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Division of Research

2021 Researcher of the Year

Award Winners

Senior Researcher of the Year

Rhondda Thomas
Calhoun Lemon Professor of Literature
College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities

Rhondda Thomas A recipient of the prestigious Whiting Foundation fellowship, Thomas has garnered national and international recognition for her interdisciplinary, multifaceted Call My Name Project. The project documents and shares the stories of African Americans in the history of Clemson University and local communities from freedom in Africa through desegregation in South Carolina.

Her book published in November was recognized in the 2021 book award competition by the National Council on Public History. She is editing a collection of 10 essays on The Rhetorics of Campus History and is completing two projects with Cambridge University Press. Additionally, she is working to complete with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities the Call My Name traveling museum exhibit, scheduled to begin touring in early 2022. Thomas is a faculty member in the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities.

Junior Researcher of the Year

Lior Rennert
Assistant Professor
Public Health Sciences
College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences

Lior Rennert Rennert – a faculty member in the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences – is an internationally recognized infectious disease scholar. His primary research activities include the modeling, evaluation, and implementation of effective COVID-19 testing strategies and public health interventions.

He has published his work in prestigious international journals and earned five 1st author manuscripts in high impact journals in the past year, including The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health and BMC Medical Research Methodology. Rennert is principal investigator on multiple externally funded grants, and his work has been covered by several media outlets. He also serves as a reviewer for six journals, including the British Medical Journal and Clinical Infectious Diseases.

2021 SENIOR FACULTY NOMINEES Nominees from Each College

2021 JUNIOR FACULTY NOMINEES Nominees from Each College

2020 Researcher of the Year

Senior Researcher of the Year

Hai Xiao
Samuel Lewis Bell Distinguished Professor
Electrical and Computer Engineering
Hai Xiao
Hai Xiao’s research interests focus on photonic and microwave technologies, novel devices and materials, imaging instrumentation and advanced manufacturing for applications in energy, intelligent infrastructure, clean-environment, biomedical sensing/imaging, and national security.

Xiao has organized and led several large multidisciplinary research projects at Clemson and currently serves as the principal investigator of seven projects with nearly $8.5 million in external funding.

He has published 88 peer-reviewed articles, earned 6 patents and graduated 10 PhD students since 2013. Xiao is currently mentoring eight PhD students and two master’s students.

Junior Researcher of the Year

Vincent Richards
Associate Professor
Biological Sciences Department
Vincent Richards
Vincent Richards uses microbial genomics to further the understanding of the relationship between diverse microbial communities and human health. His most recent work has focused on the oral microbiome, specifically the bacterial and fungal microbial communities in the mouth that are associated with tooth decay. Richards’ research has the potential to support the development of novel therapeutics and prevention strategies.

He has received more than $2 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health and has published 41 papers, including 13 in the past two years. Additionally, Richards is mentoring two PhD students, a master’s student and two undergraduates.

2020 Junior Researcher of the Year Nominees from Each College

2020 Senior Researcher of the Year Nominees from Each College

2019 Researcher of the Year

Senior Researcher of the Year

Ken Marcus
Department of Chemistry
Hai Xiao
Dr. Marcus specializes in the development of analytical chemistry instrumentation and holds nearly 15 patents on technologies now commercially available. His discoveries have fueled innovations in health care, national defense, advanced materials and other industries. Dr. Marcus is a fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (London), the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Society for Applied Spectroscopy and the National Academy of Inventors. He also serves on the editorial advisory board of three scientific journals.

Junior Researcher of the Year

Mark Blenner
McQueen-Quattlebaum Associate Professor
Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Mark Blenner
Dr. Blenner is a biotechnology expert whose innovations using metabolic engineering and synthetic biology are facilitating the conversion of low-value renewable substrates into more valuable products like biofuels, bioplastics, pharmaceuticals and omega-3 fatty acids for supplements and fish feed. His diverse research portfolio has applications in space exploration, waste utilization, covert surveillance of nuclear weapons development and much more. Blenner also is leading a statewide effort to attract more chemical engineering students with an eye toward diversifying the profession.

2019 Junior Researcher of the Year Nominees from Each College

2019 Senior Researcher of the Year Nominees from Each College