Scott Husson works to provide water to fast-growing world
If you want to know how busy Scott Husson has been, take a look at the bulletin board outside his Earle Hall office.
Eleven research papers are pinned to the board, all published in the print editions of academic journals in 2014 or 2015.
Husson’s name is on every one, making him one of the most prolific researchers in Clemson University’s College of Engineering and Science.
A lot of what Husson does involves making better membranes, which are useful in purifying water. He also applies his expertise to capturing carbon, purifying drugs and detecting radionuclides.
The pace of his work is nowhere close to letting up.
In three weeks over summer break, Husson received word that three projects on which he is a collaborator have either been approved or recommended for funding, altogether totaling about $2.1 million.
Husson, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, expects to hire as many as five more Ph.D. students to handle the additional workload.
He is quick to share credit with the members of his research group. Husson now has a team of five Ph.D. students and three postdoctoral researchers that had expenditures last year exceeding $600,000.
“If you look at those papers on the bulletin board, I’m not first author on any of them,” he said. “It’s really those individuals who are dedicated to identifying the problems and are doing the work to discover the solutions. I’m there for support.”
Husson is a key member of Clemson’s Water-Energy Consortium. As part of their work with the consortium, about 40 faculty members from various disciplines have joined forces to more closely examine how to make water and energy systems more sustainable.
Water is a common theme through several of Husson’s ongoing research projects.
“I think there’s a lot of interest in water right now,” Husson said. “That’s an area where I’ve been working for some time. I just happen to have an interest in making materials for an application that is an important one right now.”
Tanju Karanfil, an associate dean for research and graduate studies, said that Husson’s research addresses a grand challenge facing global society.
“Dr. Husson and his group are working to make clean water available to a growing population at a low cost,” Karanfil said. “In the Western world, we take clean water for granted. But nearly 800 million people around the world still do not have access to clean water.”
One recently funded project received nearly $1 million from the National Science Foundation. The team will use computers to design more effective materials for water purification.
Sapna Sarupria, an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, serves as the principal investigator. Co-principal investigators are Husson and David Ladner, an assistant professor of environmental engineering and Earth sciences.
The collaboration across departments illustrates how the Husson group has been able to broaden its reach.
“A lot of the success we’ve had has come about because we’ve been able to identify outstanding people to collaborate with,” Husson said.
“My students are very effective in going outside the group boundary to identify the people who can help them at the university and beyond. That has allowed us to identify the right groups to work with, as much as me going out and seeking that. The willingness of other groups to collaborate has been excellent.”
Husson is also building a startup company, Purilogics, LLC, based on his research into purification of protein drugs using membranes.
The Greenville-based company develops membrane products that could enable biopharmaceutical manufacturers to increase production capacity and simultaneously lower the cost of biologics, which are a class of drugs in high demand. They treat severe and chronic conditions, including cancer and cardiovascular and rheumatoid diseases.
Purilogics was selected as an SC Launch Client Company and an SCBIO QuickStart participant in 2015.
Of all he’s done, Husson said he is most proud of the role he has played in helping his students develop.
“They go on to successful careers,” he said. “I can see that, and I can see them getting new opportunities. That somehow I had a hand in helping them develop is what I’m most proud of.”