COMSET faculty

Jeff Anker (Chemistry)

Anker received his B.S from Yale University and earned his Ph.D. (2005) from The University of Michigan with Professor Raoul Kopelman working on magnetically modulated fluorescence-based sensors. After graduation, he was an NIH Postdoctoral Fellow at Northwestern University with Professor Richard Van Duyne, where he developed plasmonics-based nanosensors to measure chemical concentrations and measure binding kinetics. He joined the Clemson faculty in 2008. Anker is also a member of the Center for Optical Materials Science and Engineering Technologies (COMSET).

Anker’s research uses a combination of optical spectroscopy and nanoparticle devices to study chemical and biophysical processes. The interdisciplinary research involves development and bioanalytical application of multifunctional plasmonic and fluorescent sensors and effectors. Fluorescent and plasmonic nanoparticles are increasingly used in cellular imaging because they fluoresce and scatter light so brightly that individual nanoparticles can be easily observed over extended periods. In addition, nanoparticles can act as a platform onto which many components can be loaded. By loading new components onto nanoparticle platforms, new properties are created with diverse applications.

SmartState, SC Centers of Economic Excellence

John Ballato (MSE)
Founding Member
J.E. Sirrine Endowed Chair of Optical Fiber and Professor

Ballato holds the J. E. Sirrine Endowed Chair in Optical Fiber and is a professor of materials science and engineering. He previously served as COMSET’s founding Director as well as Clemson's Associate Vice President for Research and Economic Development, Faculty Representative to the Board of Trustees, Vice President for Research (interim), and Vice President for Economic Development.

Ballato was born in New York, N.Y., on Jan. 9, 1971. He earned a B.S. in Ceramic Science and Engineering (1993) and the Ph.D. in Ceramic and Materials Engineering (1997) from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. His research interests include the optical and optoelectronic properties of materials, optical fiber fabrication, and rare-earth doping for active and passive applications. Ballato has published more than 300 archival scientific papers, holds 33 U.S. and foreign patents, has given in excess of 150 invited lectures/colloquia, and has co-organized over 75 national and international conferences and symposia. Ballato has been a Principal Investigator (PI) on more than $46 million worth of sponsored programs, gifts and contracts. He is an Associate Editor of the Journal of the American Ceramic Society, Topical Editor for Optics Letters and is an active participant on the “Optoelectronic Glasses” technical committee for the International Commission on Glass.

A fellow of the American Ceramic Society (ACerS), the International Society for Optical Engineering (SPIE), and the Optical Society of America (OSA), Ballato has received among numerous other awards, the Schwartzwalder-PACE Award (NICE) “in recognition of the nation’s outstanding young ceramic engineer whose achievements have been significant to the profession and the general welfare of the American people,” the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Scientific Research which is bestowed by the Governor of South Carolina, and annual recognizes “an individual within the state whose achievements and contributions to science in South Carolina merit special recognition and to promote wider awareness of the quality and extent of scientific activity in South Carolina” and the Class of ’39 Award for Excellence (Clemson University), which presented to one distinguished member of the faculty whose outstanding contributions have been judged by his or her peers to represent the highest achievement of service to the University.

Kyle Brinkman (MSE)

Prof. Brinkman’s research is in the area of energy materials including hydrogen storage and purification, electronic ceramic materials for gas separation in commercial (H2, O2, and CO2) and nuclear domains (hydrogen isotopes), structure/property relations in solid oxide fuel cell systems, high temperature inorganic separation membranes, ceramic thin films, and radiation tolerant ceramics for applications in nuclear energy. He received his Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from the Swiss Federal Institute of Lausanne in Switzerland (EPFL) and obtained an M.S. in Ceramic and Materials Engineering and a B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering from Clemson University. Prof. Brinkman joined Clemson the DOE’s Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) where he was a Principal Engineer in the Science and Technology Directorate. Prior to working at SRNL, he was a fellow of the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science working in a Japanese “National Laboratory” the National Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in Tokyo, Japan. Brinkman has been the co-P.I. or P.I. on over $5 Million in sponsored research- primarily from the Department of Energy, and has authored or co-authored over 70 peer-reviewed technical publications and government reports. . He was the recipient of the TMS Young Leaders International Scholar Award (2015), the Karl Schwartzwalder Professional Achievement in Ceramic Engineering Award from the American Ceramic Society and National Institute of Ceramic Engineers (2015), the Clemson University College of Engineering and Science Outstanding Young Alumni Award (2015), the DOE-NE Fuel Cycle Research and Development Early Career Researcher Award (2013), and the SRNL Laboratory Director’s Early Career Exceptional Achievement Award in (2011). 

Phil Brown (MSE)
J.R. Swetenburg, Sr. Professor


Brown is the J. R. Swetenburg, Sr. Professor in Engineering. He joined the School of Materials Science and Engineering at Clemson University in January 2002.  A textile chemist by training, he earned a B.Sc. in 1987 and received a Ph.D. from the School of Textile Industries in Leeds in 1991.

Brown’s research interests are primarily focused on the production and properties of synthetic fibers. Specific areas of interests include the production of hollow fiber membranes for liquid and gas separations and studies of phase inversion phenomena related to the solution spinning of fibers. Additionally Brown’s group conduct research into various aspects of melt spinning including bi-component and cross sectional geometries. The characterization of capillary channeled fibers (CCP), in collaboration with other faculty across the campus, are being examined in many application areas such as: air/water filtration, chemical and biological molecule separations, tissue engineering, cell sorting, oil recovery, the inherent transport of high and low viscosity fluids, as well as acoustic and thermal insulation. Bi-component fibers with specific structure related properties are also a focus area for the group such as those that exhibit Bragg diffraction, are able to act as regulated drug delivery devices and fiber and films that can be optically activated under UV-light.

Additional interests are in the broader areas of textile chemistry and encompass fiber surface modification as well as dyeing and chemical finishing of fibrous substrates.

Ezra Cates (Environmental Engineering)

Ezra Cates received a B.S. in Environmental Studies from UNC-Asheville, and then completed his PhD in Environmental Engineering at Georgia Tech, with postdoctoral work at Yale University.  He joined the faculty of Clemson's Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences department in 2014. Cates' research focuses on advanced materials technology for environmental applications. Specific topics of interest include UVC-emitting materials for disinfection and anti-fouling, photocatalysis, and applications of ionizing radiation to membrane processes and advanced oxidation.

George Chumanov (Chemistry)

George Chumanov is a Professor of Analytical Chemistry at Clemson University. He received his B.S. at Moscow Engineering Physics Institute and his Ph.D. (1988) from Moscow State University, working with Professor Edward Manykin in the field of optics and spectroscopy of biomolecules. He was a Postdoctoral Associate at Iowa State University with Professor T. M. Cotton, conducting research in bioanalytical applications of Raman spectroscopy. Most recently, Chumanov worked at Ames Laboratory USDOE, where he studied photoinduced electron transfer processes at interfaces. 

Chumanov's current research consists of three parts: the preparation and modification of different nanoparticles, including one-, two- and three-dimensional regular structures; the investigation of their properties using different spectrochemical techniques together with optical, electron, atomic force and scanning tunneling microscopy; and the development of new materials and devices for environmental and biomedical diagnostic applications. His concentration is on metal, metal/semiconductor and metal/dielectric hybrid nanoparticles, which exhibit unique optical properties due to the excitation of so-called plasmon resonances (plasmons). Plasmons can be effectively tuned by changing the size, shape, composition and local environment of nanoparticles, making them the ideal building blocks for the next generation of optical materials, electronic and photonic devices.

Stephen Creager (Chemistry)

Stephen Creager earned a PhD in chemistry from the University of North Carolina working in the general area of electrochemistry.  He worked for two years as a postdoctoral scientist at the University of Texas in the general area of photoelectrochemistry before accepting his first faculty position at Indiana University. He has been a Clemson chemistry faculty member since 1995.  His research interests relate to electrochemical phenomena as they are involved in electrical energy storage (e.g. rechargeable batteries) and conversion (e.g. fuel cells and electrolysis cells).   He is particularly interested in fluoropolymer electrolytes for batteries and fuel cells, and has published extensively over the past 15 years in this area, usually in collaboration with co-workers at Clemson with fluoropolymer synthesis expertise.  He is also interested in the behavior of mesoporous and nanoporous materials as catalysts supports and as part of mixed ionic / electronic conduction (MIEC) materials in battery and fuel cell electrodes.  

Liang Dong (ECE)

Prior to joining Clemson University, Liang Dong served as senior technical manager at IMRA America Incorporated, R&D director at Lightwaves2020 Incorporated and R&D manager at Corvis Incorporated. He also worked as senior scientist at Corning Incorporated and managed optical fiber fabrication activities at Southampton University. Dong has over 20 years of experience in research and development in photonics and optical fibers, covering a wide range of topics in materials, designs, simulations, photosensitive processes, nonlinear processes, optical amplifiers, lasers, active/passive optical devices and system integrations for wide range applications such as telecommunications, industrial machining, medical and sensing. He is the author of several invited articles and book chapters and has given a large number of invited talks at international conferences. He has published over 200 papers and has over 20 granted patents. He has also served as referee for a large number of journals in optics and telecommunications, member of conference committees, associate editor for IEEE Photonics Technology Letters and guest editor for Optical Fiber Technology. He currently serves as associated editor for IEEE Quantum Electronics, program chair for OSA topical meeting on Specialty Optical Fibers (SOF), and on program committees of Optical Fiber Communications Conference (OFC) and Advanced Solid State Photonics (ASSP).

In addition to his ongoing interests in optical communications, his current focus is on development of specialty optical fibers for high power fiber lasers as well as design and construction of robust practical high power fiber laser systems for industrial, medical and defense applications.

See also: and

Steve Foulger (MSE)
Founding Member
Gregg-Graniteville Endowed Chair and Professor

The Gregg-Graniteville Endowed Chair and Professor of Materials Science at Clemson University, Foulger is a founding member of COMSET. He received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1990 and a Ph.D. in Materials Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1996. As a graduate student under the guidance of Professor Gregory Rutledge, he explored the structural characteristics of the disordered state of liquid crystalline polymers through molecular simulation. Before coming to Clemson, he served as a polymer scientist in the Division of Research, Development and Engineering of the Italian company Pirelli Tyres/Cables and Systems. 

Foulger's current research focuses on the development, characterization, and application of dielectric, semiconductor, and metallic nanomaterials. These particles are of interest not only because they can be used to make very small structures, but also because the commonly understood properties of ordinary bulk materials are dramatically different at the nano-length scale. Foulger is part of a multi-disciplinary team transitioning the basic science of nanomaterials into a technology that can be exploited in the development of novel optical and electronic devices.

Rachel Getman (Chemical Engineering)

Rachel Getman earned dual BS degrees in Chemical Engineering and Business Administration from Michigan Technological University in 2004. From there, she went to the University of Notre Dame, where she earned her PhD in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering studying oxidation chemistry over transition metal surfaces. Getman then moved to Northwestern University as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow, where she worked on problems involving adsorption in metal-organic frameworks (MOFs).

Getman is currently interested in catalysis and adsorption. Some of the projects that her group is pursuing are: understanding the enthalpic and entropic influences that solvation has on the activity of heterogeneous catalysts, designing highly selective catalysts encapsulated by metal-organic frameworks, and designing finely tuned catalysts supported on metal-organic frameworks for selective oxidation and natural gas upgrading. Getman's group is also dappling in projects involving adsorption and catalyst seeding on iron oxide surfaces, adsorption of metal ions on mineral surfaces, and catalytic remediation of nitrates and other pollutants from water. You can read more about her research on her website:

Bruce Gao (Bioengineering)

Gao, an Associate Professor of Bioengineering, received a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Miami in 1999. His research interests include optical imaging, microfabrication and cell-ECM interactions.

Luiz G. Jacobsohn (MSE)

Dr. Jacobsohn obtained a B.Sc. in Physics in 1992, a Master degree in Materials and Metallurgical Engineering in 1994, and a D.Sc. in Physics in 1999, all from the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He joined the Materials Science and Technology Division of Los Alamos National Laboratory in 2002 as a post-doctoral research associate, and in 2005 was converted to limited term technical staff member in the same Division. In 2009, he joined Clemson University’s Department of Materials Science as a research faculty. Presently, he is assistant professor with the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and a researcher affiliated with the Center for Optical Materials Science and Engineering Technologies, COMSET, and the Center for Nuclear Environmental Engineering Sciences and Radioactive Waste Management, NEESRWM. Dr. Jacobsohn’s current research interests are in the areas of scintillators, dosimeters, and luminescent materials, nanomaterials and thin films. He has more than 17 years of experience in materials synthesis, processing and characterization and has authored and co-authored 1 patent issued, 1 book chapter, and 102 publications that received more than 1300 citations to date. He co-chaired the 6th International Workshop on Photoluminescence in Rare Earths: Photonic Materials and Devices (PRE’16) in 2016, and was the Managing Guest Editor of the conference proceedings to be published as a special issue of Optical Materials. His research is or has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, Savannah River National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and the South Carolina Space Grant Consortium through a fellowship to one of his undergraduate students. Dr. Jacobsohn is the recipient of the prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER award in 2017.

SmartState, SC Centers of Economic ExcellenceEric Johnson (ECE)
PalmettoNet Endowed Chair in Optoelectronics

As the PalmettoNet Endowed Chair in Optoelectronics, Eric Johnson serves as the head of the South Carolina SmartState Center of Economic Excellence in Optoelectronics. Before joining Clemson, Johnson held a joint appointment as a Professor of Physics and Optical Science as well as Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where he also served as the Director of the Center for Optoelectronics and Optical Communications. He was previously an Associate Professor at the College of Optics (Tenured) and Photonics/CREOL at the University of Central Florida, and was the Vice President of Research and Development at Digital Optics Corporation. Johnson has also held various other positions in industry for development, engineering, and management.

Johnson has served on the Board of Directors for SPIE and has served on various committees for scholarship, conferences, and technical programs within SPIE. He is currently an Ex-Officio member on IEEE’s EDS Optoelectronic Devices Committee. He was also the previous Chair for the Optics in Information Science Division of the Optical Society of America (OSA) and the former OSA Technical Group Chair for Holography and Diffractive Optics. He is currently a Topical Editor for Applied Optics and the previous Associate Editor for SPIE's Journal of MEMS. He is a Fellow of OSA, SPIE, and a Senior Member of IEEE. Johnson has a PhD in Electrical Engineering from the University of Alabama at Huntsville, MS in Electrical Sciences from the University of Central Florida, and BS Physics from Purdue University.

Johnson's research spans the area of micro-optics and nano-photonics, with particular emphasis on active and passive photonic devices. Some of his major innovations include the development of methods for fabricating 3-Dimensional micro- and nano-optics (Meta-Optics), high power lasers, novel integrated fiber beam shaping devices utilizing multimode interference, sensors, fiber lasers, data communications, and passive optics for spectral and polarization filtering. He has over 130 publications in the field with 12 issued patents. He has supervised 9 PhD students through their PhD completion and currently supervises four others in Optics and Electrical Engineering. He has received over $15,000,000 in externally funded university and small business research. He was a recipient of NSF's CAREER Award and has been funded by DARPA, AFOSR, ONR, and numerous industrial organizations.

Molly Kennedy (MSE)

Molly Kennedy received her Ph.D. in Materials Science from Washington State University and she joined the Clemson University School of Materials Science and Engineering later the same year (2007).  Her research group focuses on the mechanical response of thin films and interfaces, specifically those used found in biological systems, traditional and flexible microelectronic systems and nanocomposites. Using the fabrication facilities at COMSET and at collaborating labs to fabricate and prepare these systems, her group characterizes how small feature sizes influence both deformation mechanisms and also failure of these structures. She maintains a diverse research group consisting of graduate students, undergraduates and also high school students. To find out more about her group’s research, visit

In addition to research, Kennedy is also dedicated to engineering education and runs the Research Experience for Undergraduates site "Interfaces and Surfaces: Exploring and Experiencing Science" ( and is the faculty advisor of the Material Advantage undergraduate chapter (  These activities allow her to excite young engineers about the possibilities within materials engineering.  

Kennedy also is an active professional member of ASM and TMS.  She is currently the vice-chair of the TMS Mechanical Behavior committee and the co-chair of ASM's Materials Radio. She was honored with one of the 2008 TMS Young Leader Awards for her efforts.

Goutam Koley (ECE)

Dr. Goutam Koley received his B. Tech. degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, in 1998, M.S. degree from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, in 1999, and Ph.D. degree from Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, in 2003. Following his graduation, he joined the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of South Carolina, Columbia, as an Assistant Professor. He was an Associate Professor there from 2009 to 2014, during which time he also served as the Graduate Director for 3 years. He joined Clemson University in 2014 as a Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and is currently associated with the Center for Optical Materials Science and Engineering Technologies (COMSET). Dr. Koley was also a visiting faculty at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 2006, and University of Alberta, Canada, in 2012.

Dr. Koley has authored or co-authored more than 50 refereed journal articles, 2 book chapters, and more than 110 conference proceedings and presentations. His research has also resulted in 3 issued patents and 4 invention disclosures. Dr. Koley’s research has been supported by federal funding agencies including the NSF, DOD and NASA, as well as by private industries. Dr. Koley received the National Science Foundation CAREER Award in 2009, as well as several awards from the University of South Carolina for excellence in research. Dr. Koley is a co-founder of 3 start-up companies, a senior member of the IEEE and a member of the APS. He is a reviewer for more than 25 journals, a regular reviewer for NSF and DOE, and is actively involved in organizing IEEE Sensors, IEEE Nano, and IEEE Nanoscale Materials and Devices Conferences.  See also:

Joe Kolis (Chemistry)
Founding Member

Joe Kolis is a professor of Inorganic Chemistry at Clemson University. Before joining the faculty in 1985, he earned his B.S. at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 1979 and his Ph.D. at Northwestern University in 1984, working in organometallic chemistry with Professors D.F. Shriver and F. Basolo. He conducted postdoctoral research at McMaster University with Professor R. J. Gillespie. 

Kolis's laboratory group studies the synthesis and chemistry of novel inorganic compounds that demonstrate unusual structures and properties. The group is particularly interested in chemistry under very unusual reaction conditions, such as with very high temperatures and pressures or in exotic solvents. One area of interest is the synthesis of solid-state inorganic compounds in supercritical fluids. When water or any other fluid is heated to very high temperatures and pressures (>400¡C and 2000 atmospheres), it adopts chemical properties that are unknown under any other circumstance. The technique is an extension of the natural processes occurring deep in the earth in hydrothermal vents.

Kostya Kornev (MSE)

Kostya Kornev is an Associate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering. He received his M.S. in Mechanics and Mathematics (1983) and his Ph.D. in Physics and Mathematics (1988), both from Kazan State University (USSR). His Micro and Nanofluidic Systems Lab is working on the development of fundamental principles of fiber-based nanofluidics inspired by the lepidopteran fluidic system. The research helps develop a new class of fiber-based devices capable of probing and transporting previously impossible-to-reach liquids, such as those drawn from a single cell or tissue. The basic principles can be used in a wide range of absorbent materials, as in applications requiring low-volume fluid retrieval and analysis coupled with controlled manipulation, such as environmental monitoring and biomedical and forensic probing. 

Kornev's research interests include: biomechanics of insect feeding, wetting and capillary phenomena, magnetic phenomena in nanocomposites, optical and magneto-optical effects, and interactions of strong electromagnetic fields with materials.

See also:

Igor Luzinov (MSE)

Igor Luzinov received a M.S. in Chemical Engineering and Technology in 1985 and a Ph.D. in Polymer Chemistry in 1990 from Lviv Polytechnic Institute (Ukraine). Before joining the faculty of Clemson University, he served as a Senior Research Scientist at Physical Chemistry Institute (the National Academy of Science of Ukraine), a NATO Research Fellow at Center Education and Research on Macromolecules (University of Liege, Belgium) and a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Iowa State and Western Michigan Universities.

The research program of Luzinov's group at COMSET is focused on fundamental and applied research problems in nanofabrication of thin polymer films and their use for multi-component polymer systems. The main goals of the program are to build submicron polymer films with desired structure and properties; to determine the correlation between the structure and properties of the films; and to use the synthesized layers for interfacial modification of traditional polymer systems and the generation of new materials for advanced applications. 

Jason McNeill (Chemistry)

McNeill earned a B.S. in Chemistry (1991) from Northern Illinois University and a Ph.D. (1999) from the University of California at Berkeley. He conducted postdoctoral research at the University of Texas at Austin. In 2006 he received the CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation. His research interests include fluorescent “polymer dot” nanoparticles and intracellular single molecule dynamics.

Laine Mears (Automotive Engineering)

Laine Mears is an Associate Professor and founding faculty member in the Automotive Engineering department at Clemson University, teaching and carrying out projects at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research.  He teaches modeling and analysis of automotive manufacturing processes, quality systems and quality tools, and performs research in manufacturing quality systems, Intelligent Machining Systems, manufacturing process design and control, and manufacturing equipment diagnostics. He has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles, and is the recipient of the NSF CAREER award, SAE Ralph Teetor Educational Award, the South Carolina Governor’s Young Researcher Award for Excellence in Scientific Research and the IMECHE George Stephenson Gold Medal.

Mears has over 10 years’ industry experience, holding positions with Hitachi Automotive and SKF Bearings both as Manufacturing Engineer and Engineering Manager in a high-volume precision manufacturing environment. Applicable work in industry includes leading quality implementation teams for QS-9000 and ISO-TS-16949 quality systems, power optimization of hard machining processes, and startup of a new bulk deformation rolling process.  Mears has a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Virginia Tech and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in mechanical engineering from Georgia Tech.  He is a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and a Senior Member of both the Society of Manufacturing Engineers and the American Society for Quality.  He is an ASQ Certified Quality Engineer (CQE), BMW Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, and a licensed Professional Engineer.

Thompson Mefford (MSE)

Mefford graduated in 2003 with an honors degree in Textile and Polymer Chemistry and a minor in Philosophy from Clemson University. He then attended Virginia Tech, where he earned his Ph.D. in Macromolecular Science and Engineering in 2007. For his Ph.D., he worked on the development of treatments for retinal detachment using hydrophobic ferrofluids. Before returning to Clemson, Mefford developed methods for the fabrication and functionalization of microfluidic devices as a Post-doctoral Researcher for The Ohio State University Department of Chemistry.

Mefford joined the faculty of the School of Material Science and Engineering at Clemson in fall 2008. His research focuses on developing stable, polymer-iron oxide nanoparticle complexes and composites for biomedical applications. These applications include: developing materials for magnetic hyperthermia, MRI contrast agents and drug delivery systems. He is also currently involved in collaborations with the Biology, Bioengineering, Chemical Engineering, and the Chemistry departments. In addition, he is also working with the restoration team at the Clemson Conservation Center on preservation techniques for the H. L. Hunley.

In his free time, Mefford is found running, backpacking, gardening and homebrewing. 
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Fei Peng (MSE) 
Peng is currently an assistant professor of Materials Science and Engineering. He received the Ph.D. from the Georgia Institute of Technology and B.S. from Tsinghua University (China). Prior to joining Clemson, Peng’s research was focused on the sintering of ultra-high temperature ceramics and the high-temperature oxidation resistance of borides and carbides. Peng’s current research is focused on the sol-gel processing of ceramic fibers and the directional crystallization of single crystal fiber materials. These materials have a wide use in lasers, structure reinforcement, and functional devices.

Srikanth Pilla (Automotive Engineering)

Pilla is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Automotive Engineering at Clemson University and holds an affiliated appointment in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. He received PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2009. He then obtained a postdoctoral training from the department of Civil Engineering at Stanford University. Prior to joining Clemson University, Pilla worked as an Assistant Scientist at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is an active member of numerous professional organizations including Society of Plastics Engineers, Society of Automotive Engineers, and Sigma Xi. During his carrier, he published over 70 research papers, is an author of 7 book chapters, edited the world’s leading handbook in bioplastics and biocomposites and 3 Society of Automotive Engineers-Progress in Technology Series books. He also chaired and organized several technical sessions at SAE World Congress and SPE-ANTEC. Pilla currently serves as an Associate Editor of the SAE International Journal of Materials and Manufacturing and on the boards of Journal of Renewable Materials as well as the Society of Plastics Engineers Injection Molding Division. Professor Pilla’s research focuses on fundamental understanding of the synthesis-processing-structure-property relationships in polymers, biopolymers, polymer derived ceramics, multifunctional composites, thermoelectric materials, nanocomposites, microcellular foams and LCA modeling and analysis.

Ramakrishna Podila (Physics)

Dr. Podila obtained his Ph.D. in 2011 in condensed matter physics from Clemson University. His postdoctoral research was conducted at the Brody School of Medicine (2011 – 2013) on understanding the biophysical mechanism involved in the immune response following exposure to nanomaterials using optical spectroscopy. He is now an assistant professor of physics at Clemson University. His research interests are very wide and include nanomaterial synthesis and characterization, energy storage, non-linear optics, and nano-biophysics. Dr. Podila has published more than 50 peer-reviewed articles in high-impact journals including Advanced Materials, Advanced Functional Materials, Nano Letters, and ACS Nano. He serves as an editorial board member for American Journal of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology.

Brian Powell (Environmental Engineering)
Fjeld Professor in Nuclear Environmental Engineering and Science

Dr. Brian A. Powell has expertise in the understanding and prediction of the physical, chemical, and biological processes which govern the mobility of radionuclides in natural and engineered systems through his research in the Department of Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences at Clemson University as well as previous work at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He has a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Montevallo, and M.S. and Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering and Science from Clemson University. He holds memberships in the American Chemical Society, American Geophysical Union, Geological Society of America, Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors, and Sigma Xi. At Clemson University, Dr. Powell teaches courses in Actinide Environmental Chemistry, Environmental Radiation Protection (Lecture and Laboratory courses), Introductory Health Physics, Geochemistry, and Geochemical Reaction Modeling.

His research focuses on biogeochemical processes controlling radionuclide behavior in the environment such as sorption by minerals, interactions with nano-colloids, complexation by organic ligands, and interactions with microorganisms. He has published over 30 refereed journal publications,16 research reports, and made over 50 technical presentations on these topical areas. He has conducted sponsored research in a wide range of projects dealing with topics of nuclear forensics, evaluation of nanoparticle behavior, sorption and environmental transport of plutonium, development of radiation detection and radiation detection laboratory courses, iodine, radium, strontium geochemistry in wetland and subsurface sediments, radionuclide geochemistry of saltstone and solid waste performance assessments at the Savannah River Site, measurement of thermodynamic parameters supporting advanced fuel cycle chemistry, and related topics. These research projects have received over $6M in funding from the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Nuclear Security Agency, and Savannah River Nuclear Services (through the South Carolina Universities Education and Research Foundation). The knowledge gained from this work can be used to evaluate risk posed by subsurface contamination, to design remediation strategies for contaminated sites, and to facilitate the use of safe disposal practices.  See also:

Apparao Rao (Physics)
R. A. Bowen Professor of Physics


Apparao Rao is the R. A. Bowen Professor of Physics and a Fellow of the American Physical Society. His laboratory is dedicated to understanding the atomic, magnetic, electrical, optical, and biophysical/biochemical properties of micro- and nano-structured materials. His research interests include the characterization and applications of carbon nanotubes, semiconducting nanobelts, nanowires and thermoelectric materials. His group's strength lies in the ability to synthesize several nano-structured materials (using various growth techniques such as electrical arc, chemical vapor deposition and pulsed laser vaporization) and explore the fundamental physics in nanostructured systems (using a wide range of characterization techniques such as Raman scattering, infrared, UV-visible, fluorescence, non-linear optical spectroscopy, harmonic detection of resonance method, atomic force microscopy, electron microscopy and electrical transport measurements).

See also:

Judson Ryckman (ECE)

Dr. Judson Ryckman received the B.E. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering in 2008 and 2013, respectively, from Vanderbilt University.  Through his research he has tackled problems in photonics spanning areas in nanofabrication, sensing, and integrated optics. From 2013-2016 he worked at Intel as a research scientist in the silicon photonics division, where he supported the development of next generation silicon photonic components and their transition from research into commercial products for datacenter applications. Dr. Ryckman serves as an elected member of the User Executive Committee for the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences (CNMS) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, chairs the Optical Interconnects committee for the annual IEEE Photonics Conference (IPC), and is a reviewer for numerous journals published by IEEE and OSA. 

Dr. Ryckman’s research interests lie in the development and application of photonic platforms to solve problems in areas of sensing, biomedicine, food-safety, and computing/communications. Some specific topics of study include: integrated optical devices and passives, visible/IR wavelength integrated optics, photonic nanocavities, novel nano-fabrication techniques, spatial-mode and diffraction phenomena, ultra-high surface area nanomaterials, and optoelectronic devices for both communications and trace-level biosensing.  

Hugo Sanabria (Physics)

Dr. Sanabria joined the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Clemson University in 2014. He earned his B.S. (1999) in physics engineering at Tecnológico de Monterrey in Mexico. He then obtained his M.S. and Ph.D. in Physics at the University of Houston in 2002 and 2005, respectively. During this time he studied the dielectric response of polyelectrolyte solutions including biopolymers. After his studies, Dr. Sanabria was awarded an NIH training grant on Nanobiology for his postdoctoral training at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, where he used single-molecule methods for studying Ca2+ signaling in live cells. Subsequently he was awarded an Alexander von Humboldt postdoctoral research award under the supervision of Prof. Seidel at Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf, Germany. The interdisciplinary research, bridging biology, chemistry, and physics uses state of the art fluorescence spectroscopy methods to study the structure, dynamics and function of biomolecules. Using single-molecule Förster Resonance Energy Transfer we have been able to capture molecular dynamics spanning from nanoseconds to seconds.

Michael Sehorn  (Genetics and Biochemistry) 
Sehorn joined Clemson University as an Assistant Professor of Genetics and Biochemistry in 2007. Sehorn earned a B.Sc. in 1995 from New Mexico Tech and received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Louisiana Health Sciences Center at Shreveport under the guidance of Stephan Witt in 2002. Sehorn furthered his career as a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale University School of Medicine. Under the guidance of Patrick Sung, Sehorn was awarded an NIH fellowship investigating meiotic homologous recombination.

Since joining Clemson University, Sehorn received the first NIH R01 grant awarded to a member of the Genetics and Biochemistry faculty in 2011 for his work on the role of specific protein factors involved with the progression of meiosis. His current research interests include protein biochemistry and structure-function relations in DNA damage repair and cancer avoidance. Collaborative efforts within COMSET include the development of colloidal NIR contrast agents for bio-imaging applications.

Raj Singh (ECE)
D. Houser Banks Professor


Before joining Clemson University, Rajendra Singh was a Visiting Assistant Professor at both the University of Waterloo, Canada, and at Colorado State University, Fort Collins. In 1980, he joined Energy Conversion Devices, Inc. as Senior Research Scientist and worked on amorphous silicon solar cells and thermoelectric devices. Part of the work done at Energy Conversion Devices resulted in one U.S. and four foreign patents. He was a member of University of Oklahoma’s School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science for 10 years, as a professor and the Director of the Microelectronics Laboratory. In 1992, he joined Clemson University as the first D. Houser Banks Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. From 1996 to 1999, he served as the Director of the Materials Science and engineering Program at Clemson. In 1997, he became the Director of the Center for Silicon Nanoelectronics at Clemson.

Singh’s research contributions have been primarily in the field of rapid thermal processing, ultra thin gate dielectrics, low and high-k dielectrics, superconductivity, manufacturing of silicon integrated circuits, solar cells, thermoelectric devices and nanotechnology. He was the first one to report the fundamental differences between furnace processing and rapid thermal processing. His work on rapid thermal processing has led to various new applications, such as novel chemical vapor deposition techniques for the deposition of high- and low-dielectric constant materials and manufacturing of solar cells. His fundamental work has served as an initial incubator to the rapid thermal processing (RTP) technology and the related semiconductor equipment manufacturing industry is now valued at over one billion dollars per year, as he has discovered several of the concepts used in the commercial RTP tools. The use of RTP in solar cells manufacturing is mainly due to Singh’s contributions. His work on solar cells is a part of many recent textbooks on solar cells and has been cited by researchers throughout the world. His early work on ultrathin gate oxide led to the passivation techniques used in surface of commercial silicon solar cells. Similarly his fundamental work on conducting oxide semiconductor led to the use of these materials in all kind of commercial thin film solar cells. From solar cells to integrated circuits, he has led the work on semiconductor and photovoltaic device processing by manufacturable innovation and defining critical path.

Singh has published more than 300 papers in various journals and conference proceedings. He is editor or coeditor of more than ten conference proceedings. He has presented over 50 keynote addresses and invited talks in various national and international conferences.

Rhett Smith (Chemistry)

Smith received his B.S. (2000) from University of Toledo where he did research with Professor Robert A. Flowers, II; and his Ph.D. (2004) from Case Western Reserve University working with Professor John D. Protasiewicz. The title of his Ph.D. dissertation is “Studies on Low-Coordinate Phosphorus Centers and Sterically Encumbered Ligands: Structure, Reactivity, Materials, and Catalysis.” He was a National Institute of Health Postdoctoral Fellow (2004-2006) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the laboratory of Prof. Stephen J. Lippard where he prepared fluorescent biosensors for neurochemical applications. His research focus includes the synthesis and applications of organic and inorganic materials for fluorescent sensing of biologically relevant agents such as neurotoxins, preparing small molecule models of enzyme active sites, and uncovering environmentally-friendly catalytic reactions.

Roger Stolen (MSE)
Distinguished Visiting Professor


Stolen received a bachelor of arts from St. Olaf College and a Ph.D. in solid state physics from the University of California at Berkley, followed by post-doctoral work at the University of Toronto. In 1990, he was awarded the Optical Society of America's (OSA) R.W. Wood Prize in recognition of pioneering studies in optical fibers, and in 2005 he received the Institute of Electrical Engineers/OSA John Tyndall Award for contributions that include the identification and understanding of the alteration in frequency and in the phase of light passing through a transparent optical fiber. The IEEE and OSA are two of the world's leading professional associations for the advancement of technology. Recently, Stolen was elected to the prestigious Russian Academy of Sciences as a foreign member. The Russian Academy of Sciences was established in 1724 and is recognized not only as the supreme scientific institution in Russia but as one of the most successful science academies in the world. In 2012, Stolen was elected to the National Academy of Engineering for contributions to fiber nonlinear optics and invention of polarization preserving fiber.

Stolen is a distinguished visiting professor in materials science and engineering at Clemson University. He works in the field of optics and is a faculty member at the Center for Optical Materials Science and Engineering Technologies. Stolen spent 30 years working for Bell Labs. He has been involved in fiber optics research since 1971. He was a professor of electrical engineering at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Va., before he retired.

Ya-Ping Sun (Chemistry)
Frank Henry Leslie Chair of Natural and Physical Sciences


Sun received his B.Eng. (1982) from the Zhejiang Institute of Technology and his M.S. (1985) from the Zhejiang University, both in Hangzhou, China. He earned his Ph.D. (1989) at the Florida State University with Prof. Jack Saltiel. He was a postdoctoral fellow with Prof. Josef Michl (1989-91) and Prof. Marye Anne Fox (1991-92) at the University of Texas at Austin. He joined the Clemson faculty in 1992.
Sun's research interest and focus are on the development of carbon nanomaterials, concerning especially their optical properties and related applications. More specifically, Sun first found and reported on carbon "quantum" dots or carbon dots, which represent a new class of photoactive nanomaterials for optical bioimaging, optoelectronics, photocatalysis, and a variety of photoenergy conversions.

Andy Tennyson (Chemistry)

Andy Tennyson received an S.B. and S.M. in chemistry from the University of Chicago in 2003, a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from MIT in 2008, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at UT Austin from 2008–10. His research expertise includes fundamental organometallic and coordination chemistry, fluorescent sensors for bioimaging, luminescent materials for devices, and dynamically switchable catalysts. Tennyson joined the Chemistry Department as an assistant professor in 2010 and is also a member of the Center for Optical Materials Science and Engineering Technologies (COMSET). Research in the Tennyson group broadly emphasizes the application of inorganic and organometallic chemistry to the fields of disease diagnosis, antibiotics for MDR and XDR strains, as well as optoelectronic and photovoltaic devices.

Joseph Thrasher (Chemistry)

Dr. Thrasher received his B.S. (1978) and Ph.D. (1981) degrees at Virginia Tech, where he was the last doctoral student of Prof. Alan Clifford.  He was a postdoctoral research associate (1982-83) at the Freie Universität Berlin (Germany) under Prof. Konrad Seppelt before returning to the States as a Visiting Assistant Professor (1983-84) at Clemson University, where he carried out research with Prof. Darryl DesMarteau.  He then started his independent career at The University of Alabama where he rose through the academic ranks (1984-2011), including serving as Director of Graduate Studies (1995-2002) and Department Chair (2002-2007).  In the fall of 2011, Dr. Thrasher returned to Clemson University to both overlap with and then follow Prof. DesMarteau in the area of fluorine chemistry.  He was a member of the Governing Board of the Council for Chemical Research (CCR) in 2005-06.  He also served as Chair of the American Chemical Society (ACS) Division of Fluorine Chemistry (1994), co-chaired two ACS Winter Fluorine Conferences (1993 and 1995), and was lead organizer of the 19th International Symposium of Fluorine Chemistry (2009), held in Jackson Hole, WY.  He has been a guest editor of two issues of the Journal of Fluorine Chemistry, joined their Editorial Board in 2013, and became Regional Editor for the Americas in 2016.

SmartState, SC Centers of Economic ExcellenceMarek Urban (Materials Science and Engineering)
J. E. Sirrine Endowed Chair in Advanced Fiber Based Materials


Professor Marek Urban joined Clemson in the Fall 2012 as the Sirrine Endowed Chair in Advanced Fiber Based Materials (Materials Science and Engineering). Marek is a graduate of Marquette University, where he received M.S. degree in chemistry, followed by a Ph.D. degree form Michigan Technological University in chemistry. After two years of a postdoctoral position at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, he joined the Department of Polymers and Coatings at North Dakota State University. After 13 years at NDSU, serving as professor and department chair during his last five years, he accepted a professorship position at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM), School of Polymers and High Performance Materials, where in addition to his professorship appointment, he directed the National Science Foundation funded Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) focused on response-driven polymeric films. He also served on the NSF Executive Committee for MRSECs in US. From 2006 to 2012, he directed the School of Polymers and High Performance Materials at USM. He is an active member of numerous professional organizations including American Chemical Society, American Institute of Physics, Federation of Societies for Coatings Technologies, American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, and Society for Applied Spectroscopy. During his carrier he published over 300 research papers, is an author of several patents, wrote 3 books, and is an editor of 8 American Chemical Society Advances in Chemistry or Symposium Series books. He also chaired and organized several symposia for the PMSE Division of the American Chemical Society and in 2003 was also elected to chair the Gordon Research Conference in Polymer Films in Coatings. From 1987-91 he was a recipient of the 3M Company Award for Young Investigators and in 1989 he received the Megger’s Award for the best paper published in the Applied Spectroscopy journal. In 1996, he received the Alcoa Research Foundation Award for the outstanding contributions to multi-dimensional spectroscopy of polymers and films. In 1999 he received the technical Focus Speaker and the Roon Foundation Awards from the Federation of Societies for Coatings Technologies. In recognition of professional excellence, leadership, and public service, in 2000 he was elected as a member of the Academy Arts and Sciences at Michigan Technological University. This year he also received the Distinguished Alumni Lectureship Award, followed by 2002 and 2003 awards from the University of Southern Mississippi: the College of Science and Technology Deans Award and the Research and Scholarly Activity Award. In 2003 he became the Distinguished LETTERS Scholar at the University of Southern Mississippi and in 2004 he received the Distinguished Research Award in the Area of Materials Science and Engineering from Marquette University. In 2006, the USM College of Science and Technology awarded him with the Outstanding Research Faculty Award.

Hai Xiao (ECE)
Bell Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering


Hai Xiao joined Clemson University in 2013 as the Samuel Bell Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, jointly affiliated with COMSET. He previously was a Professor of Electrical Engineering at the Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) where he served as director of the Photonics Technology Laboratory (PTL). Xaio received his Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering from Virginia Tech in 2000. From 2000 to 2003, he was a Member of Technical Staff at the Optoelectronic Center of Lucent Technologies/Agere Systems. From 2003 to 2006, he was an assistant professor of electrical engineering at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. From 2006 to 2012, he was an associate professor of electrical engineering at Missouri S&T. Xiao is the recipient of a number of prestigious awards including the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Program (YIP) Award in 2006, the R&D 100 Award in 2004, and the Virginia Tech Outstanding Achievement Award in 2003. His research interests mainly focus on photonic and microwave sensors and instrumentation for applications in energy, intelligent infrastructure, clean-environment, biomedical sensing/imaging, and national security. Xiao has co-authored over 160 technical papers and participated in 29 research projects, totaling about $14M in research funding in the past 10 years from NSF, DOE, ONR, NIH, ARO, national laboratories and private companies.

Tong Ye (Bioengineering)

Ye, an Assistant Professor of Bioengineering, received his B.S. in physics from Fudan University and a Ph.D. in Optics from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He completed his postdoctoral training in Physical Chemistry and Laser imaging at multiple institutes, such as Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel), Duke University and University of Pennsylvania. Tong Ye joined the Department of Bioengineering in 2013. His primary research interests are in optical imaging and its biomedical applications. Built on the fundamentals of optics and spectroscopy, his research lab focuses on the development of imaging techniques that can improve spatial and temporal resolutions. Thanks to the joint bioengineering program between Clemson University and Medical University of South Carolina, his lab works closely with biomedical researchers and clinicians to study cell and tissue functions.

Lin Zhu (ECE)
Warren Owen Assistant Professor


Lin Zhu obtained the Ph.D. in electrical engineering from California Institute of Technology in 2008. While at Caltech, his work mainly focused on the modal control of high power, broad area semiconductor lasers using photonic periodic nanostructures. Zhu's current research interests include high power, high beam quality diode laser arrays, beam combining, optomechanics and plasmonic devices. His work has been funded by many federal and state agencies, including ARO, DARPA, NSF, SC Space Grant, SC EPSCoR/IDeA and ORAU. Zhu was the recipient of the 2010 DARPA Young Faculty Award and 2010 ORAU Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award.

Zhu's work has resulted in more than 40 refereed journal publications, magazine articles, and invited presentations at a number of conferences and workshops. He is a reviewer for most major journals in optics, including Applied Physics Letters, Nano Letters, Optics Letters, Optics Express, Optics Communications, IEEE Journal of Lightwave Technology, IEEE Journal of Quantum Electronics and IEEE Photonics Technology Letters.