College of Science; Research

College of Science 2019 awards ceremony honors outstanding students


Student award winners
Ten students received awards at the College of Science honors and awards ceremony.

CLEMSON – The College of Science honored its outstanding undergraduate and graduate students Wednesday (April 10) at the Madren Conference Center.

An assemblage of standout students received a variety of awards during the event, which featured food, photos and an uplifting video.

“We are here to honor the best and brightest in the College of Science,” said Leigh Anne Clark, the awards committee co-chair along with Antonio Baeza. “All of tonight’s honorees are outstanding scholars, many are accomplished researchers and others have committed themselves to special service projects.”

“One of my favorite moments as a Dean is when I get to publicly recognize our students and reflect on their amazing accomplishments,” added Cynthia Y. Young, dean of the College of Science. “Today is one of those special days.”

The following students received awards. Two categories had dual winners:

OUTSTANDING SENIOR IN SCIENCE: Daniel Fox / Physics and Astronomy: Fox is a mathematics major with a minor in physics and an almost perfect GPA. Since 2017, Fox has been working in the lab of Jian He on incommensurate structured semiconductors, a frontier topic in condensed matter physics. Another previously developed research project with Joan Marler in the field of atomic molecular optical at Clemson earned him a co-authorship on a paper. Fox is also currently studying to earn a master’s degree in material science. Fox has performed several leadership roles at Clemson, including serving as a mentor to freshmen at the Calhoun Honors College.

OUTSTANDING UNDERGRADUATE IN DISCOVERY: Adam Miller / Physics and Astronomy: Miller double-majors in physics and computer science, with an almost perfect GPA. His research in Chad Sosolik’s lab on ion beams and electronics has already resulted in three papers in high-caliber experimental physics journals, with one of them selected as a special scientific highlight by the American Institute of Physics. Miller presented his results at the Council of Undergraduate Research showcased in 2018 in front of NSF program managers. In addition, Miller presented the results of another project on 3D-printing techniques to members of U.S. Congress at the “Poster on the Hill” event in 2018, which selected only 60 presenters from a nationwide pool of submissions. Miller will work at Amazon over the summer as a software designer and then will pursue a Ph.D. in electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

OUTSTANDING JUNIOR IN SCIENCE: Erin Mihealsick / Genetics and Biochemistry: Mihealsick is a genetics/biochemistry dual major with three minors in the Calhoun Honors Program: psychology and gender, sexuality, and women’s studies. She also has a perfect GPA. Mihealsick’s research is focused on acetate transport and utilization of an invasive opportunistic pathogen of the central nervous system in humans. This pathogen is the most frequent cause of fungal meningitis worldwide. She has made significant contributions to this research and will be a co-author on a soon-to-be submitted paper from Smith’s lab. In 2018, Mihealsick gave an oral presentation at the sixth annual Cellular Biology of Eukaryotic Pathogens conference, a meeting with nearly 100 attendees from 17 universities throughout the United States. Her long-term goal is to work in the development of cancer drugs and she plans to earn a Ph.D. in pharmacology or cancer biology.

BLUE KEY ACADEMIC AND LEADERSHIP AWARD: Rami Major / Genetics and Biochemistry: The Blue Key Academic and Leadership Award recognizes one student in each of the seven colleges at Clemson who has distinguished him or herself in academic scholarship and campus leadership. Major entered Dr. Michael Sehorn’s lab as a junior and amassed a rich research experience conducting research on DNA repair mechanisms. As a freshman, she entered Antonio Baeza’s lab and conducted research on the adaptive value of monogamy in symbiotic marine invertebrates. Major has been the genetics representative, treasurer, and president of the College of Science Student Advisory Board. Major’s long-term goals include enacting effective science policy that will advance science without sacrificing humanity. She is a student who wants to effect change through science and technology policy. Major has recently accepted an offer to pursue her Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

PHI KAPPA PHI CERTIFICATE OF MERIT: Jason Erno / Genetics and Biochemistry: The Phi Kappa Phi Certificate of Merit recognizes a graduating senior with a GPA of 3.4 or above who has made noteworthy contributions in areas such as leadership, service, and creative endeavors to his or her department, College, and Clemson University. Erno was heavily recruited by Clemson University and was one of 11 students selected out of more than 3,500 to receive a full National Scholar Program scholarship. Erno conducts research on DNA repair mechanisms in Michael Sehorn’s lab, where he makes significant contributions to several projects that will soon earn him co-authorship on two publications. He also conducts undergraduate research in psychology in June Pilcher’s group on stress during simulated self-driving car use, which was published as a proceedings article. Erno is an assistant attorney general of training on the Clemson University student government judicial branch. He also serves on the College of Science student advisory board and was the president of Alpha Lambda Delta. He will begin medical school at the Medical University of South Carolina after graduation this year.

OUTSTANDING GRADUATE IN DISCOVERY-EXPERIMENTAL: Saheed Bukola / Chemistry: Bukola joined Clemson in 2015 after getting his B.S. from Federal University of Technology in Nigeria and his M.S. from King Fahd University in Saudi Arabia. He has become an accomplished electro-chemist in the labs of Steve Creager and Rhett Smith and an expert in nanomaterials and fuel cells. Creager noted that Bukola is one of the best Ph.D. students he has had after 28 years in academia. Smith said that Bukola is one of the most impactful and productive students that the chemistry department has seen in the past five years. Bukola’s research focuses on the development of a miniature electrochemical cell that has a variety of practical and economical applications, including the development of energy conversion in fuel cells, isotope production, gas separation and purification, and desalinization processes. His deep knowledge in nanomaterials and electrolysis has resulted in 12 papers in high impact journals with six as first author. He also holds two patents.

OUTSTANDING GRADUATE IN DISCOVERY-THEORETICAL/COMPUTATIONAL: Stella Self / Mathematical and Statistical Sciences: Self joined Clemson in 2016 after getting her B.S. from Furman University and M.S. in mathematics from Clemson. Her advisor, Chris McMahan, mentioned that Self is one of the most gifted and insightful people he has worked with during his carrier. Self works with her advisor on developing new spatial and spatio-temporal modeling techniques with epidemiological and environmental applications. This type of modeling is important for understanding the spread of diseases, assessing risk factors associated with vector-borne parasites such as Lyme disease, and disease forecasting of trends in other species, including humans. Her work has attracted the attention of several federal organization as well as the private sector. Self has recently been offered a tenure-track faculty position by the department of biostatistics at the University of South Carolina.

OUTSTANDING GRADUATE IN LEARNING: Lauren Stoczynski / Biological Sciences: Stoczynski was a teaching assistant in three different major and non-major 1000-level General Biology labs where she taught two or three lab sections – with approximately 20-30 undergrads in each – for nine semesters. Stoczynski is an exceptional TA, far exceeding the base expectations for her role in teaching laboratories. She clearly keeps her students engaged and actively participating throughout lab.

OUTSTANDING GRADUATE IN LEARNING: Camille Zerfas / Mathematical and Statistical Sciences: Zerfas taught her own section of Calculus I, which is often the first college math class for many students. For two consecutive years, Zerfas’ classes had the highest average out of 17-28 parallel sections, even when in one semester her section was taught at 8 a.m. Having such performance is even rare for senior faculty members. Zerfas excelled in both teaching and advising.

OUTSTANDING GRADUATE IN ENGAGEMENT: Kylie Smith / Biological Sciences: This is the second time that the College of Science has awarded this honor to a graduate student who has excelled in strengthening and engaging with the community outside his/her specific research field in a partnership defined by two-way communication and mutual respect. Smith meets these criteria perfectly by engaging in multiple outreach opportunities to facilitate sharing her research findings in the most impactful ways. Smith is the team leader of the Conservation of Marine Resources Creative Inquiry team at Clemson and has mentored more than 50 undergrads in the past seven years. Smith transplant corals to experimentally test ecological theory, and this approach promises to produce better strategies for successful coral reef restoration.

The College of Science Student Advisory Board made two additional presentations:

  • Erin Mihealsick of genetics and biochemistry received the Outstanding Member Award.
  • Daniel Thompson of physics and astronomy received the Advocate Award.
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