ChBE Summer 2018 Undergraduate Research Highlights

August 20, 2018

The Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering strives to go beyond the classroom to provide a hands-on research experience for students. This summer, our department hosted several undergraduate students, students from other departments at Clemson, and students from other universities to conduct research. The ChBE research opportunities provide an enriching learning experience for our undergraduate students and mentor opportunities for our graduate students. The summer culminated with the Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium on July 27, where students were able to present their research findings.

Blenner Research Group

Dr. Mark Blenner’s lab focuses on application-driven fundamental research in microbial and mammalian systems. They use molecular biotechnology and genetic engineering techniques to enable solutions towards sustainable chemical bioproduction, human health, and national defense. The group works with bacterial, yeast, and mammalian cells to develop genetic engineering tools, create protein and metabolic biosensors, and optimize microbial factories to convert non-conventional feedstocks to natural products.

Tara Richbourg- Blenner Group



Calvin Martin- Blenner Group

Meredith Bailey- Blenner Group

Nicole Franaszek- Blenner Group

Adam Beitz- Blenner Group


Davis Research Group

Dr. Eric Davis’s research group is happy to welcome four new undergraduate researchers to the lab: Annalise Bowers, Alesandra Lee, Taylor McDaniel, and Jacob Steele. Annalise and Jacob have undertaken a project investigating the effect of nanoparticles with various surface chemistries on network formation in a number of hydrogel membranes. These nanocomposite hydrogel membranes have shown promise in water purification technologies involving the separation of water/oil emulsions and the removal of heavy metal ions, to name a few. Under the guidance of graduate student Allison Jansto, Alesandra and Taylor are investigating the effect of various nanofillers on water and ion transport in ionomer membranes used in vanadium redox flow batteries. Finally, undergraduate Ross Jasper, working in the Davis lab for over a year, is working to deepen our understanding of water transport mechanisms in 3D printed glassy polymers and how these differ from traditional, solution-cast polymer membranes.

Getman Research Group

This summer, Dr. Rachel Getman’s research group has welcomed several researchers from outside the department.

Max Norman, an undergraduate at Furman University, working with through the COMSET REU program, and Venkata “Anish” Chaluvadi, a Clemson University undergraduate in materials science engineering working through an REU supplement from the SC MADe program, are working on a project involving simulations integrated with experiments in collaboration with Dr. Thompson Mefford’s group from Clemson MSE. Specifically, it is a computationally driven project to learn how to design magnetic nanoparticles for maximum energy delivery by modulating their magnetic moments and anisotropies.

One of the Getman Group’s primary research interests is learning how catalysts (materials that alter the rates of chemical reactions) function at the molecular level to learn how to tailor catalysts for specific responses. One excellent strategy for studying catalysis at the molecular level is to model catalytic performance using simulations based on quantum mechanics.

Noah Klimkowski Arango, a rising senior at the Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics working through the Clemson SPRI program, evaluates different quantum mechanics software to see which works best for the Getman Group.

The Getman Group is interested in a primary class of reactions catalyzed by noble transition metals (e.g., platinum) under liquid water. Benjamin Hodges, also a rising senior at GSSM working with the group through SPRI, is performing experiments with the catalytic decomposition of glycerol to observe the liquid and gaseous products and learn about the mechanism of this reaction.

Ian Ruohoniemi, a recent graduate of Daniel High School who will attend Stanford University this fall and is supported by Dr. Getman’s NSF CAREER grant, is evaluating the possibility and usefulness of developing a force field that can be used to estimate the energy of interaction between the methanol molecule and a platinum surface. Specifically, he is using quantum mechanics to calculate the bond strength of a methanol molecule as it approaches a platinum surface. He uses Python coding to parameterize a function that describes the energy as a function of the distance between the methanol molecule and the platinum surface. Based on the ease of this parameterization, he will make a recommendation to help the group determine how to run future simulations of this system and similar systems.

Venkata Chaluvadi- Getman Group

Additionally, the Getman Group has two interns from the EUREKA! Program: Kenzie Grumbles, a rising Clemson first-year student engineering major who has been working on the quantum mechanics software with Noah, and Annika Samuel, a rising Clemson first-year student chemistry major who has been using quantum simulations in collaboration with experimenters at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to investigate how lignin monomer compounds complex with a vanadium oxide single-atom catalyst.

Max Norman, Furman University- Getman Group

Ian Ruohoneimi- Getman Group

Husson Research Group

Dr. Scott Husson’s research group has observed that alcohol pretreatment on desalination membranes can lead to higher water production without using more power. Still, the exact role of alcohol in this process is unknown. This summer, undergraduate Micheal Lemelin is researching this process by evaluating different desalination membranes to determine how much their water permeability and salt rejection change after the pretreatment. Later, the group will explain Michael’s experimental observations by using ellipsometry and atomic force microscopy (force volume mode) to evaluate the thickness and stiffness of the membrane.

Kitchens Research Group

Dr. Chris Kitchens’ research group studies the design of advanced materials for clean and efficient energy application through technological developments in nanotechnology, renewable resources, membranes and smart materials. The research implements designed functionality of nanomaterials and surfaces using tailored chemical functionalities, material processing using tunable fluids, development of smart materials with switchable properties, and state-of-the-art characterization techniques.

Larsen Research Group

Dr. Jessica Larsen’s summer research group focuses on biomimetic and polymeric materials for drug delivery applications in neurodegenerative disease and other brain disorders.

Sara Edgecomb and Chris Rovero are working to encapsulate gene-editing proteins into polymeric nanoparticles. By encapsulating these proteins, they will ensure they are protected in the body and delivered into neurons as a treatment for genetic neurodegenerative disease. They are co-advised by Dr. Mark Blenner.

Austin Evers and Cheyenne Brady are working on a project collaborating with Dr. Jeff Twiss at the University of South Carolina. Dr. Twiss has isolated the acidic domain of a protein G3BP1 which has been shown to promote nerve regeneration after injury. For this peptide to be the most successful, it needs to get into the brain. Cheyenne and Austin are encapsulating this peptide into nanoparticles and will be traveling to USC to test the effect of this treatment on a cell line established in Dr. Twiss’s lab.

Sarah Smith- Larson Group

Sarah Smith works with cells isolated from a feline model of a childhood neurodegenerative disorder, GM1 gangliosidosis. She is studying the timeline of neurodegeneration and correlating this timeline with disease biomarkers. Through her research, she will help develop new in vivo diagnostic tools for these elusive disorders.


Sarupria Research Group

The Sarupria Research Group uses molecular simulations to study the assembly of materials, including liquid-to-solid transitions in water and aqueous solutions. ChBE undergraduate Garrett Buchmann and Eliel Akinbami, a Chemical Engineering senior visiting Dr. Sarupria’s group from Howard University, are using molecular dynamics simulations to study the effect of various additives on liquid-to-solid transitions in water. They will study additives such as amino acids to understand how additives can be used to control the self-assembly process. The group hopes to use these techniques and insights in the future to study more complex processes such as nanoparticle self-assembly under magnetic fields.

Eliel Akinbami, Howard University- Sarupria Group