Student behind the saxophone wins top engineering award
CLEMSON — Cassidy Laird, a member of Clemson University’s Tiger Band, helped football fans celebrate touchdowns the past four years by playing Tiger Rag on her alto saxophone.
Now the senior from Fleming Island, Florida, has another reason to cheer.
Laird has won the Roger R. and Laura M. Yoerger Preprofessional Engineer of the Year Award from the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.
The award recognizes the nation’s top outstanding undergraduate engineer who has excelled scholastically and has been a leader in local, regional and international communities.
Laird learned she won when she received an email from David Freedman, chair of Clemson’s environmental engineering and Earth sciences department.
“The first thing I did when I got out of class was call my mom, and I said, ‘Mom, I won that award!” Laird recalled
Laird, the daughter of Steve and Julie Laird, is in the top 1 percent of all Clemson University biosystems engineering undergraduate students with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average.
She will receive her Bachelor of Science in May and plans to pursue a master’s degree at Clemson, also in biosystems engineering. Laird is on target to complete a program that puts students on track to get their undergraduate and master’s degrees in five years.
Caye Drapcho, an associate professor of biosystems engineering, said that Laird’s academic record is even more impressive considering all of her leadership and community activities.
To name a few, Laird has served as vice president of the Biosystems Engineering Student Club, Adopt-A-Highway chair, co-chair of last year’s Engineers Week activities, student mentor and teaching assistant.
“Cassidy is constantly volunteering to use her engineering skills, intellect and personal motivation to make our university and world better,” Drapcho said. “She is highly deserving of this prestigious award.”
Laird said that the international baccalaureate program at Ridgeview High School, where she attended on special permission, helped pave the way for the busy schedules she would take on at Clemson.
“You had to use your time well and keep everything organized and keep it straight,” she said. “I’m the type of person who can’t procrastinate. I feel there is something hardwired in my brain.”
In spring 2014, Laird studied abroad, taking upper-level engineering and science classes at Universidad Politécnica de Madrid in Spain.
“I now can say that I have connections overseas and that I am bilingual,” she said. “The overall experience was definitely more than worth the work.”
Laird said that her dream career is to work on biofuels that could provide an alternative to gasoline. She will receive her award at the society’s 2016 annual international meeting in Orlando, Florida.
Freedman, who also supported the nomination, offered his congratulations.
“Cassidy is an excellent student who has excelled in a rigorous biosystems engineering program,” he said. “Her stellar academic record combined with her extensive community service make this a well-deserved award.”