Delphine Dean named recipient of Class of ’39 Award for Excellence

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Bioengineering professor Delphine Dean

Clemson University faculty have named Delphine Dean one of the very best among them by awarding her the Class of ’39 Award for Excellence.

The award, endowed by the Class of 1939 to commemorate its 50th anniversary in 1989, is presented annually to one distinguished faculty member whose outstanding contributions for a five-year period have been judged by peers to represent the highest achievement of service to the student body, university and community, state or nation.

Dean is currently the Ron and Jane Lindsay Family Innovation Professor of Bioengineering at Clemson University. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dean set up Clemson’s first high complexity clinical diagnostics (CLIA) lab on campus to run all of the University’s COVID-19 screening tests. The lab runs over 3,000 tests a day, which includes all of Clemson’s COVID-19 surveillance testing as well as testing for the community.

Her nomination letter, which was penned by Terri Bruce, academic program director of the Clemson Light Imaging Facility, and Windsor Westbrook Sherrill, associate vice president for health research, states: “[Dean] has been a critical faculty leader in Clemson’s response to the COVID pandemic, informing Clemson’s reopening plans. She has been at the forefront of the science related to testing, and this talent and scholarship has been critical to Clemson. Dr. Dean has led a team of faculty who have accomplished the near impossible at Clemson. They opened a lab at Clemson in a few short months to enable saliva testing for our employees and students, something that continues to be very rare in the nation. Dr. Dean is at the forefront on international scientific trends in COVID saliva testing, a skill which has benefitted Clemson University students, faculty and the community.”

Bioengineering professor Delphine Dean in her lab.

Bruce and Sherrill go on to describe how Dean has spent her career working on education, research and national service that maintains the highest ideals of service before self.

Dean earned her Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Her lab leads a wide range of studies focused on understanding mechanics and interactions of biological systems. Her expertise is in nano- to micro-scale characterization of biological tissues including experimental techniques such as atomic force microscopy and mathematical modeling such as finite element analysis. In addition to the basic science work in the lab, Dean works on several applied translational design projects primarily aimed at enabling healthcare in low-resource areas in the U.S., Tanzania and India.

Dean is the recipient of the 2011 Phil and Mary Bradley Award for Mentoring in Creative Inquiry for her work in mentoring undergraduates at Clemson, where she currently mentors over 50 undergraduate students in creative inquiry research and design teams. These student teams work on a variety of projects, from understanding the effect of ionizing radiation on tissue to developing medical technology for the developing world.

“I am honored to be a part of the Class of ’39,” said Dean. “It’s amazing to be a part of such an illustrious group!  The fact that service to the university and beyond is encouraged and celebrated at Clemson is part of the reason I’m always proud to say that I’m part of the Clemson family.”

Bruce and Sherrill concluded Dean’s nomination letter by summing up her life and career at Clemson:

“Dr. Dean’s passion and compassion have and will continue to benefit students, staff and faculty at Clemson University, and she is an incredible representative and ambassador for Clemson University. In so many ways, Dr. Dean’s research and scholarship exemplifies service to state and nation, and her work has impacted thousands. She represents the interest of faculty and students with focus, service and passion. We can think of no other faculty better representing the ideals of the Great Class of 1939.”

The award recipient also becomes an honorary member of the Class of 1939 and receives a monetary award equal to the value of $5,000 in 1989 dollars.

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