Undergraduate Research Initiative

Students that received seed funding

2019 Application Available Now | Deadline EXTENDED to September 20th

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The CAFLS undergraduate research initiative gives CAFLS’ students the opportunity to conduct research under the guidance of a faculty mentor and compete in an oral or poster competition. The initiative develops students’ critical thinking and research methodology skills and provides opportunities for students to explore careers in research.

Fourteen students in Clemson University’s College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences (CAFLS) received seed funding that will allow them to pursue research in areas such as agricultural education, coastal conservation, livestock breeding and crop pest damage.

The students are the first to participate in a new undergraduate research initiative designed to develop their critical thinking and research skills and to expose them to careers in research. Each recipient receives $500 for faculty mentors to use for research expenses.

Jean Bertrand, associate dean of undergraduate studies for CAFLS, spearheaded the new undergraduate research initiative for CAFLS’ students. It is part of a program called CAFLS Advantage, which is a commitment by the college to provide students with learning experiences beyond the classroom in order to develop critical thinking skills and prepare them to meet their career goals.

“CAFLS launched the Undergraduate Research Initiative in order to provide students with the opportunity to conduct research under the one-on-one mentorship of a faculty member,” said Bertrand. “Very few students come to college with exposure to research and we want to make sure we give students the opportunity to explore research as a career path.  We need bright, young minds to pursue research and help solve the grand challenges related to food and the environment.”

The students will conduct research on an array of topics relevant to agriculture and natural resources and their specific majors and career interests.

Jessie Comer will observe and evaluate South Carolina agriculture teachers’ awareness of suicide prevention resources, practices and the likelihood that they will utilize available suicide prevention programs.

“After college, I hope to become a South Carolina agricultural educator, teaching and inspiring future generations of agriculturists,” said Comer. “I also hope to then implement the findings of my research into my future classroom instruction in order to bring to light the subject of mental health within agriculture and the resources available for my future students.”

Andrew Purcell will estimate the economic benefits and functions provided by coastal marshes and wetlands.

“My time at Clemson has taught me how to critically think, which is vital to this project,” said Purcell.  “I am always looking for new data or information and how I can creatively incorporate it into the study so that the values that I generate can be as complete and accurate as possible. I plan on staying at Clemson and working with Dr. Khanal and the rest of the Forestry department for graduate school as this research project has been a great introduction to what I plan to do when I pursue a master’s degree in forest economics.”

Michelle Fenstermaker is working to understand the effects of platelet activating factor on the fertility of bull semen in order to find ways to improve breeding success.

“I have had the privilege to take several courses with my mentor, Scott Pratt, that prepared me well for this research project,” said Fenstermaker. “By providing several unique courses focused directly on beef reproduction, Clemson has given me the opportunity to really focus on and fully understand the ins and outs of this project. I would really like to continue to learn more about reproductive physiology and endocrinology after I graduate from Clemson in May this year. I am looking towards possibly going to grad school for similar research or pursuing a career in this field.”

Caterra Heard-Tate will use novel techniques to increase the removal of cholesterol from blood vessel wall cells and test whether this treats or prevents atherosclerosis.

“Clemson has prepared me in a number of ways such as in giving me background in anatomy and physiology, providing me experience in a laboratory setting in various general education courses, and teaching me several research techniques that I can incorporate when I create visual representations for conferences and writing research papers on my findings,” said Heard-Tate. “The curriculum here at Clemson, has prepared me for the complexity of my research and has pushed me to become more organized and methodical when I approach various tasks.”

Anne McElvenny’s research helps determine how the fear of fire ants affects pest damage to crops.

“Clemson has prepared me for this project with challenging academics, as well as providing me the opportunity to complete a previous research project with Dr. Blubaugh through EUREKA!, an Honors College summer program,” said McElvenny. “I’d like to continue my ecological research here at Clemson and eventually find a career in sustainability.”

The students will participate in the CAFLS Undergraduate Research Symposium, Wednesday, April 17. The students will give poster or oral presentations with first place winners receiving $300, second place $200 and third place $100.

To learn more about each student and their research, click below.

Undergraduate Research Initiative Recepient, Hannah Bailey
Hannah Bailey

Forest Resource Management

Undergraduate Research Initiative Recepient, Christian Barksdale
Christian Barksdale

Food Science and Human Nutrition

Undergraduate Research Initiative Recepient, Jessie Comer
Jessie Comer

Agricultural Education

Undergraduate Research Initiative Recepient, Jessica Danielo
Jessica Danielo

Animal and Veterinary Sciences

Undergraduate Research Initiative Recepient, Michelle Fenstermaker
Michelle Fenstermaker

Animal and Veterinary Sciences

Undergraduate Research Initiative Recepient, Bailee Hawkins
Bailee Hawkins


Undergraduate Research Initiative Recepient, Caterra Heard-Tate
Caterra Heard-Tate

Food Science and Human Nutrition

Undergraduate Research Initiative Recepient, Erin McDaniel
Erin McDaniel

Environmental and Natural Resource Management

Undergraduate Research Initiative Recepient, Anne McElvenny
Anne McElvenny

Environmental and Natural Resources

Undergraduate Research Initiative Recepient, Paul Millar
Paul Millar


Undergraduate Research Initiative Recepient, Texanna Miller
Texanna Miller

Plant and Environmental Sciences

Undergraduate Research Initiative Recepient, Camille Morris
Camille Smith

Animal and Veterinary Sciences

Undergraduate Research Initiative Recepient, Andrew Purcell
Andrew Purcell

Forest Resource Management

Undergraduate Research Initiative Recepient, Michael Smathers
Michael Smathers

Plant and Environmental Sciences

Undergraduate Research Initiative Recepient, Dorothy Annika Smith
Dorothy Smith

Animal and Veterinary Sciences


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year (h3, B, I)

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