Peter Hudson, Willaman Professor of Biology in the Eberly College of Science and director of The Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, started his career as a wildlife biologist. His interest in wildlife diseases started when he discovered that population cycles of red grouse in Scotland were strongly influenced by gut parasites. A keen conservationist, he has graduate students studying the transmission and spread of infectious diseases in wildlife all over the world. Credit: Patrick Mansell
Peter Hudson doesn’t think of himself as a great humanitarian.
Indeed, the Willaman Professor of Biology and the director of the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, insists that he is “merely a simple scientist” — but one whose work ultimately aims to have a profound impact on the quality of life of peoples around the world.
His work has two main aims: to build an international capacity at Penn State to improve global health security and stem the migration of infectious diseases, while simultaneously building the capacity to identify and treat infectious diseases at the source by working with partners in India, Africa, and South and Central America.
“I’m really a biologist at heart — I’m deeply concerned about conservation — but I also hate to see suffering in people and in children,” Hudson said. “I started off working in wildlife issues, but have become more and more concerned with diseases that manifest in wildlife and spill over into human populations, causing that suffering.”
In recognition of his commitment to advancing public health to alleviate human suffering around the world, Hudson has been recognized by Kish Bank with the Humanitarian of the Year Award, presented at Kish’s annual community celebration held in Beaver Stadium on June 21. The award is made annually to recognize an individual who has positively impacted the Central Pennsylvania community through selfless dedication to elevating quality of life and providing leadership and inspiration to all who live in the area.
In presenting the award, William P. Hayes, chairman and CEO of Kish Bank and Kish Bancorp, said, “It is my high honor to present Kish’s Humanitarian of the Year Award to Dr. Peter Hudson. This award is in recognition of his work as a research scientist, an educator dedicated to the next generation of scientists, an impassioned protector of global animal populations, and his recognition of the delicate balance among all life forms with particular sensitivity to the implications of his work for human populations.”
Penn State Vice President for Research Neil Sharkey said Hudson’s work epitomizes the University’s land-grant mission of teaching, research and service.
“Peter’s work is truly global in scope and is making a difference in environmental stewardship, while also having a profound impact on human health,” Sharkey said. “His work is squarely in the middle of what we aspire to do and what we aspire to be. He’s a shining example of what scholarship with impact looks like, and we’re proud to have him at Penn State.”
Among other projects, Hudson is working with researchers and scientists in-country to eradicate bovine tuberculosis in India, curb the spread of anthrax, malaria and other vector-borne illnesses in the Maasai Steppe in Tanzania and helping woman in Africa further their education and obtain doctorates in partnership with the Gates Foundation. He stressed that each of these projects is only possible with the help of dedicated and talented colleagues, and thanked Vivek Kapur, associate director of the Huck Institutes, and Kay van Der Horst, director of Penn State’s Applied Biological and Biosecurity Research Laboratory, for their unwavering help and support.
“This is totally a team effort, and there are many people who have made this work possible,” Hudson said. “Penn State is a great place to do this vital work, because this is a ‘can-do’ university. I’ve never felt there are any limits to what I can accomplish at Penn State.”
Hudson is “deeply honored” to have been recognized by Kish Bank for his work, but at the end of the day, he said the work really is its own reward.
“The motivation, really, is the thought that all this effort will be worth it if it saves just a few lives,” Hudson said. “As a scientist, all I want is to apply my work to have an impact in the world, to improve people’s lives. Even if it’s just a little bit, it’s totally worth it.”