There are many paths to becoming a Clemson University mechanical engineering professor, but Joshua Bostwick’s started in a most unconventional place.
Bostwick was a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee when he borrowed the book “Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos” to read while waiting to see if he would be selected. He found it so exciting that he decided to go to graduate school, and that enthusiasm continues to burn more than 17 years later.
Bostwick’s decision led to a passion for research and teaching and put him on course to Clemson University, where he recently became one of the Department of Mechanical Engineering’s first Stanzione Associate Professors.
While many named professorships end up going to the most experienced faculty members, the Stanzione Professorship was set up to recognize those earlier in their careers.
“I think that’s a really cool aspect of it,” Bostwick said. “It’s also good to get some recognition in the scholarly community. When you can put that on your email signature line, that really is big and it speaks volumes to your colleagues that you’re doing good work.”
Bostwick received his Ph.D. in theoretical and applied mechanics from Cornell University in 2011. He was a postdoctoral researcher at North Carolina State University and the Golovin Assistant Professor at Northwestern University before joining Clemson in 2016.
Bostwick’s research focuses on interfacial phenomena and soft matter. His awards and research grants include a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation in 2018 to study elastocapillary fluid dynamics.
Bostwick’s professorship was made possible by a $2.5-million Cornerstone Gift from Bob and Kaye Stanzione, a portion of which was earmarked to support faculty in mechanical engineering. Bob earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Clemson in 1969.
Bostwick said he helps students choose projects that are focused, interesting and achievable in the amount of time they will be conducting the research.
“I try to set up each student in a way that they can be successful in a project and eventually take ownership of it,” he said. “At a certain point, it’s their research, and I’m just an advisor. Ideally, the best students will come to my office and tell me what they’ve been doing and what they want to do moving forward, and we have a discussion. It’s more of a peer level discussion, as opposed to me acting like a manager.”
Ph.D. student Chase Gabbard said he interviewed about 10 faculty members before deciding to join Bostwick’s group in spring 2019.
“He’s a big reason I stuck around to get a Ph.D.,” said Gabbard, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from Clemson. “It’s his enthusiasm for the topic and engagement with the students. You get the feeling he’s not just your advisor, he’s your collaborator.”
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