Clabough honored as Rising Star

Published 3:57 pm Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Dr. Erin Clabough, an assistant professor of biology at Hampden-Sydney College (H-SC), has been selected by the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges (VFIC) as the 2018 recipient of the H. Hiter Harris III Rising Star Award, according to a H-SC press release.

Officials in the release cited that she received the award in November at the VFIC Annual Luncheon in Richmond. They added that the Rising Star honor is given annually to one outstanding faculty member who has demonstrated great promise early in his or her career.

The VFIC’s 15 member colleges submit nominations each year, and the foundation selects one recipient after evaluating a number of factors, the release detailed. These include the nominee’s impact and involvement with undergraduate students; his or her scholarly approach to teaching and learning; contributions to undergraduate education in the institution, community and profession; and endorsements from colleagues and current or former students.

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“Dr. Clabough’s expertise in her field and dedication to our students make her highly deserving of this prestigious honor,” H-SC Dean of the Faculty Walter M. McDermott said in the release. “The transformative Hampden-Sydney experience would not be possible without the many remarkable faculty who teach and advise our students. We are fortunate to have Dr. Clabough as a member of our faculty, and our students are fortunate to have her as an educator and mentor.” The award caught Clabough off guard.

“It was a great honor and surprise to receive the Rising Star Award from the VFIC,” she said. “It has been such a pleasure to implement experiential learning in my biology courses at Hampden-Sydney, and I am happy that these student research projects are getting wider attention. I’m very grateful that my H-SC colleagues and the VFIC have been so supportive of my teaching efforts.”

The release highlighted Clabough’s belief that experiential learning is the most effective way to engage students and to foster competent, responsible problem-solving skills inside and outside of the classroom.

“Biology students at H-SC demonstrate a high-level of engagement and, as a result, we have been able to conduct real, publishable research projects in the context of multiple classes,” Clabough said. “The students are learning how to be scientists in a hands-on way but (are) also becoming competent, responsible problem solvers inside and outside of the classroom. I am a firm believer in cultivating the whole student — including character development — through these projects. This type of active learning is also important for communicating neuroscience concepts in a clear way to the greater community.”

Officials stated in the release that in the last six years, Clabough has published with 43 different undergraduate students in peer-reviewed journals including Brain and Behavior,, the Encyclopedia of Life Sciences and the Journal of Visualized Experiments. Most of these publications are student-designed and written projects done within the context of upper level neurobiology, vertebrate physiology and developmental biology courses, the release noted.

Clabough’s research students have worked on a variety of important subjects with major health consequences for humans, officials cited in the release. These important subjects include the growth of neuronal spines and their connection to fetal alcohol exposure, the impact of toxins on neurodevelopment and the role of the huntingtin protein in Huntington’s Disease. Officials further stated that Clabough’s work with students has spanned all sorts of methods from tissue culture and histology to molecular methods and protein analysis, to design of behavioral experiments on mice, zebrafish and fruit flies.

The release concluded by noting that the VFIC is a strong statewide organization that works to preserve Virginia’s small independent colleges for students now and in the future and supports 15 leading independent colleges in the commonwealth: Bridgewater College, Emory & Henry College, H-SC, Hollins University, University of Lynchburg, Mary Baldwin University, Marymount University, Randolph College, Randolph-Macon College, Roanoke College, Shenandoah University, Sweet Briar College, University of Richmond, Virginia Wesleyan University and Washington and Lee University. For additional information on the VFIC, visit