CLEMSON — A Clemson University alumnus who traveled the world and worked at Savannah River National Lab before returning to his alma mater as an associate professor is taking the helm of a department that plays a central role in one of the university’s research priorities.
Kyle Brinkman is the new chair of the materials science and engineering department, the academic home to about 260 students and 17 faculty members. The appointment takes effect March 1.
He is replacing Rajendra Bordia, who is stepping down to serve as scientific director for MADE in SC, a $20-million, statewide program focused on advanced materials and funded by the National Science Foundation. He will remain on the Clemson faculty and focus on teaching, research and scholarship.
Brinkman said one of his first big goals is to establish a council that would help advise the university on investment in advanced materials, one of six innovation clusters identified as strategic research priorities in the ClemsonForward plan.
Brinkman said that materials research is happening not only in his department, but is spread across the university and its innovation campuses. Researchers in the field work to create new materials for uses that range from longer-lasting batteries and safer ways of storing nuclear waste to more powerful lasers and paint that heals itself like skin.
“I would like there to be a coordinated effort to plan materials-related activities, both on the main campus and at the innovation campuses, with our department taking the lead role,” Brinkman said. “Collaborative relations across departments, colleges and campuses will help create stronger teams that compete for funding.”
Brinkman said he is also planning to start faculty meetings that would happen over breakfast or lunch several times throughout each semester. The meetings will focus on specific topics and encourage discussion that is more open than a formal business meeting, he said.
Brinkman said he is also interested in investigating whether the department should start a formalized study-abroad program, similar to one that has sent chemical and biomolecular engineering students to Denmark.
Robert Jones, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, said that Bordia had a successful term as department chair and that Brinkman is well qualified to succeed him.
“I thank Dr. Bordia for his nearly six years of service as department chair and welcome Dr. Brinkman to his new role,” Jones said. “Dr. Brinkman’s research credentials, international experience and vision for a collaborative approach to the field of advanced materials will serve him well.”
Brinkman was principal investigator or co-principal investigator on more than $21 million in external funding, including more than $3.2 million for research conducted by his group at Clemson. He has authored or co-authored more than 100 peer-reviewed technical publications and government reports and currently serves as an editor for the Journal of Materials Science.
Brinkman’s efforts secured for Clemson a high-temperature melt solution calorimeter, the only one on the East Coast and one of five in the country. His research specialty is in energy materials.
Brinkman received a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering and a Master of Science in materials science and engineering, both from Clemson.
He went to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland, for his Ph.D. in materials science and engineering. Brinkman then served as a postdoctoral fellow at the Advanced Industrial Science and Technology Institute in Japan as part of a program sponsored by the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science.
He later worked as a principal engineer in the Science and Technology Directorate of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Savannah River National Lab. Brinkman joined Clemson as an associate professor in 2014.
Brinkman’s honors and awards include: the Outstanding Young Alumnus award and Murray Stokely Award, both from the Clemson University College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences; TMS Young Leaders International Scholar–FEMS Award from The Minerals, Metals, and Materials Society; and the Karl Schwartzwalder-Professional Achievement in Ceramic Engineering (PACE) Award from The American Ceramic Society’s National Institute of Ceramic Engineers (ACerS/NICE).
Bordia said he is leaving his post as department chair in good hands.
“Dr. Brinkman is well positioned to lead the department, as it continues its tradition of excellence in research, education and scholarship,” Bordia said. “I look forward to working with him in his new role. I also thank the department’s faculty, staff and students for their support during my term as department chair. We have a great team, and through our collaborative efforts, we took the department to the next level and positioned ourselves for continued success.”
Under Bordia’s leadership, the department expanded research in crucial areas, including advanced manufacturing, sustainable energy and computational materials science. Almost 40 percent of the department’s current faculty members started their careers at Clemson while Bordia was chair.
The department also modified its undergraduate program and launched an integrated Bachelor of Science in materials science and engineering. The department awarded 57 Ph.D. degrees on Bordia’s watch.
Anand Gramopadhye, dean of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, said that Bordia served the department with distinction and has left it in Brinkman’s able hands.
“I thank Dr. Bordia for his service and wish him well in his new endeavors here at Clemson and with MADE in SC,” Gramopadhye said. “I also congratulate Dr. Brinkman on his new role. He brings with him impeccable credentials and a wealth of global experience. Please help me welcome him.”
Brinkman lives in Clemson with his wife, Mylene, a native of Quebec, Canada who works as a nurse practitioner at St. Francis Downtown Greenville and is a part-time instructor for Clemson in the School of Nursing. They have two children, Noa and Julien, who attend Clemson Elementary and enjoy baseball. The family speaks French at home and likes outdoor activities, including camping and fishing.
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