CLEMSON, South Carolina — How can we keep food fresh with less energy during cold storage and transportation? What’s the best way to manage water supplies during extreme drought? How can we get personalized medications to patients faster?

Seven Clemson University researchers will tackle these questions, and others, thanks to competitive awards from the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development Program totaling more than $2.7 million. CAREER awards are investments in some of the country’s most promising young researchers, providing a boost to their careers and to the quest for answers.

Clemson has experienced increasing success winning CAREER awards. There currently are 31 active projects funded by CAREER awards; 30 university faculty members have received awards since 2010, including seven each in 2016 and 2017.

“These CAREER awards from the National Science Foundation are a testament to the talent, dedication and ingenuity of Clemson’s faculty,” said Tanju Karanfil, vice president for research. “Not only are these faculty working to solve some of society’s most pressing problems, they are providing the highest quality education to our undergraduate and graduate students. The entire Clemson family can be proud of our faculty.”

The 2017 CAREER Award winners are:

  • Luiz Jacobsohn, assistant professor of materials science and engineering. Jacobsohn’s quest is for the most effective material for use in radiation scintillators, which detect radiation in a number of applications, from medical imaging to national security. “More efficient scintillators will lead to a reduction in the radiation dose patients go through in their medical treatments.”
  • Sophie Jörg, assistant professor of digital production arts. Jörg works to make the virtual world more realistic. With the NSF grant, she will develop and refine the complex and subtle movements of hands and fingers. “Virtual reality is currently emerging and getting big. It’s going to be used in all sorts of applications — training applications, medicine and rehabilitation — or just to have two people communicate that are in faraway places.”
  • Amin Khademi, assistant professor of industrial engineering. Khademi is tackling the complex and complicated process of bringing pharmaceuticals and other products to market, and to patients, by developing new mathematical methods for carrying out clinical trials. “Clinical trials are very expensive. My work makes clinical trials less expensive, shorter and more fair.”
  • Ashok Mishra, assistant professor of civil engineering. As a water resource engineer, Mishra is creating mathematical models to characterize extreme drought events “so we can improve water security in a changing environment. Using this information we can efficiently manage and better prepare ourselves to improve our water and environmental sustainability under extreme drought conditions.”
  • Simona Onori, assistant professor of automotive engineering. Onori, a control engineer, is helping make the world a cleaner place. Her research involves multiscale modeling to develop advanced controls that will mitigate emissions in new-generation vehicles. “I will be working with automobile manufacturers and gasoline-particulate filter suppliers to create models and control strategies that they will eventually use in their vehicles.”
  • Marissa Porter, assistant professor of industrial and organizational psychology. Porter received a rare award for behavioral research. Her work focuses on improving the ways teamwork and leadership are taught in organizations. “There are many ways to improve teamwork, but which methods work best for which people? If we can streamline the process of choosing training programs, it will save organizations time and money and teams will be more effective.”
  • Sapna Sarupria, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering. Sarupria is designing new materials for keeping things on ice. She’s using high-throughput screening to efficiently discover new materials that either inhibit or promote ice formation. “Ice formation plays a huge role in the global economy, from food preservation to cryopreservation of organs for transplantation to crop protection and transportation.”