College of Science

College of Science Catalyst Competition will be held March 16


Students in the Clemson University College of Science will show their innovation and problem-solving skills on March 16 in the inaugural Catalyst Competition.

During the event at the Watt Family Innovation Center, five teams of students competing in the entrepreneurial challenge will pitch their ideas to a panel of judges for monetary prizes up to $2,500 and the chance to compete in the University-wide Spiro Institute’s University Pitch Smackdown April 8.

“The Catalyst Competition introduces our students to the world of entrepreneurship,” said Steve Creager, associate dean of the College of Science. “Our student-teams have been working since December to develop their ideas. I can’t wait to see what they’ve come up with.”

College of Science Chief of Strategy and Operations Lili Gehring said, “The top three goals of our ScienceForward strategic plan are strengthening the national prominence of our scientific discoveries, elevating the science learning experience and challenging the status quo. All three are integrated in the Catalyst Competition.”

Each team competing in Catalyst had a faculty adviser and at least one coach who is a Clemson alumni.


Austin Shirley
Austin Shirley
Joel Corbett
Joel Corbett

Austin Shirley has over 12 years of experience working in the health care and biotech markets, including start-ups, mid-caps and Fortune 100 companies in clinical diagnostics, medical devices, biologics and distribution. He is currently the vice president of commercial operations for Diversified Medical Healthcare Inc. He holds an MBA in entrepreneurship and innovation from Clemson.

Joel T. Corbett has worked with Poly-Med Inc. since its inception in the mid-1990s. He has filled multiple positions with the company as it grew from two employees to the present but has always focused on research and development. Corbett holds three degrees from Clemson University: a bachelor’s in biochemistry, and a Master of Science and Ph.D. in bioengineering. He has multiple assigned patents in drug delivery and related fields. As adjunct faculty with Clemson, he has advised and graduated numerous Ph.D. and master’s-level students.

Bethany Acampora
Bethany Acampora
John Lawhead
John Lawhead

Bethany Acampora is the design engineering manager at Poly-Med Inc. In this position, she and her team of engineers and scientists research and develop new polymeric materials and devices for medical applications. Before Poly-Med, Acampora was a technology commercialization officer for the Clemson University Research Foundation. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering and a Ph.D. in bioengineering from Clemson.

John Lawhead earned his mechanical engineering degree from Clemson in 2002. He found himself in the world of software consulting and quickly realized that the problem-solving skills he had learned as an engineering student translated well. Lawhead is a strategic account manager for Hitachi Solutions.

woman wearing orange top
Susi Robinson
Nekita Sullivan headshot
Nekita Sullivan

Susi Robinson built a successful career providing enterprise solutions for various global companies. She is now a senior business development executive at Nikia Dx LLC in Charlotte, North Carolina. Robinson volunteers with Innovate Charlotte, serving as an adviser to entrepreneurs in a start-up ecosystem. She earned a mathematical science degree from Clemson in 1985.

Dr. Nekita Sullivan is a doctor of physical therapy, certified yoga teacher and certified health education specialist. She opened Yoga Therapy Bar in Clemson as a therapeutic yoga studio to provide holistic wellness services. 


Man wearing a suit
Woody Bryan

Woody Bryan has 25 years of experience driving growth across organizations in the entrepreneurship and innovation spaces. After earning his Clemson degree in zoology in 1986, he went on to a Ph.D. in pharmaceutics at the Medical University of South Carolina. Bryan is now the chief business officer at Revolo Biotherapeutics, an emerging global leader in immune- resetting therapies. He also serves on the advisory board of the Arthur M. Spiro Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership.

Lou Kennedy
Lou Kennedy

Lou Kennedy is president, CEO and owner of Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corp. She joined Nephron Pharmaceuticals in 2001 and accepted the position of president and CEO six years later. Along with her husband, Kennedy helped establish the Kennedy Pharmacy Innovation Center in conjunction with the University of South Carolina College of Pharmacy. She serves on a variety of business and civic boards.

headshot of Amy Yoder
Amy Yoder

Amy Yoder is the CEO of Anuvia Plant Nutrients, an ag-tech start-up that enables farmers to implement new sustainable practices that improve farm profitability, soil health and environmental stewardship. For over two decades, Yoder has contributed to the growth of the agricultural industry in key roles with Arysta LifeScience North America, Spectrum Brands Home and Garden and Biolab. She’s also held leadership positions at Monsanto and NuFarm Ltd. 

headshot of man wearing suit and tie
Jeff Pearson

Jeff Pearson advises inventors and entrepreneurs as a patent attorney at Mei & Mark LLP. He is also one of the original team members of Grip Venture Studio, a network of professionals dedicated to helping emerging companies. He earned his Clemson degree in mechanical engineering in 2002. 

On March 16, each team will get up to 10 minutes to present its idea.

The competition begins at 6 p.m. and is open to the public.

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