College of Science

College of Science faculty and staff recognized for excellence


Several Clemson University College of Science faculty and staff members were honored for excellence during an awards ceremony on April 30.

The awards recognized teaching and research excellence, outstanding performance, and outstanding student service and engagement.

The honorees were:

Clemson College of Science dean Cynthia Y. Young and Ian Cummings at the College of Science faculty and staff awards celebration.

Outstanding Staff Member: Ian Cummings

Ian Cummings has worked for the Department of Biological Sciences for over a decade, beginning as a part-time employee before becoming a full-time staff member in 2019.

As lead Laboratory Specialist II in microbiology, Cummings prepares the supplies and sets up the labs used for teaching microbiology to over 500 students enrolled each semester. A single section of lab often requires multiple days of preparation. One set of labs called “the unknown experiments” requires over 500 culture tubes to be created and labeled with a confidential identifying number. A different experiment for the food and dairy microbiology lab requires beef be acquired and specialized media made each morning. 

Cummings has provided additional training and instruction to teaching assistants and fellow lab prep staff on protocols and procedures with which they were unfamiliar. He has personally mentored students outside of the department whose projects required work in microbiology that they were not knowledgeable about. 

Cummings is an avid learner and eagerly acquires new skills to increase productivity of the labs. Last summer, he taught himself 3D computer modeling and the intricacies of 3D printing in order to make repair parts for lab equipment no longer in production. During the pandemic, he became adept at videography and photography, skills that were used to capture instructional videos of lab techniques students were unable to perform in person.

College of Science dean Cynthia Y. Young and Lee Tessera

Outstanding Staff Member: Lee Tessnear

Lee Tessnear has served as the facilities manager for the College of Science dean’s office since February 2023.

In that role, Tessnear oversees Long Hall building maintenance and renovation projects and works with Science building managers to coordinate maintenance, renovations and space utilization for the College.

Tessnear has a positive, can-do approach to all issues or projects to which he’s tasked. He responds in a timely manner to status update requests. He collaborates well with all Science building managers and ensures he is knowledgeable about all facilities projects within Science, not just Long Hall. College leadership counts on him to give them realistic timelines and cost projects, which is does well because of his experience and knowledge.

“He’s turned what was a new position in our College into one that we can’t do without,” said the nomination letter.

Two women holding a trophy stand in front of a College of Science backdrop.

Outstanding New Teammate: Keshia Kelly

Keshia Kelly, the accounts payable and receivable accountant for the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences and the Department of Chemistry since August 2022, replaced a long-time fiscal analyst and business manager who helped SMSS transition from a department to a school.

At the same time she started her job, Clemson rolled out Concur, a new travel and expense system, that made travel preparation more time consuming for faculty members.

“Starting from her first day, Keshia got to deal with many angry faculty members whose Concur complaints could only go through her, and at the same time trying to do accounting in a software system that was making it difficult,” the nomination letter said. “But I am delighted to report that Keshia handled it gracefully and as a true professional. It soon became clear that Keshia was going to help you, and if you had a problem, she was going to get an answer. While everyone in SMSS still hates Concur, everyone loves Keisha.”

In addition, Kelly helped SMSS’s acting director learn his new role after the unexpected death of the School’s founding director, Kevin James.

Two women standing in front of a College of Science backdrop and next to a plant holding a trophy.

Hattie B. Wagener Award: Meredith Bradley

Meredith Bradley, office manager for the Department of Genetics and Biochemistry, is the recipient of the 2024 Hattie B. Wagener Award. The endowed award is named after Hattie Boone Wagener, a long-time administrative staff member at Clemson. It recognizes an individual who readily and routinely exceeds stated job expectations and presents a positive work attitude.

When Bradley started as the department’s administrative assistant in October 2021, she had no background in the academic world, but she had considerable experience in administrative support roles in business environments.

Department chair David Clayton said he quickly came to appreciate Bradley’s capacity for thinking strategically about what needed to get done, why and when.

By early 2023, Bradley was basically working two jobs for the department, one the role for which she was first hired and the other by covering more duties for the department’s human relations and payroll liaison. When the HR person resigned that summer, it was decided Bradley should step into the role while continuing to serve as the chair’s direct administrative assistant. Bradley has become the de facto leader of G&B’s staff team. She is also managing the move of the departmental offices out of Poole Agricultural Center into the new Life Sciences Facility addition. 

A bunch of people standing in front of a College of Science backdrop with one of them holding a trophy

Outstanding Team, Support Category: School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences Administrative Staff

When School of Mathematical and Statistical Science Founding Director Kevin James passed away unexpectedly in March 2023, the acting director was thrust into the director role with no time for preparation or even a desire to assume the role.

The SMSS administrative staff — Dana Baird, Erica Bagwell, Lynn Callahan, Tara Duncan, April Haynes, Keshia Kelly, Connie McClain and David Reynolds — spent countless hours helping the acting director understand all the nuances of how the school functions. They helped him understand the budget and operation of the School, faculty onboarding, supporting work authorization, staffing schedules and connecting him with key folks throughout the University.

These efforts continued with the naming of an interim director. The team helped plan a celebration of life event for James, which gave the opportunity for mourning, acknowledgement and motivation to maintain the momentum created by the founding director.

“The fact that the School was able to continue excelling at its missions of discovery, learning and engagement after such a devastation shock is really all that is needed to justify this award and recognition,” the nomination letter said.

A bunch of people standing in front of a College of Science backdrop with one holding a trophy.

Outstanding Team, Academic Category: Biological Sciences Prep Staff

Each week, the biological sciences prep staff takes on the monumental task of ensuring the teaching labs are properly supplied to ensure that 4,570 students in 191 sections of 17 biological sciences courses across three buildings have a positive lab experience.

Members of the team — laboratory manager Rebecca Ackerman; laboratory specialists Ian Cummings, Giana Trouchon, Ashlyn Woodcock, Annie Joye and Adriana Qelemati; and undergraduates Sydni Moore, Mary Gorospe, Mallory Garcia and Lexi Zheng — help keep the labs running 9 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. 

They accommodate last-minute changes from professors, maintain health and safety protocols, hunt down hard-to-find items on tight deadlines and budgets, deal with living specimens that don’t want to stay that way and dead ones that someone on another floor complains “smells so bad.” The team juggles waste pickup, reported leaks and stopped-up drains. They calm the nerves of anxious teaching assistants. 

On Fridays, they collect used materials, clean glassware, repair and replace equipment, and switch equipment for the following week. 

Members of the prep team care deeply about what they do and believe in partnering with the faculty to provide valuable learning experiences for students. “Without a doubt, they are all invaluable to the undergraduate teaching mission of the College of Science,” the nomination letter said.

Outstanding Team Honorable Mentions

Honorable mentions went to the Center for Human Genetics Bioinformatics team, the Department of Chemistry teaching labs stockroom staff, the Science Marketing and Communications team, the Science Outreach Center, and the Science Accounts Payables and Receivables team.

A woman and a man standing in front of a. College of Science backdrop next to a plant with one holding a trophy

Excellence in Teaching Award: Jim Coykendall

Jim Coykendall’s passion for teaching is evident inside and outside the classroom.

Coykendall, a professor in the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, has demonstrated excellence in teaching, in the classroom at the undergraduate and graduate levels, during his extensive office hours and as an organizer of math-related events and clubs.

He works hard at cultivating a challenging but welcoming environment for his students and he has a reputation of being very approachable. He mentors graduate and undergraduate researchers. He currently has at least six graduate students. 

Coykendall advises students based on their needs, not just the needs of his research program. Some of his students wanted to go into industry and some to academia, and he helped make that happen. He also recognizes that math isn’t for everyone and helps them find their right direction.

He is the faculty adviser to the Math Club, which he started when he came to Clemson in 2013. An offshoot of the Math Club is the “Math-In,” an all-day tutoring session for Clemson folks who want to fine-tune their skills before final exams. He recruits people from the School to help. Last year, the Math-In helped approximately 300 people.

Coykendall is also involved in other outreach activities, including serving as organizer of the Clemson Calculus Challenge, which is a nationally known calculus contest for high school students. He also handles the Clemson Math Problem of the Week, a weekly challenge problem sent out to the Clemson community as a fun brain teaser. He writes more than 90% of the problems himself, and he evaluates them all and judges the semester winner. In addition, he is involved with the MIT PRIMES program.

Two women standing in front of a College of Science backdrop with one holding a trophy

Excellence in Student Engagement Award: Kimberly Métris

Kimberly Métris, a lecturer in the Department of Genetics and Biochemistry, is committed to innovative teaching through active learning and sustained mentorship in and beyond the classroom.

She developed a thriving Creative Inquiry course in environmental genomics. In 2023, at least six of her undergraduate students conducted field, lab and bioinformatics research, which they presented at college conferences and are incorporating into a manuscript. In addition, she has mentored 30 graduate students in her classes, where she teaches alongside them every day and guides them in best practices as well as beyond the classroom to foster their professional development. Five University awards have been given to graduate students Métris mentored over the last several years.

In 2024, she created a new experiential learning course. 

An alumna wrote, “Dr. Kimberly Métris holds all students to high, yet attainable standards and consistently encourages creativity and cultivates confidence by engaging students both academically and professionally.” 

She recalled a particular project where Métris challenged pairs of students to create a news broadcast to present research and laboratory protocols to peers. The unique presentation method allowed students to not only practice core laboratory skills, but also have creative liberty and simultaneously benefit from experience in cooperation, professional presentation and peer communication, she wrote.

A student wrote, “As I told Dr. Métris, she was truly born to teach.”

woman standing in front of machines in a science lab

Rising Star in Discovery Award: Thao Tran

Thao Tran, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry, conducts research in quantum and functional materials. In contrast to other work in the field, Tran’s unique, innovative approach translates abstract, fundamental concepts of chemical bonding and electronic structure into targeted functionalities of advanced materials. Her research demonstrates a new, transformative strategy for controlling quantum states.

Ambitious advancements — such as faster and more secure communications, missiles and submarines with state-of-the-art surveillance systems, powerful prediction and adaptation models for resilience to climate change and healthy ecosystems, and unparalleled medical imaging and drug design for health care fundamentally — depend on the ability to manipulate the local qubit environment, qubit-qubit interactions and qubits’ phase coherence at atomically precise control. 

She received a 2024 NSF CAREER Award, a 2023 NSF EPSCOR Research Fellowship and a 2023 Beckman Young Investigator Award, becoming the first Beckman Young Investigator at Clemson and in South Carolina. She was also named a 2024 Rising Star in Materials Chemistry Science by the ACS Materials Au journal.

She has received nearly $2 million in research support and has published in 12 high-impact peer-reviewed publications with two more manuscripts under review.

A woman and a man standing in front of a purple College of Science backdrop next to a tree with the man holding an award.

Excellence in Discovery Award: Sourav Saha

Sourav Saha, a professor in the Department of Chemistry, has an internationally prominent research program at the interface of chemistry and material science focusing on developing light-harvesting, and electrically and ionic conducting, metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), covalent organic frameworks (COFs) and metallacages.

Supported by multiple National Science Foundation grants totaling more than $1.5 million, the lab’s cutting-edge research has produced a number of light-harvesting, semiconducting and lithium-ion transporting MOFs, which have been reported in high-impact journals and at prestigious national and international conferences. Saha has full NSF grants in two different divisions/directorates, a rarity for a single principal investigator.

As an independent PI, he has had nearly three dozen research articles published, 10 in the past three years. Over 90% of them were published in journals with impact factors over five. He has also been invited to present at prestigious national and international conferences and at highly regarded research universities.

Saha has mentored 13 graduate students and produced six Ph.D. graduates, three in the last three years with another scheduled to graduate in May 2024. His Ph.D. students have received many awards and have been hired as research scientists at the world’s largest chemical, semiconductor and battery companies.

“His efforts in scientific discovery have been in a number of areas but mostly focused on the use of metal-organic frameworks (MOFs). This is a timely and rich field of science populated by a large number of outstanding and aggressive researchers. Professor Saha is truly competing with some of the best scientists in the world but is acquitting himself very well and making a considerable number of highly original contributions to the field,” a nominator wrote. 

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.