Eight faculty members in the College of Engineering and Science received awards on May 4 at a dinner held in their honor and attended by their families, colleagues and top college officials.

The honorees were Thompson Mefford, Steve Stuart, Joe Kolis, Scott Husson, Tim DeVol, Naren Vyavahare, Robert Riggs and Mary Beth Kurz.

Faculty award winners posed for a photo with Dean Anand Gramopadhye after a dinner in their honor. Those pictured are (from left to right): Steve Stuart, Tim DeVol, Scott Husson, Dr. Gramopadhye, Mary Beth Kurz, Thompson Mefford and Joe Kolis.

Faculty award winners posed for a photo with Dean Anand Gramopadhye after a dinner in their honor. Those pictured are (from left to right): Steve Stuart, Tim DeVol, Scott Husson, Dr. Gramopadhye, Mary Beth Kurz, Thompson Mefford and Joe Kolis.

The college faculty awards reflect Clemson University’s tradition of excellence in teaching and research. They also honor those who have made or are making extraordinary contributions to improving  students’ Clemson experience.

Here’s more on each honoree in the order in which the awards were presented:

Honoree: Thompson Mefford, associate professor of materials science and engineering

Award: Murray Stokley Award

About Mefford: He is known for his transparent enthusiasm and his commitment to the well -being and success of his students.

In his eight years as a faculty member, Mefford has mentored more than 66 undergraduates and nine graduate students in his lab.

Results from this emphasis in research excellence has resulted in seven peer-reviewed journal articles and 11 international conference poster presentations in which the students are co-authors.

Mefford’s main objective as their research advisor and mentor has been for his students to be exposed to as many meaningful experiences as possible. These include internships at national labs, research experiences at universities, and co-ops within industry.

Students from Mefford’s lab are having a global impact.

They have studied at the University of Western Australia, visited international collaborators in Spain and presented their research across the United States and in Dresden, Germany.

Mefford is a dedicated teacher at the undergraduate level, a facilitator for excellence in his graduate student courses, and a caring mentor for the students within and outside of his research group.


Honoree: Steve Stuart, professor of physical chemistry

Award: Excellence in Science Teaching Award

About Stuart: His goal in the classroom is to convey course material as effectively as possible, while keeping students interested and engaged.

Stuart does this by adjusting the material, and particularly the applications and examples, to suit the target audience.

For example, Physical Chemistry (CH 3320) is populated primarily by chemical engineering and materials science students. This course had historically been one of the least popular courses in those majors, largely because the standard textbooks are all targeted towards chemistry students, and the engineering students did not see the relevance of the material to their discipline or anticipated careers.

Stuart’s approach to this course involved:  de-emphasizing the purely theoretical topics that do not have much practical relevance in industry; developing a set of applications and examples that connect explicitly to engineering; and placing more emphasis on how the theories and models in the course can be applied to a real-world environment.

Stuart uses data from his excellent student evaluations to continually improve his approach, producing students who are more engaged and are able to learn and apply concepts more successfully.


Honoree: Joe Kolis, professor of inorganic chemistry

Award: College of Engineering and Science Award for Faculty Achievement in the Sciences

About Kolis:  He has had an exemplary career in research, teaching, and service since joining the Clemson faculty in the fall of 1985. Kolis’ faculty excellence and scholarly achievements have previously been recognized with several university awards. The most recent was the Clemson University Alumni Award for Outstanding Achievements in Research in 2015.

Last year was truly a banner year for Kolis. He added 17 scientific publications, bringing his total career refereed publications to 230.

Kolis has four additional manuscripts that have been submitted and five more that are in preparation. His H-index has increased to 36 based on his recent productivity and citations.

Over the past year, Kolis had one patent issued, as well as two additional applications, bringing his career total to nine issued patents and eight pending applications.

Kolis has secured more than $12 million in competitive external research funds, including more than $1 million in force during the preceding year.  He has seen his research reach real-world applications through his Clemson spin-off company, Advanced Photonic Crystals, LLC.

Kolis makes a significant impact in helping to prepare excellent scientists for tomorrow’s workforce. He has advised 21 Ph.D. graduates and he currently has six additional doctoral students in his research group.


Honoree: Scott Husson, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering

Award: McQueen Quattlebaum Faculty Achievement Award

About Husson: He was selected based on success in the previous year, evaluated in the context of the past three years.

Over that time Husson has seen his publication performance increase from four papers in 2013 to nine last year. These pieces are published in high-impact journals that have led to about 18 citations per paper.

Invited presentations have moved from 18 to 27 over the same period, which helps increase the visibility of his research program and Clemson University.

Husson submits 10-12 major proposals per year and hits on many of them, leading to a high level of funded research that puts him in the top 10 in the college.

He is an outstanding teacher who is consistently rated as one of the college’s top instructors.

Husson has worked with 25 undergraduate researchers and sponsored two Creative Inquiry teams.

At the graduate level he has advised 10 Ph.D. students and currently has eight active in his research group.

Husson is also an exceptional Clemson citizen.

He has been a part of 18 departmental committees, four at the college level and three for the university. Husson is currently serving as a member of the Faculty Senate. He holds leadership positions in a number of professional organizations.

Husson is an exceptional, innovative educator.


Honorees: Scott Husson,  professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, and Tim DeVol, Toshiba Professor of Nuclear Engineering

Award: Collaboration Award

About Husson and DeVol:  The partnership started 15 years ago when Husson served on a dissertation committee for one of  DeVol’s students.

Over the ensuing years, their joint efforts have grown substantially and provided benefits at the departmental, college and university levels.

The overarching goal of their collaborative research is to develop the fundamental science and technology needed to build a field-deployable system for the rapid and high-sensitivity analyses of ultra-low-level waterborne radionuclides.

Given the potentially serious consequences associated with a widespread release of radioactivity in water supplies, the importance of such a nuclear forensics tool grows with each passing day. Research involving the detection of radionuclides in water requires an interdisciplinary effort.

DeVol’s research group provides expertise in detection and measurement of ionizing radiation, while Husson’s provides expertise in separation materials synthesis and characterization.

Outcomes from their recent collaboration are compelling: approximately $4.2 million dollars in funded research since 2012; 23 conference presentations, proceedings, and technical review presentations since 2013; and four peer-reviewed publications in 2015.

Through frequent group meetings and joint work on manuscripts and presentations, their graduate students and postdoctoral researchers also benefit from this collaboration.

They are exposed to all aspects of materials development and testing, and they learn how to work in an interdisciplinary team environment.

The graduate students and postdoctoral researchers leave Clemson with a competitive advantage over others who have not had the advantage of working and communicating across disciplines.

DeVol and Husson’s collaboration is an excellent model for how to conduct successful interdisciplinary research.


Honoree: Naren Vyavahare, Hunter Endowed Chair in bioengineering

Award: Mentoring Award

About Vyavahare:  Since 2009, Vyavahare has served as the director of the South Carolina Bioengineering Center of Regeneration and Formation of Tissues, a National Institutes of Health-funded Center of Biomedical Research Excellence.

One of his responsibilities is the mentoring of junior faculty members to assure their success as future NIH-funded independent researchers.

Vyavahare has mentored 12 junior faculty members in the college by providing input on their grant proposals, manuscripts, day-to-day activities, and innovation activities.

As a result, the research productivity of these faculty members has significantly increased, and their success stories are accumulating.

Vyavahare’s mentees have secured more than $15 million in research funding.

In his involvement in graduate education, Vyavahare has taken the role of a mentor rather than an advisor. Through his example and tutoring, his graduate students have acquired leadership skills that they are now using in industry, academia and government service.

He goes above and beyond to assure that his students develop the ultimate tools for success and are true ambassadors of Clemson University.

He is an outstanding mentor who is an exemplary role model for all faculty members and students.


Honoree: Robert Riggs, lecturer in industrial engineering

Award: Byars Prize for Excellence in Teaching Engineering Fundamentals.

About Riggs: Since beginning as a lecturer at Clemson in 2014, Riggs has taught multiple undergraduate courses in different areas of the discipline, including design, production, and operations research.  He has also taught a one-hour seminar in professional practice.

Riggs has earned truly outstanding teaching evaluation scores in every course he has taught. These evaluations should be viewed the context of someone who is reinventing how some of these courses are taught, while raising traditional standards in others.

He plans through an entire course, anticipating how enrollments are growing, and considering what knowledge his students will need for future classes and career positions.

As a result, Riggs is helping us to head off one of the biggest challenges in industrial engineering: enrollments that are twice the size of the classes we taught just a few years ago.

Although Riggs has many characteristics that make him an exceptional teacher of industrial engineering fundamentals, perhaps the most important is how much he cares about his students.

He puts forth extra effort to ensure students have the opportunity to explore their interests and apply their core course content to issues that they are passionate about.

Riggs currently has Creative Inquiry teams dealing with healthcare, manufacturing and sustainability.

He is developing independent, critical thinkers who will make up the next generation of engineers, scholars, and innovators.


Honoree: Mary Beth Kurz, associate professor of industrial engineering

Award:  Esin Gulari Leadership and Service Award

About Kurz: Her involvement with the university and Clemson community is amazing, and she is also active nationally in her professional organizations.

Kurz is the current president of Clemson’s Faculty Senate, among her many other roles at Clemson. Some noteworthy examples of those roles include her representation of the Faculty Senate on the Joint City University Advisory Board; her service on the Academic Athletic Oversight Committee; and her work on the search committee for the new associate dean of the Graduate School.

Kurz is the industrial engineering department undergraduate coordinator and curriculum committee chair.  Her leadership and mastery of that role is truly invaluable.

She is active in both the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences and the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers.

At the community level she is involved in the Girl Scouts, the Clemson Aquatic Team, and the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Clemson.

All of this work is in addition to her normal work in teaching and research, for which she has also been honored.