Today@Sam Article

Chemistry Professor Awarded For ‘Exemplary’ Industry Partnership

Nov. 18, 2021
SHSU Media Contact: Wes Hamilton

Professor Darren Williams in the labBy Nicholas Polk

Darren Williams, a professor in the Department of Chemistry at Sam Houston State University, was selected as the Southwest Regional recipient of The Partners for Progress and Prosperity (“P3”) Award for outstanding partnerships contributing to the broader impacts of the American Chemical Society (ACS). The award was established to encourage and recognize successful and exemplary partnerships among industry, academia, government, small business and/or other organizations.

Williams knew he wanted to become a chemistry professor when he was a sophomore in college. His interest in the scientific field stemmed from his high school chemistry teacher, who fascinated Williams with scientific spectacles.

“We had a little fire in a petri dish, and she just picked it up, set it in the sink and put the water on it. Everybody was looking at this fire because we were ready to run, but she was calm about it; and that impressed me. I wanted to be like her, be a chemist that's calm and not freaked out by this kind of stuff,” Williams said.

This desire eventually led him to receive a BS in chemistry from the University of Texas at Austin in 1992 and a PhD in chemistry from Oregon State University in 1998. Williams began teaching at SHSU in 2004 and leads the Cleaning Research Group, which studies the equipment, processes, and chemistry of precision industrial cleaning.

He first began his path in the field of precision cleaning after working for a nuclear weapons plant as a section scientist. During his time at the company, he met Barbara Kanegsberg, the founder of critical cleaning consulting group BFK Solutions LLC, at a conference. This encounter would later lead them to become recipients of the prestigious P3 award.

“Winning the award is a surprise and an honor. We see it as a validation of our work. More importantly, we see it as a challenge to move forward, to do more, to bring technology to higher levels of development,” Kanegsberg said. “With the award, comes the responsibility of communicating the value of chemistry in a positive manner. All chemicals need to be respected. Used or applied in the wrong way, any chemical can do harm. The world would not exist without chemicals.”

The partnership between Professor Williams' Cleaning Research Group and BFK Solutions LLC provides opportunities for students to investigate the science and art of critical and relevant industrial cleaning topics, while maintaining contact with industrial cleaning users and the suppliers of industrial cleaning equipment and chemicals.

“Precision industrial cleaning is a niche area, and it's not going to be one of those areas I would pursue if I were motivated by fame and recognition,” Williams said. “It’s kind of behind the scenes, so my motivation is to contribute to the field and advance its science. I’m motivated by the positive contribution I make, which is in line with our mission here at Sam Houston State.”

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