Barry McNamara  |  Published February 28, 2023

Alumni Profile: Selene Hounsve ’18

What can a Monmouth biochemistry major do? Hounsve ’18 helps make water safer.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – Most of us take our drinking water for granted, but if you live in Flint, Michigan, or East Palestine, Ohio, that is certainly not the case.

SELENE HOUNSVE: The 2018 graduate was back on campus in February to speak to Monmouth chemistry s... SELENE HOUNSVE: The 2018 graduate was back on campus in February to speak to Monmouth chemistry students about her five years working in industry.And it’s also not the case for a Monmouth College biochemistry graduate, who’s helping to make sure drinking water is safe in her neck of the woods.

Selene Hounsve, who graduated in 2018, was back on campus in late February to speak to Monmouth chemistry students and share what she’s learned about working in industry for the past five years.

One of the most important lessons she shared harkened back to the reason Monmouth College constructed its Center for Science and Business a decade ago.

“You have to have a broader understanding outside of chemistry,” Hounsve told students. “You need to make those connections with people in public relations and on the business side. You’re going to work with everyone.”


Carus Chemical

Hounsve has held several positions in and around her hometown community of LaSalle, Illinois, and she currently works at Carus Chemical, a century-old family-run business in neighboring Peru that provides solutions to environmental concerns involving water, air and soil with specializations in the area of chemical oxidation and sequestration.

“You have to have a broader understanding outside of chemistry. You need to make those connections with people in public relations and on the business side. You’re going to work with everyone.” – Selene Hounsve



The company, which today has nearly 400 employees, was founded in 1915 by Edward Hegeler Carus to address a U.S. shortage of potassium permanganate due to difficulties obtaining imports from Europe.

Potassium permanganate is used extensively in the water treatment industry, primarily as a regeneration chemical to remove iron and hydrogen sulfide (the rotten egg smell) from well water. It’s also obtainable at pool supply stores and is used to treat wastewater.

“People’s lives are at risk,” said Hounsve of what goes into – or, just as importantly, stays out of – a community’s water supply. “You want it done right and you don’t want to cut any corners.”

Hounsve joined the company a year ago, working as quality technician. She conducted checks on each chemical plant that used manganese ore to be converted to potassium permanganate, sodium permanganate and catalysts.

Last July, Hounsve began working in the company’s environmental and raw materials division, developing new testing methods on samples to see how the raw materials application fit or if a new material was a better fit for the process.

“People’s lives are at risk. You want it done right and you don’t want to cut any corners.” Selene Hounsve

She also does wastewater treatment at the plant, since Carus uses city water, which it discharges back into the Illinois River. She tests waste samples from all the chemical plants to make sure they are fitting permits from the city and the Environmental Protection Agency.


Lessons learned

“There’s a lot of statistics in this job,” said Hounsve. “I remember that (chemistry professor) Laura Moore told me I needed to take statistics. I said, ‘Why?’”

Now she knows, and Hounsve also told the students that the familiar classroom refrain, “Show your work,” definitely applies in the real world, too. She also shared that “troubleshooting” is a frequent part of her job, as she regularly has to dig deeper into such problems as why a test has an abnormal result.

Prior to joining Carus – which offers internship opportunities that might interest Monmouth students – Hounsve worked in the field and in the lab at a sand company, was a lab operator at an ethanol plant, and was an extraction technician for a cannabis company. The science involved in the latter experience was similar to research she did in Monmouth chemistry professor Brad Sturgeon’s lab when she was student.

“I didn’t know how to ask for help at Monmouth, but I do now. That’s one thing I learned after graduation. I would ask for help when I was here, but it would be at the last minute.” Selene Hounsve


“I didn’t know how to ask for help at Monmouth, but I do now,” said Hounsve, who was a first-generation college student. “That’s one thing I learned after graduation. I would ask for help when I was here, but it would be at the last minute.”

While some of her peers went on to graduate school, Hounsve said she enjoyed the opportunity to begin making money after Monmouth. She applied for 40 jobs and frequently heard back that she didn’t have the experience required. But with five years now under her belt – in a variety of laboratory settings and with increased responsibilities – more doors figure to open.

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