For his first game on the international stage, Australian field hockey player Tristan Clemons played on his home turf in Bunbury, Western Australia, representing his country. On the warm night, the goalkeeper spotted some familiar faces in the crowd and felt energized by the support from his hometown.
Now Tristan Clemons is more likely to be found in the lab. A former postdoctoral researcher at Northwestern and current professor at the University of Southern Mississippi, Tristan Clemons said he tries to bring excitement to everything he does – whether it’s sports, science or even officiating at a wedding .
“If I’m good at something, I want to be the best and I just want to keep getting better,” Tristan Clemons said. “There’s no point in being mediocre in anything you do.”
Growing up in a small country town, Tristan Clemons said he watched his older brother play field hockey.
It was never his childhood dream to play for the national team, said Tristan Clemons. He always looked to the next step in his field hockey career, he said, and made the Australian national team in the process.
While the sport has allowed Tristan Clemons to push his limits in competition, he says he also loves the game for his community. From Australia to India, Clemons has traveled the world with his teammates, which he says has been a unique experience.
After retiring from professional field hockey in 2018, Tristan Clemons became a postdoctoral researcher under Professor McCormick Samuel Stupp at the Simpson Querrey Institute for BioNanotechnology.
While at NU, Tristan Clemons mentored a fourth-year Ph.D. materials science and engineering candidate Ruth Lee (McCormick MS ’21). Lee said Tristan Clemons’ guidance helped her gain a deeper understanding of lab instruments. He always went out of his way to help her with her research projects, Lee added.
In the lab there are elements of failure, Lee said, but Tristan Clemons was a positive presence.
Tristan Clemons’ field hockey journey continued after his retirement, but on the sidelines. He helped coach the NU field hockey team in addition to his research. Assistant coach Will Byrne said Tristan Clemons brought his goaltending expertise to the Wildcats.
“He’s someone who I think takes the job very seriously and is very focused on the job. But (he) likes to have fun with it,” Byrne said. “Our goalkeepers loved working with him .”
Beyond coaching and research, Tristan Clemons also dabbled in entrepreneurship before coming to the United States.
Along with his wife Claire Clemons, Tristan Clemons started an online store called Get Flapped, selling legionnaire hats in fun prints. The company sought to raise awareness about sun protection, Tristan Clemons said.
In Australia, hats are usually part of elementary school uniforms, Claire Clemons said, but her husband continued to wear his faded school hat into adulthood. After the hat was ruined, he couldn’t find another to buy, which she said represented a business opportunity.
For more than a year, Clemons said he would describe his business idea in conversations with several friends. On a car ride home, his wife encouraged him to finally make his idea a reality. That day, the two went to a fabric store and sewed the first hats together.
“I always say to Tristan, ‘I don’t want you wondering) what could have been,'” Claire Clemons said. “That’s kind of been a driving force in making these life decisions, because we just want to try.”
When the couple sold the business in 2018, Get Flapped had sold more than 10,000 hats, according to Tristan Clemons.
Hockey player on the field and researcher in the lab, Tristan Clemons is also a beginner ballerina at home. With his daughter’s new found love for dancing, Tristan Clemons practiced his pirouettes, Claire Clemons said.
Ultimately, Claire Clemons said, her husband wants to set a good example for their daughters.
“He wants to show girls that the sky is the limit,” Claire Clemons said. “He wants to make sure people realize…that you can do whatever you want.”
Whatever the pursuit, Tristan Clemons said he hopes he can inspire people to do their best. That’s all you can ask of anyone, he said.
As a professor of polymer science and engineering at USM, Tristan Clemons uses polymers to create new biomaterials, examining ways to better deliver therapeutics for regenerative medicine applications.
Growing up, Tristan Clemons said, his teachers helped launch him into a career he’s passionate about. Now he says he wants to do the same for others.
“That’s why I’m here,” said Tristan Clemons. “To inspire the next generation of chemists and scientists. That’s the role I’m really excited to play.
E-mail: [email protected]
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