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Environmental pollution that we face as a society [Interview]

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This is an interview with Dr. Siwaporn Meejoo Smith, the winner of the Wiley-CST Award 2015 for Contributions to Green Chemistry; an award presented jointly with the Chemical Society of Thailand to recognize outstanding researchers in Thailand. Here, Dr. Siwaporn Meejoo Smith shares with us her views and motivation for the work she does in protecting the environment.  

Environmental pollution is a challenge that we face and tackle as global citizens. Many of us try to contribute in our little ways; be it through riding a bicycle or through conscientious efforts to reduce waste. While that is happening, scientists and innovators are looking for sustainable and impactful solutions through intensive research and development work.

Motivated by solving problems that would contribute to the greater good of the community, Dr. Siwaporn is one scientist who sees the need to fix environmental pollution. These problems are often neglected in medium and low income countries where environmental protection plans and clean-up technologies are costly and difficult. She found the need to look for an alternate environmental remediation technology that is simple, economical and energy efficient; a solution that would encourage small industrial sectors and rural areas to be more conscious about the environment.

Zooming in on Thailand

“Despite constant reminders through news channels on the detrimental impact of pollution to the environment, protection plans to prevent air and water pollution in Thailand are often implemented after damages are done to the economy or ecology; sometimes even after severe health impacts to people.” Dr. Siwaporn shared that there is a need for action in environmental remediation, to map out and implement environmental protection plans; especially when the current focus of Thailand on %GDP, economic growth and industrial development is not sustainable.

“I wish to develop materials which can be the basis of lower cost technologies for highly effective pollution remediation. I would like to see these integrated into systems which can be applied in management process to directly benefit the wider community”

It is also no surprise that key industrial sectors in Thailand often focus more on product development while R&D efforts relating to environmental projects receive little attention. However, Dr. Siwaporn is not one to turn away from a challenge. She believes that it is one’s social responsibility to protect the environment that we all share and she is determined to engage with the industry to convey this message.

A challenge that many researchers face is the translation of research into practical use. For Dr. Siwaporn, this challenge lies in the alignment of interest and priorities from academia and industry on technology transfer or joint research initiatives. Researchers can work on fostering more networks to achieve this over time.

What about the future?

When asked about her thoughts on the future of environmental pollution & remediation technology in Thailand, Dr. Siwaporn is confident that things will get better gradually. The community has become more environmental conscious and industries are also realizing the long term cost savings of going green. Investments made in cleaner products and technologies, and efforts to reduce and recycle waste have also proved to be effective in managing pollution costs. She hopes that the availability of new and low-cost remediation technologies will assist in convincing SMEs to install pollution remediation units in their plants.

“Think globally, act locally”, this is a quote that we asked Dr. Siwaporn to share with us. “Everyone should take care of the environment of their own community, and this will profoundly benefit the planet we live on.”

 

About Dr. Siwaporn Meejoo Smith

Dr Siwaporn Meejoo Smith

Dr. Siwaporn Meejoo Smith received a scholarship from Thai Government under the Development and Promotion of Science and Technology Talents Project to join the Structural Chemistry group of Prof. Kenneth Harris, as a Ph.D student at the School of Chemistry, Birmingham University, UK.  After graduation in 2003, she joined the Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, Mahidol University where she is currently based. Her research focuses on the design, synthesis and functionalization of materials being applied in environmental remediation and protection areas; and for innovative bioresource waste utilization applications. She has also recently received the L’Oréal Thailand For Women in Science Fellowship Award for Materials Science Research in 2015.

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