LUIZ JACOBSOHN first came to the United States in 2002 to work as a postdoctoral research associate at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, but his ideas about the country started forming when he was growing up in Brazil.
His parents knew something about the United States because they had lived in the country in the 1960s before Jacobsohn was born.
“I was raised with the idea that the United States is the land of opportunity, and I still think it is,” Jacobsohn said. “It’s because the country is capable of accepting everyone and, in a good way, taking advantage of the mix. It’s like food. Each different one is a little spice, and in the end, it tastes so good.”
Jacobsohn, with his son, arrived in Clemson as a research associate in 2009 to work with John Ballato on shared interests, core shell nanoparticles and transparent ceramics. He rose through the ranks and is now an assistant professor of materials science and engineering with a CAREER award.
His work is aimed at making scintillators and dosimeters work more efficiently. Better scintillators could mean medical patients would be exposed to less radiation when they go for CT scans. The Jacobsohn team will experiment with the composition and structure of metal oxides in hopes of finding a general rule that guides the fabrication of the metal oxides to help control for the presence of electronic traps. The team includes students from China and Russia.
Jacobsohn said the foreign nationals he knows respect the advantages they have found in the U.S. “These people have an inner driving force. It’s not an easy thing to leave family, friends and culture behind and establish yourself in a different environment. You don’t have that natural support you have at home. These people will continue to have that driving force to succeed.”✲
SOPHIE JOERG learned what it means to be part of the Clemson Family in her first year as an assistant professor when she found herself in a group of eight new faculty members who were all trying to navigate the ins and outs of the University. They decided to work together, helping set the tone as she began her career in the School of Computing.
“It’s definitely been clear: You get hired because people want you to succeed, and they will help you with that,” Joerg said. “Once you get in, people will try helping you. If you succeed, that’s great for everybody else. That is something I appreciate.”
Joerg came to the United States from Germany to work with Jessica Hodgins at Cornell University. She joined Clemson’s faculty in 2012 and received a CAREER award this year. Her research is aimed at finding new ways to make hands and fingers come to life on the screen. It currently is a tedious and time-intensive task, and she plans to design algorithms that will automate the work.
“Once you get in, people will try helping you. If you succeed, that’s great for everybody else.”
The idea for her research came from her experience as an animator on the German TV series “Dragon’s Rock.” Now, Joerg has the backing of a research group that reflects the diversity of Clemson itself with students from China, India and the United States.
“All those people like research,” she said. “In this case, they are attracted to computer graphics research. A lot of people come to the U.S. because the U.S. is still leading when it comes to research institutions. I think that attracts a lot of people. That’s the way we want to be.” ✲
SIMONA ONORI first arrived in the United States in 2004 to get her master’s degree at the University of New Mexico. She returned to her home country of Italy to pursue her Ph.D. and to be with family but felt the tug to return to America to pursue her passion for application-based research. So, when Onori had an offer to work at Ohio State as a postdoctoral researcher, she took it.
Onori, an assistant professor, became interested in automotive-control research and started to build computer models. When it came time to join a faculty, Clemson’s Department of Automotive Engineering seemed a perfect fit.
“I had other offers, but I felt this place was the right place to establish myself as a professor and to create my research group,” she said. “The facilities at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research are great. I had an opportunity to create my own lab. It was a no-brainer.”
Onori’s CAREER award is aimed at reducing fine-particle emissions in gasoline direct injection engines. Her work could help automakers meet increasingly rigorous fuel and exhaust-emission requirements around the world.
The Onori team will use advanced modeling techniques to predict when soot will accumulate in gasoline particulate filters and when to burn it off to prevent plugs and keep the engine running smoothly. Onori said she learns every time she works with her Ph.D. students, who are currently from China, India and the United States.
“What we share is a love for research and a passion for solving problems — problems that are very important to society,” she said. ✲
SAPNA SARUPRIA remembers reading Chemical Engineering Progress magazine while she was an undergraduate in India and finding herself drawn to the articles written by researchers from U.S. companies, including Dow and DuPont. She wanted to work at one and saw a path forward by pursuing post-graduate studies in the United States.
Sarupria went to Texas A&M for her master’s degree and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for her Ph.D. Along the way, she was bitten by the higher-education bug and decided to change course for a career in academia. It’s a choice that led her to Clemson University and a CAREER award.
Sarupria expects her research will begin laying the groundwork for new materials that could be added to water so that ice will grow at a specified rate and temperature. The research could help develop new ways of preserving food, studying climate, cryopreserving organs and protecting crops.
She will be using specialized software her team developed and Clemson’s computing power to speed up sampling by more than a factor of 20. Her approach narrows down the options to the most promising materials, which can then be tested in a lab. Physically testing each possible material would take much longer and cost more.
Two key factors that attracted Sarupria to Clemson were the exceptional power of the Palmetto Cluster supercomputer and the good feeling she had after her interview with David Bruce, who is now interim chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
“A lot of calculations that we can do other people cannot think of doing,” Sarupria said. “I also got comfortable during my visit. It’s the gut feeling that you go with, and Clemson had that for me.”
Sarupria’s academic career gives her a chance to mentor students through the hard work and ups-and-downs they face as they pursue their degrees. Some are international students who have chosen a path similar to hers, saying goodbye to family, friends and familiar traditions to pursue new opportunities in another country.
Like Einstein, Tesla and Bell before them, these researchers enrich the cultural treasure chest that America has long tended, serving as shining gems both for Clemson and their respective home countries. ✲
Clemson-based research center could put a stop to red lights and get motorists moving at the speed of commerce and life.
By Paul Alongi
A DIRECT IMPACT ON ADVANCED MANUFACTURING
As manufacturing becomes more automated in South Carolina, the work of BMW SmartState Chair Laine Mears connects industry with higher education.
By Paul Alongi
Laine Mears of Clemson University is playing a key role in helping advance South Carolina’s reputation as a hub of advanced manufacturing. His peers in academia and industry are taking notice of his efforts to meet the challenge ahead. “The jobs that are created today are at a higher technical level, with commensurate pay,” said Mears. “In talking with companies in South Carolina, I find that these jobs are already here. We just need education streams to push people to greater technical depth to fill them.”
That’s exactly what Mears has done and plans to continue doing.
Mears’ credentials underscore his impeccable qualifications. He was named the BMW SmartState Chair in Automotive Manufacturing just a few months before he was named Fellow of two separate professional organizations: first the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and then SME. He also received the Thatcher Bros Prize from the London-based Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
Colleagues say that Mears’ work has been key in strengthening Clemson’s ties to industry leaders, including BMW, GE, Honda and numerous automotive suppliers. The research he does has a direct impact on how cars and other products are manufactured in the Upstate and beyond.
A growing number of jobs requires greater understanding of technology, as manufacturing becomes more automated and reliant on data.
To that end, one of his latest projects brings together Clemson researchers and Greenville Technical College students to work on a prototype vehicle assembly line. Next-generation autoworkers will be ready for new technology because they are helping develop it, Mears said.
Mears had 10 years of industry experience with SKF Bearings and Hitachi Unisia Automotive before arriving at Clemson. While working, he attended Georgia Tech’s distance-learning program to get his master’s degree and then returned full time to earn his Ph.D. Both degrees were in mechanical engineering.
In 2006, he became a founding faculty member in Clemson’s automotive engineering graduate program, which is based at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research in Greenville. Mears’ position as endowed chair was made possible by BMW Manufacturing Co. and the lottery-funded SmartState program.
Andreas Gücker, vice president for Quality and Total Vehicle at BMW Manufacturing, said that endowed chair positions help retain talent that might otherwise leave for other states.
“Dr. Mears is working on the cutting edge of advanced manufacturing, a critical piece of South Carolina’s economy,” Gücker said. “He is highly deserving of this endowed chair position. The work he is doing is creating the technologies and processes that will directly benefit industry, while educating the workforce of tomorrow.”
Clemson President James P. Clements said Mears’ academic experience and deep knowledge of the state’s manufacturing economy make him an ideal choice for this important role.
“Dr. Mears has distinguished himself as a leading researcher and an outstanding teacher whose students have excelled in academia and industry,” Clements said. “With his labs and office located in Greenville, he has demonstrated a strong commitment to advanced manufacturing in South Carolina that will serve our students and the state well in this new position.”
Mears’ recent ASME distinction as Fellow puts him in the top 2.9 percent of an organization that has 120,248 members. It is awarded by the ASME Committee of Past Presidents. Congratulations came from across the country, including from Zoran Filipi, who also is an ASME Fellow and chair of Clemson’s automotive engineering department.
“This is a high honor that goes to a small fraction of ASME members,” Filipi said. “It is a testament to his hard work, innovative approach and collaboration with industry. This is an honor not only for Laine, but for the department, CU-ICAR and the industry collaborators that have supported his efforts.”
Mears was active in establishing eight courses in the automotive engineering program, many in conjunction with personnel from original equipment manufacturers. The courses address core automotive industry needs and have helped produce automotive integration engineers who have been recognized widely throughout the industry, colleagues said.
His research portfolio accounts for over $7 million in funding. Mears has worked with more than 25 graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, and more than 20 undergraduates.
One of his master’s students, Valerie Pezzullo, claimed a $100,000 first-place prize in 2014 in the MTConnect Challenge 2, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense. The application she entered was a design for an open-architecture platform to detect vibrations in metal-cutting machines so that corrections could be made before parts are damaged.
Mears’ awards include the 2011 SAE Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award, the South Carolina Governor’s Young Researcher Award for Excellence in Scientific Research, and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ George Stephenson Gold Medal. His Thatcher Bros Prize was for a paper he co-authored with Yujie Chen, Cristina Bunget and Thomas R. Kurfess.
He has generated more than 130 archival journals and reviewed conference publications. Mears also collaborated on the seminal textbook Electrically Assisted Forming – Modeling and Control.
Those writing letters to ASME in support of Mears included Ralph L. Resnick, president and executive director of the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining. He said that Mears’ research portfolio has been more than half industry-funded with many sponsors returning for additional phases based on his past work.
“This continued funding directly demonstrates his power for translational research,” Resnick said. “These are solutions that impact a company’s bottom line, but require the generation of new knowledge in terms of modeling, control and information management.
“Dr. Mears has demonstrated exceptional and unique capabilities in balancing these approaches.”
Anand Gramopadhye, dean of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, said Mears’ honors are well-deserved. “Dr. Mears is an excellent scholar and educator,” Gramopadhye said. “He has conducted cutting-edge research and created innovative academic programs that directly address industry needs. He has developed exceptional collaborations and is a leader in his field. I congratulate him.”
By joining industry and higher education, Mears’ work is benefiting the economy and manufacturing while also ensuring that Clemson students are ready for future challenges. ✲
The legacy of a fallen NASCAR driver lives on through Clemson University professor.
By Paul Alongi
Sarah W. Harcum of Clemson University is leading a team that has received $6 million for research that could help lower the cost of several drugs that run into the thousands of dollars per treatment and fight some of the world’s most debilitating ailments.
The team brings together researchers from three states to seek better ways of engineering Chinese hamster ovary cells, which are used to manufacture more than half of biopharmaceuticals.
The potential impact is immense. Products from these cells represent more than $70 billion in sales each year and include drugs for Crohn’s disease, severe anemia, breast cancer and multiple sclerosis.
The focus for Harcum and her team will be on the Chinese hamster ovary “cell line.”
A cell line is developed from a single cell culture and starts with uniform genetic composition that would ideally remain unchanged. But that genetic composition drifts as the cells reproduce, and they become less effective at creating the drug they have been engineered to create.
As a result, manufacturing becomes more expensive, said Harcum, a professor of bioengineering.
“We expect by the end of the study we will have identified some genes that cause the instability,” she said. “What would be even better is if we can prove by modifying those genes we can make a genome that is more stable. With success, the Chinese hamster ovary cell line will stay more stable during the manufacturing. We hope to get that drift to be reduced — that’s the ultimate goal.”
The four-year grant was among eight awards totaling $41.7 million announced by the National Science Foundation’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, or EPSCoR.
Harcum’s research strikes at the heart of one of the toughest challenges in manufacturing biopharmaceuticals.
Biopharmaceuticals are different from more conventional drugs, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, which are based on what researchers call “small molecules” and are relatively easy to manufacture.
Biopharmaceuticals, however, are 1,000 times larger than the small molecules and have structures that are more complicated.
While biopharmaceuticals can treat disease that small-molecule drugs cannot, manufacturing these large-molecule drugs is difficult. They require additional monitoring, control and analysis throughout the manufacturing process.
Harcum and her team are aiming to improve the process not for a single drug, but for a wide range of biopharmaceuticals.
The project is expected to increase patient access to expensive medicines, while helping educate the professionals headed for the advanced biomanufacturing workforce.
As part of the project, researchers are planning to promote diversity on the research team by including several undergraduate and graduate students who are from groups underrepresented in engineering. Also, three tenure-track faculty members from underrepresented groups will be mentored by more senior researchers.
Harcum is the principal investigator on the grant, and she is collaborating with researchers from the University of Delaware, Tulane University and Delaware State University. They are calling the project “Advanced Biomanufacturing: Catalyzing Improved Host Development and High Quality Medicines through Genome to Phenome Predictions.”
Co-principal investigators are Kelvin H. Lee, the Gore Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Delaware, and Anne S. Robinson, chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Tulane University.
Robert Jones, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost at Clemson, said the project underscores the value of collaboration.
“The grant is helping build a sustainable research infrastructure in three EPSCoR-eligible states, enabling each of the four institutions involved to build on each other’s strengths,” he said. “Further, the grant helps prepare a diverse talent pool for the biomanufacturing industry. We are well positioned for lasting impact.”
Martine LaBerge, chair of the Department of Bioengineering at Clemson, said Harcum’s extensive work with Chinese hamster ovary, or CHO, cells uniquely qualifies her to lead the project.
“Dr. Harcum has 20 years’ experience working with CHO cells and has used genomic approaches to study CHO cells for quite some time,” LaBerge said. “She is very well aware of the industrial issues that affect CHO cells.”
Anand Gramopadhye, dean of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, said the project addresses some of the nation’s most critical needs, while building research infrastructure in three states, with Clemson taking the lead for South Carolina.
“By seeking to engineer better medicines, Dr. Harcum and her team are focused on one of the 21st century’s grand challenges,” he said. “They are also using this project to enhance diversity in the talent pipeline. The size of the award attests to its crucial importance.” ✲
Clemson University began the academic year with a total solar eclipse that turned much of the horizon orange. The Aug. 21 eclipse began at 2:37 p.m. and lasted 2 minutes, 37 seconds. While the football stadium remained closed, about 50,000 sky gazers from around the world flocked to campus to watch a natural phenomenon that inspired goosebumps, tears and cheers.