Lecturer & Researcher - Dr. Weerapong Prasongchean
Studied: PhD in Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology and MSc in Integrative Neuroscience
UK institution: University College London and Imperial College London
From his passion for STEM education to his drive for innovation, Dr. Weerapong Prasongchean has a long and extensive list of social initiatives under his belt, all of which work towards his ultimate goal of providing better education and healthcare for vulnerable members of society in Thailand. He credits his time spent studying in the UK with providing the inspiration to get some of his biggest ideas off the ground.
WHY DID YOU WANT TO STUDY IN THE UK?
I believe the higher education system in the UK has so much to offer. I had the chance to work with globally recognised professors and hone my analytical thinking skills which, coupled with the open-minded working environment, allowed me to realise my potential.
I also wanted to gain a broader level of social and cultural awareness, so living in the UK helped me to understand more about accepting differences between people and cultures.
BEYOND DIRECT STUDY, HOW ELSE DID YOU BENEFIT FROM YOUR EDUCATION IN THE UK?
My life completely changed when I decided to study in the UK.
Not only did I work in a laboratory, I also gained exposure to new ideas, systems and social creativity that, combined with academic theory, encouraged me to innovate and create new things.
I had the opportunity to join a science policy workshop at the Houses of Parliament and also attend a meeting with the Department of Health on developing future leaders in experimental medicine, both of which were fantastic experiences.
Living in the UK also exposed me to social enterprise business models such as The Big Issue which ultimately inspired me to want to do something good for my home country. The Big Issue is a really good example of the marriage between effective marketing and existing resources. It motivated me to think about how I could create a business model that would not only make a social impact but would secure a place in a competitive market.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT SOME OF THE SOCIAL PROJECTS YOU ARE INVOLVED WITH?
There’s always a stage for new ideas in the UK. While I was studying towards my PhD, I started thinking about and developing ‘STEM kits’ to support teachers in their science lessons. I am passionate about sharing knowledge and widening understanding around science in Thailand, so the kits contain graphics and resources, separated by curricula, for teachers to share with their students.
I was impressed by the emphasis The Big Issue model placed on providing opportunities for less privileged people. After I finished studying, I decided to pursue ThaiHealth, a project that promotes good health amongst vulnerable populations.
Alongside this, I am an honorary pharmacist under the Samsung Career Discovery project. The project gives young people the opportunity to learn more about how the brain works and multiple intelligence, plus find out more about careers in this field. I have also been running workshops and giving talks on science, technology and innovation to inspire young people across Thailand.
WHAT HAS THE IMPACT OF SOME OF THIS WORK BEEN ON THE THAI PEOPLE?
I regularly talk with teachers and students on topics like personal development, STEM education and educational pedagogy to promote understanding of science in daily life. I have appeared in newspapers, on nationwide TV and on the radio plenty of times too, so many ordinary people living in Thailand are now familiar with me and my work.
Similarly, I have given many lectures and speeches about stem cell medicine and regenerative medicine in order to share my learning with medical professionals and I am a part of the national committee on stem cell medicine in Thailand. In addition, I not only help the Food and Drug Administration and biomedical bodies to formulate stem cell laws, I also provide guidance to industries.
Dr. Weerapong Prasongchean is the winner of the Study UK Alumni Award for Social Impact, Thailand 2017.