The work of Clemson University’s female faculty, students, alumni and friends is transforming our communities, our nation and the world. One faculty member’s expertise has played a pivotal role in campus and community safety.
Delphine Dean doesn’t sleep much these days. Her mind is at work, and her work is focused on the health care solutions that will help her university and the surrounding community cope with the daily uncertainty and challenge of COVID-19.
“A lot of people are being helped by Clemson University and the people of Clemson,” says Dean, who for months has been the face of scientific solutions at Clemson. She is one of many at the University working to keep the campus and the surrounding community safe during a nearly yearlong global pandemic.
“I’ve always wanted to work on problems that help people, and that takes teamwork,” Dean says. “In the last 10 months — across the U.S. and the world — I have seen more collaborations to combat COVID-19 than I have seen throughout the rest of my career.”
And her on-campus Research and Education in Disease Diagnosis and Intervention Lab (REDDI), which was built from the ground up in a matter of months, is the epicenter of it all. Thanks in part to a $6.9 million grant through Gov. Henry McMaster and the State’s Joint Bond Review Committee, the lab was able to expand quickly, ramping up to process more than 20,000 tests a week and allowing Clemson students, faculty and staff, as well as residents from nearby towns, to know if they are positive or negative for COVID-19. Through awareness and knowledge, the testing has made Clemson a place people can work, live and play more safely in the midst of a global pandemic.
“We have to be innovative because the virus is innovative,” Dean says. “We are coming up with new ideas all the time. That’s how we’ll beat this disease.”
As Clemson’s Ron and Jane Lindsay Family Innovation Professor of bioengineering, Dean has long focused her research on providing health care solutions through bioengineering methods, and she’s done so well before COVID-19, with much of her work happening in Tanzania.
But no matter where she is in the world, Dean works to improve health care in two key ways: through basic and applied science methods. At a fundamental level, she seeks to understand nanoparticle interactions with cells along with cell mechanics and properties. These small-scale interactions and modeling help drive understanding of cell mechanics and develop therapies for a variety of medical needs.
By translating her bioengineering research into solutions for health care problems, Dean has dedicated herself to innovating high-tech and low-resource solutions to solve problems, often through new materials and procedures. With the onset of COVID-19, she now finds herself doing that on her home campus — for the people she works with and the students she teaches.
“I’m proud of what we’ve done,” she says, pointing to the sweeping collaboration across campus, as well as with area doctors and — yes — her husband, who is chair of the computer science division in the School of Computing at Clemson and has been chief among those supporting her long hours and sleepless nights.
Clemson Corner is a bimonthly column on all things Clemson University. From individuals reaching new heights, research breakthroughs and discoveries, or events that can bring us all together, you’ll be able to learn more about the people who make Clemson, Greenville and South Carolina such a special place.