College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences; Public Service and Agriculture; Research

CAFLS announces inaugural cohort of student research grant recipients


Students participating in Undergraduate Research Initiative (Left to right): Andrew Purcell, Erin McDaniel, Caterra Heard-Tate, Bailee Hawkins, Jessie Comer, Camille Smith, Texanna Miller, and Paul Millar
Students participating in Undergraduate Research Initiative include (Left to right): Andrew Purcell, Erin McDaniel, Caterra Heard-Tate, Bailee Hawkins, Jessie Comer, Camille Morris, Texanna Miller, and Paul Millar

Fourteen students in Clemson University’s College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences (CAFLS) received seed funding that will allow them to pursue research in areas such as agricultural education, coastal conservation, livestock breeding and crop pest damage.

The students are the first to participate in a new undergraduate research initiative designed to develop their critical thinking and research skills and to expose them to careers in research. Each recipient receives $500 for faculty mentors to use for research expenses.

The students are:

  • Hannah Bailey; Mortality of mesophytic trees due to repeated fuel reduction treatments in the Southern Appalachians; Forest Resource Management; Class of 2019; Greenville, S.C.; Donald Hagan, assistant professor, forest ecology
  • Christian Barksdale; Deleting microRNA miR-33 in vascular smooth muscle cells increases ABCG1 expression; Food Science and Human Nutrition; Class of 2021; Greenville, S.C.; Alexis Stamatikos, assistant professor, nutritional sciences
  • Jessie Comer; Assessing Willingness and Use of Available Services for Early Intervention and Prevention of Psychological Distress in Farm Workers by South Carolina Agricultural Educators; Agricultural Education; Class of 2022; Hickory Grove, S.C.; Dale Layfield, associate professor, agricultural education
  • Jessica Danielo; Effects of post-weaning supplementation of immunomodulatory feed ingredient on body weight and cortisol levels in programmed fed beef heifers; Animal and Veterinary Sciences; Class of 2019; Huntington Station, N.Y.; Nathan Long, assistant professor, reproductive physiology
  • Michelle Fenstermaker; Effects of platelet activating factor on bovine sperm motility; Animal and Veterinary Sciences; Class of 2019; Raleigh, N.C.; Scott Pratt, professor, animal science
  • Bailee Hawkins; Certified South Carolina Grown: Promotion and Brand Awareness; Agribusiness; Class of 2019; Seneca, S.C.; Michael Vassalos, assistant professor, agribusiness
  • Caterra Heard-Tate; miR-33 deficiency in VSMC upregulates expression of cholesterol efflux regulatory protein; Food Science and Human Nutrition; Class of 2021; Anderson, S.C.; Alexis Stamatikos, assistant professor, nutritional sciences
  • Anne McElvenny; Can fear of fire ants reduce pest damage to crops?; Environmental and Natural Resources; Class of 2021; Clover, S.C.; Carmen Blubaugh, assistant professor, entomology
  • Erin McDaniel; Effects of timber thinning on forage quality and quantity in the Great Plains of Montana; Environmental and Natural Resource Management; Class of 2019; Easley, S.C.; David Jachowski, assistant professor, wildlife ecology
  • Paul Millar; Evaluation of calcium and silicon for Botrytis management in gerbera daisies; Horticulture; Class of 2021; Charleston, S.C.; James Faust, associate professor, horticulture
  • Texanna Miller; Ppe-Xap a DNA test for routine prediction in breeding of peach bacteria spot root resistance; Plant and Environmental Sciences; Saluda, S.C.; Class of 2021; Ksenija Gasic, associate professor, horticulture
  • Andrew Purcell; Estimating economic and social impacts of coastal marshes in South Carolina; Forest Resource Management; Class of 2019; Summerville, S.C.; Puskar Khanal, assistant professor, forest economics
  • Michael Smathers; Imaging Starch Granule Formation During Moisture Stress in Pulse Crops Using SEM; Plant and Environmental Sciences; Class of 2020; Greenwood, S.C.; Dil Thavarajah, associate professor, pulse quality and nutrition
  • Camille Morris; Effects of exogenous cortisol on leptin secretion in young dairy bulls; Animal and Veterinary Sciences; Class of 2021; Greenville, S.C.; Nathan Long, assistant professor, reproductive physiology
  • Dorothy “Annika” Smith; Investigating changes in nutrient composition during wilting of afternoon and morning cut oats, with two different sample preservation methods; Animal and Veterinary Sciences; Class of 2019; Dover, Ark.; Matias Aguerre, assistant professor, dairy science

Jean Bertrand, associate dean of undergraduate studies for CAFLS, spearheaded the new undergraduate research initiative for CAFLS’ students. It is part of a program called CAFLS Advantage, which is a commitment by the college to provide students with learning experiences beyond the classroom in order to develop critical thinking skills and prepare them to meet their career goals.

“CAFLS launched the Undergraduate Research Initiative in order to provide students with the opportunity to conduct research under the one-on-one mentorship of a faculty member,” said Bertrand. “Very few students come to college with exposure to research and we want to make sure we give students the opportunity to explore research as a career path.  We need bright, young minds to pursue research and help solve the grand challenges related to food and the environment.”

The students will conduct research on an array of topics relevant to agriculture and natural resources and their specific majors and career interests.

Comer will observe and evaluate South Carolina agriculture teachers’ awareness of suicide prevention resources, practices and the likelihood that they will utilize available suicide prevention programs.

“After college, I hope to become a South Carolina agricultural educator, teaching and inspiring future generations of agriculturists,” said Comer. “I also hope to then implement the findings of my research into my future classroom instruction in order to bring to light the subject of mental health within agriculture and the resources available for my future students.”

Purcell will estimate the economic benefits and functions provided by coastal marshes and wetlands.

“My time at Clemson has taught me how to critically think, which is vital to this project,” said Purcell.  “I am always looking for new data or information and how I can creatively incorporate it into the study so that the values that I generate can be as complete and accurate as possible. I plan on staying at Clemson and working with Dr. Khanal and the rest of the Forestry department for graduate school as this research project has been a great introduction to what I plan to do when I pursue a master’s degree in forest economics.”

Fenstermaker is working to understand the effects of platelet activating factor on the fertility of bull semen in order to find ways to improve breeding success.

“I have had the privilege to take several courses with my mentor, Scott Pratt, that prepared me well for this research project,” said Fenstermaker. “By providing several unique courses focused directly on beef reproduction, Clemson has given me the opportunity to really focus on and fully understand the ins and outs of this project. I would really like to continue to learn more about reproductive physiology and endocrinology after I graduate from Clemson in May this year. I am looking towards possibly going to grad school for similar research or pursuing a career in this field.”

Heard-Tate will use novel techniques to increase the removal of cholesterol from blood vessel wall cells and test whether this treats or prevents atherosclerosis.

“Clemson has prepared me in a number of ways such as in giving me background in anatomy and physiology, providing me experience in a laboratory setting in various general education courses, and teaching me several research techniques that I can incorporate when I create visual representations for conferences and writing research papers on my findings,” said Heard-Tate. “The curriculum here at Clemson, has prepared me for the complexity of my research and has pushed me to become more organized and methodical when I approach various tasks.”

McElvenny’s research helps determine how the fear of fire ants affects pest damage to crops.

“Clemson has prepared me for this project with challenging academics, as well as providing me the opportunity to complete a previous research project with Dr. Blubaugh through EUREKA!, an Honors College summer program,” said McElvenny. “I’d like to continue my ecological research here at Clemson and eventually find a career in sustainability.”

The students will participate in the CAFLS Undergraduate Research Symposium, Wednesday, April 17. The students will give poster or oral presentations with first place winners receiving $300, second place $200 and third place $100.

To learn more about the students and their research, click here.

Want to Discuss?

Get in touch and we will connect you with the author or another expert.

Or email us at

    This form is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.