By JIRAPAN BOONNOON
THE NATION WEEKEND
“I am guided by the concepts of life, love and passion when developing new cosmetic products,” says Natthawut Thitipramote, a lecturer in the School of Cosmetic Science and director of the Centre of Excellence in Natural Product Innovation (CENPi) at Mea Fah Luang University.
“I also came to realise that a good research and development project should be conceived around the need to achieve commercial viability, and help to create a sustainable business with value adding that draws on local resources such as rice and the herbal knowledge in this country.”
It all might have gone rather differently for Natthawut. When he was young, Natthawut wanted to be a soldier after seeing plenty of soldiers walking around his home in Hat Yai district in Songkla province. But other ambitions came to him as he progressed with his schooling. He liked to study science and mathematics at secondary school, and took these subjects as majors. He also enjoyed physics and biology and these subjects inspired him to become a doctor – in particular, one who works in remote areas, while also serving as a researcher and scientist.
“While I was studying at secondary school I really liked physics, biology and chemistry. These subjects allowed me to experiment, discover and prove the truth of concepts. People are then able to know, understand and accept the results of an experiment backed by the evidence of science,” Natthawut says.
After graduating from high school, he lost no time in applying to study in the science faculty at Silpakorn University, with the aim of pursuing a major in biology.
“In the entrance examination for my first choice of medicine, I fell short by two points in the exam score. That left me with my second choice of the science faculty at Silpakorn University.
“Thus I went on to proceed with the science faculty, as the teacher at the faculty told me that if you understand your life and your body, you will be able to good take care of yourself and others. It is those words that inspired me to study biology.”
As he progressed in his studies at university, he was determined to secure a scholarship. At around that time, he realised that if he only read his course material in a passive way, just with his mind, then the learning would not sink in fully in his brain. His solution was to read the textbooks aloud, reasoning that the knowledge will be better retained by his brain.
By reading aloud, he was activating the powers of reading, listening and speaking. Alongside that he needed the discipline of extensive notetaking.
“As result, you can learn a given lesson by engaging in four modes - reading, listening, speaking and writing,” Natthawut says. “Your brain will find it easier to understand the material much more than if you only read the material. It’s the same understanding that you would gain if you read a given book four times.”
It was during his second year of studies that applied to join the Royal Golden Jubilee PhD Programme (RGJ). That motivated him to study even harder, pushing himself beyond the grade 2.3 he achieved as a junior student in the university to attain the grade 3.2 required for the scholarship.
After applying for the scholarship programme, Natthawut also applied to study for master’s and doctoral degrees in philosophy (biology) at the Prince of Songkla University.
That decision opened up a new path for him after he graduated with a doctoral degree. He applied to be a lecturer in the School of Cosmetic Science at Mea Fah Luang University. He began work in that post eight years ago, representing a different field for him. However, he saw himself as open to study in new fields, gaining knowledge and greater insights into the use of technology.
“I think that people who graduate with doctoral degrees do not have the qualities of a genius to any greater than do other people,” Natthawut says.
“I have never had notions of a big ego, especially as I remember my mother’s words that, even if I were to gain a doctoral degree, that does not make me any smarter than my grandmother who makes desserts for a living.
“Instead, it’s more the case that people with doctorates have a more complex thinking process than do others and that enables them to understand anything or any project with the application of whole process management. I also wanted to be teacher as I wanted to transfer my knowledge to students and in this way give back to the country.”
He says that as a cosmetic science lecture, he has the opportunity to learn new scientific insights and knowledge. Now with eight years of lecturing behind him, he has taught more than 800 students.
“I tell my student that grades are not important for life but that the grades that they attain will allow other people to classify them upon meeting them for the first time,” says Natthawut.
“So I always tell my students that if you pay attention in class you will have a good opportunity to get good grades. You will not waste time in studying too many subjects like I did.”
In terms of teaching methods, Natthawut likes to think outside the box. He has developed various research and development-related cosmetics products. He succeeded in developing an anti-hair loss product containing SangYod rice extracts. The target characteristic of a gentle hair conditioner was its green qualities and high washing ability. The target characteristic of a leave-on hair serum was a transparent solution that did not cause irritations.
Natthawut worked with fellow staff members staff to develop the Sangyod rice-based anti-hair loss product. It went to win three awards: a gold medal from the 2015 Kaohsiung International Invention and Design Expo and World Invention Intellectual Property Association in Taiwan; a diploma from the Haller Pro Invention Foundation and Eurobusiness in Haller, Poland; and a diploma for the Euroinvent Medal from the Romanian Invention Forum.
He says that the new products he has worked on – resulting from extensive research and development - have created opportunities for people to branch out into other products based on further research.
This has enable value-adding to be applied to local products, such as rice and herb varieties, in a sustainable way. The resulting products are then able to compete in international markets. Moreover, they present alternative choices for customers who value the results of research and development that goes into products for daily living and at reasonable prices.
“I am glad that I became a lecturer and thus can help to develop literacy and cosmetic skills for the students. I also really glad when I see students graduate. I am proud of them and for the fact they are able to create benefits for society and the country,” says Natthawut.
In addition to lecturing, he has responsibilities as director of the Centre of Excellence in Natural Product Innovation (CENPi) at Mea Fah Luang University.
“I have learned good executive management in order to utilise human resources and other resources at the right time and on the right job,” he says. “This helps staff to love the organisation.
I believe that if you have satisfaction in doing your work, the final results will be good. However, I also believe that working has challenges. Still, for a new role, I have confidence that I can learn and absorb new knowledge.”
He says that in the future he wants to set up foundation to help children and people who live in rural areas in order improve their quality of life.
“I want to create opportunities for people in rural areas and also to help with meditation. I think that if you love the country, you must do work and perform duties for your country. As result, such efforts will create value for the country,” says Natthawut.