Early CAREER Development Scholarships awarded to Clemson researchers representing 4 colleges

Any professor who has ever applied for a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Fellowship (CAREER) can attest to it: A nomination for the national award is so much more than a research proposal.

It is a career development plan.

The objective of the grant is to fund faculty members early in their careers to further their development into teacher-scholars. And the CAREER scholarship is one of the most coveted awards that a young teacher can receive. As an independent federal agency, NSF supports fundamental research and education in all fields, including science, mathematics and engineering. In fiscal 2022, its budget was $8.8 billion and its funds reached all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. In 2022, NSF received 39,143 competitive proposals and funded approximately 28%.

Receiving a CAREER award means earning NSF’s most prestigious award in support of early career development activities. The agency funds approximately 500 CAREER awards annually, providing a financial stipend to support research activity over a five-year period. By extension, the scientists and researchers who receive the awards are widely regarded as the most likely to become the academic leaders of the 21st century.

Since 2013, Clemson has received 47 NSF CAREER awards. This year, seven more awards were presented to faculty representing four unique colleges. Clemson grants represent a broad spectrum of interests and applications, from soil health and biodiversity to disaster recovery and elementary school computer science curriculum to artificial intelligence as a best teammate.

Today’s researchers. Tomorrow’s academic leaders. Meet Clemson University’s CAREER 2023 winners.

Fatemeh Afghah, Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Fatemeh Afgah

Fatemeh Afghah, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering in the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, has been awarded a $541,949 NSF CAREER Award for research into the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in disaster management operations to collect data and images to inform rescue teams. Current operations often involve a single UAV controlled remotely by a commander or pilots in a manned aircraft relatively close to the danger zone. Afghah will work to develop frameworks for a network of fully autonomous multi-agent systems with minimal human intervention.

Golnaz Arastoopour Irgens, assistant professor of education and human development in the College of Education, awarded $1.4 million NSF CAREER Award for a project for developing critical computing curriculum in elementary schools called CritComp Pop-ups, in which high school students evaluate and develop AI technologies. The project will involve 500 students, teachers, school leaders and researchers in curriculum design and implementation. The research will take place in an area with high African-American schools and youth in poverty.

Golnaz Arastoopour Irgens
Golnaz Arastoopour Irgens\
Matthew Koski
Matthew Koski

Matthew Koski, assistant professor of biological sciences in the College of Science, has received a $1 million NSF CAREER Award for his study of the ecological and evolutionary processes that generate color diversity in flowering plants. As part of her CAREER project, Koski will mentor at least 10 undergraduate students from Clemsons Biological Sciences and Education programs through two new Creative Inquiry (CI) courses. One group will use established parcels in the Clemson Experimental Forest to conduct research and outreach to 4-H junior naturalists (K-12 students). The other group of students will run a Citizen Science project powered by members of native plant societies in seven states.

Shunyu Liu, assistant professor of automotive engineering in the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, received a $503,613 NSF CAREER Award for research on a new hybrid in-situ laminate additive manufacturing (HI-RAM) technique to fabricate parts high performance structural components that could be used as critical components for many industries. This project will create partnerships with universities, high schools, local producers and manufacturing organizations to provide HI-RAM-related professional training aimed at motivating and preparing a high-quality manufacturing workforce. The project spans multiple disciplines, including advanced manufacturing, materials science, structural mechanics, and applied mathematics, and plans to broaden the participation of women and underrepresented minorities in STEM.

Portrait of Shunyu Liu, assistant professor of automotive engineering
Shunyu Liu
Portrait of Nathan McNeese, McQueen Quattlebaum Associate Professor of Human-Centered Computer Science
Nathan McNese

Nathan McNeese, McQueen Quattlebaum Endowed Assistant Professor of Human-Centered Computing in the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, was awarded an NSF $580,227 CAREER Award for helping make Artificial Intelligence (AI) a better teammate. AI is increasingly being used to perform certain tasks alongside humans. Current task-oriented AI systems, however, lack the ability to learn, think, and act in shared ways toward a common goal, a process called team cognition. McNeese will work to develop AI systems that serve as good teammates with humans, making AI not only more effective, but also more accepted and therefore used.

Samantha Price, assistant professor of biological sciences in the College of Science, has received a $1.3 million NSF CAREER Award to advance her research on the recurring themes and overarching principles governing the evolution of biodiversity. In addition, Price plans to increase research opportunities for underrepresented students through the creation of the Classroom-based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) laboratory. The CURE laboratory will increase the number of students experiencing research in the Department of Biological Sciences by 50 percent, with at least 250 students participating over five years.

Samantha Price sitting at a desk.
Samantha Price
Vidya Suseela
Vidya Suseela

Vidya Suseela, assistant professor of plant and environmental sciences in the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences, received a $1.2 million NSF CAREER Award for her research on soil organic carbon. Suseela studies the effect of functional plant types on soil carbon amount, composition and stabilization and associated nutrient cycling to improve soil health and agroecosystem productivity. His work aims to improve soil health, thus improving agricultural productivity, food security and human health, reducing environmental pollution and mitigating climate change.

The Office of Research Development offers a six-month CAREER Academy to help young tenured educators create competitive submissions for NSF CAREER awards. The Academy begins in January and ends in July. Applications for the 2024 CAREER Academy will be accepted in November.

Many of Clemson’s former Early CAREER recipients have gone on to become some of Clemson’s most active researchers. For a complete list of Clemsons current and past CAREER Scholarships, please visit our Division of Research page.

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