Louisiana State University in 2003. She has worked at Clemson since 2005.