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Clean Water is More Than a Research Focus for Susan Cooper

Posted on Tuesday, April 4, 2017

If California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo were to need a Marketing or Admissions Director, they need look no further than ARCS Scholar Susan Cooper, whose description of the school as “the perfect place” for an aspiring chemist was as convincing as it was emphatic.

Growing up the only child of a supportive family that included a grandfather who was his class’s salutatorian at OSU in Chemistry, Susan remembers lots of science magazines strewn around the house. Her memories of her high school chemistry class are that the subject was challenging, but fun.

When it came time to apply to college, the choice was easy. “Cal Poly’s mode of teaching was ‘learn by doing’, where there were tons of opportunities to do undergraduate research, tons of analytical instrumentation, more labs and more lab time, smaller classes, no TA’s - just professors- teaching classes, and a great community of faculty and students.”

Out of the lab, Susan could be found in the school’s radio station where she DJ’d for their “world music” program. Her love of travel, combined with her love of chemistry will soon find her furthering her research studies in Copenhagen.

Clean water is more than a research focus for Susan. It is a passion that was spawned by the reading of an article years ago about the pollution of public water supplies by naturally occurring arsenic, adversely affecting the health of millions of people in Bangladesh. Her research at the University of Oregon centers around the use of nano particles to treat and purify water, a process involving magnetic withdrawal of the absorptive nano particles.

Having worked in environmental testing labs between college and her PhD studies, Susan hopes to have her own start up someday, where continuing to learn while solving an environmental problem with a “material” would be a dream come true.

As for ARCS, she describes receiving the scholar award as a huge “confidence booster”. In fact, her goal is to one day become an ARCS member herself. 

Susan's donor is Jill Josselyn.