CLEMSON – Rising senior Harrison “Chris” Moss, one of the College of Science’s most accomplished undergraduates, has been selected as a 2020 Astronaut Scholar.

Moss becomes one of 56 winners representing 41 universities across the nation. The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation distributes annual scholarships to the brightest and most talented college students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Moss will receive $15,000 for the 2020-2021 academic year to assist with the costs of tuition, textbooks, fees, and room and board.

“This award speaks volumes to the faculty and graduate students who have mentored me and supported my development as a researcher,” said Moss, a native of Charleston who is pursuing a double major in microbiology and genetics. “I’m honored to be included among a group of really cool undergraduates – as well as professionals who have gone on to have exciting and unique careers.”

Chris Moss showing a resåçearch poster.å

Harrison “Chris” Moss becomes one of 56 winners representing 41 universities across the nation.
Image Credit: College of Science

Moss credits mentors Lesly Temesvari and Matthew Turnbull with providing him with an array of opportunities to enhance his growth as a scientist.

“Our faculty are tackling some of society’s greatest scientific challenges while preparing the next generation of leading scientists like Chris Moss,” said Cynthia Y. Young, dean of the College of Science. “I congratulate Chris and his mentors, Drs. Temesvari and Turnbull, for this national recognition of scientific excellence and thank them for helping elevate Clemson’s academic prominence.”

Since his freshman year, the multifaceted Moss has contributed to four different research projects in three different departments on campus: biological sciences, genetics and biochemistry, and civil engineering. He also became a member of the Clemson University Honors College.

“Chris has a keen interest in scientific research and eagerly sought out research opportunities immediately upon arriving on campus,” said Temesvari, Alumni Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences. “Chris also spent a summer doing research at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center and presented his findings at two national conferences: the 2019 NIH IDeA Western Regional Conference (Las Vegas, October 2019) and the 2019 SACNAS—The National Diversity in STEM Conference (Honolulu, October 2019). Given this amazing progress, I expect Chris to become a very visible scientist.”

Moss joined Turnbull’s lab at the end of his freshman year and is currently undergoing his departmental honors thesis in this lab. He explains that his project focuses on the effects of certain protein products of a wasp virus, Campoletis sonorensis ichnovirus (CsIV), on its parasitized insect host.

“The wasp will deposit one or more eggs along with this virus inside of an insect host and the egg or eggs will grow into a larva and burst out, killing the host while the wasp survives and develops into an adult,” said Moss, who is Clemson’s only recipient of the Astronaut award this year. “The virus is essential for hindering a host immune response to the wasp egg, and I am looking at the specific biomolecular interactions that take place between the viral and host proteins during this process. This research area is largely under-studied, and this project could reveal unique viral mechanisms or evolutionary patterns between wasps and their symbiotic virus.”

Moss began working in Temesvari’s lab at the beginning of his junior year and has been characterizing a protein thought to be involved in the eukaryotic initiation factor 2 (eIF2) pathway for translation initiation in an Entamoeba species. When under stress, this pathway is responsible for shutting down global protein translation in eukaryotic cells.

“The eIF2 pathway may aid the human pathogen, Entamoeba histolytica, in resisting immune responses so that the pathogen can establish an infection which can cause amoebic dysentery and liver abscess, resulting in 100,000 deaths annually around the globe,” Moss said. “Identifying and characterizing essential proteins in this pathway may lead to a safer and more effective drug development for Entamoeba infections.”

Moss said that during his senior year he will be applying to graduate schools with a focus on microbiology and immunology doctoral programs. He hopes to eventually run his own lab and work on developing creative solutions for combating infectious diseases and drug resistance.

“Chris has demonstrated what we all hope for from Clemson researchers: He’s inquisitive, hard-working, and meticulous in his approach to whatever he’s doing,” said Turnbull, an associate professor in the department of biological sciences. “He’s impressed me since he joined my lab as a freshman, demonstrating a high level of understanding of complex research problems, and a willingness to educate himself about them, as well as an astounding ability to communicate those topics to others. And this is all in an undergraduate! He’s a rock star in the making.”

Students interested in the Astronaut Scholars or other nationally competitive programs should contact the Office of Major Fellowships at 864-656-9704 or fellowships@clemson.edu.

“Although Chris began seeking nomination last fall, the Astronaut application did not submit until a month after campus closed,” said Robyn Curtis, director of the Office of Major Fellowships. “I was particularly impressed by his persistence and grit to complete this process remotely and very pleased to see his efforts recognized by the Foundation.”